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With no sign of tensions easing on the Korean peninsula, a University of Canterbury (UC) political scientist says if war broke out there would be significant consequences for New Zealand.
UC Professor Alex Tan says New Zealand is part of the United Nations forces in Korea and he believes New Zealand troops would become involved.
``As a country that values the United Nations, I don't think we will just be a spectator if war eventuates. There are serious economic consequences to New Zealand if war breaks out. Japan, Korea, China are our top trade partners. Not to mention, the refugee movement that may occur.
``North Korea may be bluffing but it cannot be ignored. It has huge conventional forces that can do damage. While nuclear missiles are not ready yet, the fact that they have a huge army that can do serious damage is worrisome.
``The main power brokers need to come up with a coordinated strategy. The United States should help find a way out of this impasse by providing a face-saving way for North Korea to lower the temperature. China should be more up front and honest about its own approach in dealing with North Korea. As one of the backers of the North Korean regime, China is the only country that has some sway in North Korea both politically and economically.
``If North Korea aimed missiles at Seoul or Tokyo it would be a very provocative act. The fear is that a missile that lands in the wrong place could be catastrophic. The US is ensuring that this does not happen to its allies so are making sure of a coordinated missile defence just in case a missile goes way off course.’’
Professor Tan says he did not believe North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong Un was a war-monger. He was just playing two-level games in international and domestic politics. As a young leader without the charisma or track record of his grandfather and father, he has to convince the North Korean military that he has what it takes to rule the country.
``I think he is trying to consolidate his hold on power and to appease the military to ensure that he gets their loyalty and support. North Korea has been trying to launch their missiles for a while now but have not been successful in doing so due to technical problems.
``The world has to be vigilant because any miscalculation and mis-step by the young leader of North Korea could be disastrous. I don't think there is no way out of this impasse but there are serious face-saving measures, for all involved, that need to be adopted otherwise it will be too difficult,’’ Professor Tan says.