The Korean Peninsula remains heavily militarized


North Korea is a nation that has required military service of its citizens and is home to one of the world’s largest militaries in terms of total active-duty headcount. The United States and South Korea on a combined basis have hundreds of thousands of troops on the Korean Peninsula.

The American-South Korean partnership continues to persist despite military exercises being suspended by the United States when Donald Trump was in office. The United States remains the final authority on how war will be led and fought in union with the South Korean armed forces should hot war break out on the Korean Peninsula. Working through early warning ballistic missile launch and tracking tasks constitute one piece of ongoing bilateral military exercises.

There are thousands of Koreans who wish to see a reunification emerge on the peninsula because of family ties involuntarily severed decades ago. The South Korean government is sympathetic to seeing its citizens find some closure with relatives in the North.

Yet, based on the existing political structures and alliances that the South Koreans have with the United States and the alliances that the North Koreans have with Russia and China, a peaceful concrete resolution to the reunification of the Korean Peninsula is unlikely.

South Korea, with U.S. backing, has offered North Korea economic and humanitarian aid multiple times, with the condition that the North stops its nuclear weapons development program. As we are aware, this has not happened.

The North Koreans would benefit in some ways if they accepted aid from South Korea because millions of dollars would go towards improving the total infrastructure of the DPRK, towards improving agricultural productivity, towards natural resource swaps and exchanges (i.e. food importations in exchange for North Korean coal and natural resources) that will help DPRK’s population, as well as possible lifting of United Nations economic sanctions.

North Korea, however, continually interprets western overtures as an effort to further pressure its leaders into giving away the country’s political power and ability to govern itself. North Korea as we know, has balked at our solicitations and is currently preparing its seventh series of nuclear bomb testing.

North Korea activity
Because North Korea has remained a decidedly isolated, and permanent police nation state, it continues to find ways to bring in cash into its economy through cybercrime, arms deals, drug deals, sophisticated counterfeiting operations, prostitution, and other illicit activities.

North Korea remains ravaged in poverty due to the cumulative effect of natural disasters, limited national infrastructure amid tight government and technology controls, and food shortages, keeping most citizens poor, uninformed, and compliant.

The United States has placed a host of sanctions on North Korea in response to its desire to not be a party to the United Nations efforts to enter formal arrangements to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons program development.

What our Chamorro Pacific Islander people should know

North Korea has and continues to develop an elite cadre of computer savvy workers who engage in state sponsored hacking and stealing. A tiny portion of this cadre are assigned throughout Asia including the Republic of the Philippines and elsewhere, working in clandestine operations.

We should remember that the current overall geopolitical and foreign affairs infrastructure in place was hatched after the end of World War Two. We should remember that this overall framework has generally keep peace in this region, but at the same time, has caused environmental destruction from years of atomic bomb testing by not only the United States, but by European powers such as France and the UK.

We should consider once again that a large part of the ongoing political warfare between North Korea and the west is found throughout the cyberspace realm and that this kind of warfare can result in DPRK or China taking down the total infrastructure functionality of the Marianas Islands.

The problems of North Korea are clear; finding and implementing lasting solutions with the west that are acceptable to China, Russia, the United States, Japan, and South Korea are not. Structural opposing forces remain entrenched and will not go away anytime soon. This remains a core reason why the militarization of our overall region and our Marianas Islands chain remains so stark.

Rick Arriola Perez | Author
Rick Arriola Perez is a U.S. military veteran who has worked for the U.S. Department of Defense, the Bank of Hawaii, and the government of Guam. He holds several degrees including ones from UCLA and the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. Rick is passionate about national security and foreign affairs in the Pacific Asia region and runs a blogsite called Guam Affairs at For more information, contact Perez at

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