SEOUL/WASHINGTON – Most South Koreans doubt that North Korea will start a war, a survey has shown, just over a week after the North’s largest nuclear test and as the United Nations Security Council was set vote Monday on a new set of sanctions.
Tension on the Korean Peninsula has escalated as North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, has stepped up the development of weapons in defiance of U.N. sanctions. A string of missiles have been tested this year, including one that flew over Japan, and the nation’s sixth nuclear test was conducted on Sept. 3.
Experts believe the isolated regime is close to its goal of developing a powerful nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States, something U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to prevent.
Still, a Gallup Korea survey released Friday showed South Koreans were considerably less concerned about war compared with June 2007, nine months after North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in September 2006.
The survey found that 58 percent of those questioned felt there was no possibility North Korea would cause a war, while only 37 percent thought it could.
In 2007, 51 percent of respondents said they expected a war, while 45 percent did not.
Trump has repeatedly said all options are on the table in dealing with North Korea, and on Thursday said he would prefer not to use military action, but that if he did, it would be a “very sad day” for North Korea.
“Military action would certainly be an option. Is it inevitable? Nothing is inevitable,” Trump said last week. “If we do use it on North Korea, it will be a very sad day for North Korea.”
Even as Trump has insisted that now is not the time to talk, senior members of his administration have made clear that the door to a diplomatic solution is open, especially given the U.S. assessment that any pre-emptive strike would unleash massive North Korean retaliation.
North Korea says it needs its weapons to protect itself from U.S. aggression and regularly threatens to destroy the United States.
South Korea and the United States are technically still at war with North Korea after the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.