The Korean peninsula has been in the news on Guam for the past few weeks after a North Korean attack killed two South Korean Marines and two civilians on the island of Yeonpyeong which both nations claim to be on their side of the border.
I have found the coverage of the issue to be frustratingly simple and incomplete, following the predictable narrative of blaming North Korea for naked aggression despite the fact that the South Korean Government has admitted firing first. They claim they were not directed at North Korea, but just part of a training exercise which was simulating a possible attack on North Korea and involved 70,000 troops near the North-South border.
One joke that I heard more than once in South Korea was about missile testing and the difference between American media treatment of the two Koreas. Each time that North Korea launches a missile, when it (if ever) is successful, it is the end of the world and a threat to world peace. When it fails (which it usually does) it's a sign of North Korea and how pathetic and weak and crazy its leaders are. It dares to challenge and stand apart from the freedom-loving world, yet it can't even launch a mere missile?! The importance however is that, every single step that North Korea takes, the US media is watching and covering it through the lens I just described. The same doesn't go for South Korea, who recently had a failed missile test of their own, but was not reported in the American media in anywhere near the same way. The punchline to this is of course that if the US media is interested in reporting the threats that are out there to "world peace" then it should make a distinction between the well-funded and increasingly growing and modernizing South Korean military, which is constantly supported by the US and its attempts to strategically box in China, and that of a weak, isolated regime like that of North Korea’s.
Although everything we hear out of that region paints North Korea as the belligerent regime and South Korea as a meek victim of its aggression, if we look objectively at the situation, who is more likely to fire the first shot, the most likely to attack the other? One country which seems to sometimes struggle to feed itself, whose parent state wants less costly aggression and posturing, or the other who is flush with foreign military aid and forces, and who is urged at every step to not back down?
South Korea is an ally not to us, but to the one who holds us. To their military and their interests. South Korea is a shield in one hand to the spear-tip that we are in the other. And as I told a Time blogger last month, it is the tip of the spear which is always the first thing to get bloody. So our enemy, as a small island in the midst of superpowers is never any particular country, but always war itself. Should war ever break out in this region, especially involving the masters of both North and South Korea (China and the US), Guam would most likely lose.