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Expert: Armed conflict on Korean peninsula unlikely but may 'start by error'

A full-blown military conflict on the Korean peninsula is unlikely but "may start by error" as both sides have their "nerves strained," Director of the Center for Russia's Strategy in Asia at the Economy Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences Georgy Toloraya told TASS on Monday.

"The situation on the Korean peninsula has been swaying for several decades with the periodicity of a pendulum from tension to detente and dialog and then to tension again," the expert said.

The new tensions on the Korean peninsula erupted after North Korea announced on January 6 it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. After Pyongyang's nuclear test, Seoul installed loudspeakers along the border between the two Koreas and resumed propaganda blasts. Also, the United States deployed a B-52 strategic bomber in South Korea.

This new episode is not quite new or unusual either, the expert said.

This happened many times before and the response from South Korea and the United States was the same, he added. "I don't think that anyone is now ready for a real military conflict and that the situation may deteriorate to an extent that shooting will begin," he added.

"However, a military conflict may start by error as the nerves of all the sides are strained," the expert said.

"In particular, South Korea's decision to resume (loudspeaker propaganda) broadcasts (on the border) may do the evil service of a grenade ignitor. If North Koreans try to fire at South Korean loudspeakers and the latter respond, then the situation may deteriorate seriously," he said.

"But I don't expect a full-blown conflict because no one is interested in it and no one is ready for it," the expert said.

"For Americans, such all-out war would mean big losses both for themselves and among the South Korean population and for North Korea this would signify complete destruction of their country. That is why, I don't think that this cause is serious enough to unleash this sort of a global conflict," the expert said.

The new tensions on the Korean peninsula may abate closer to the end of April, the expert said.

"This is most likely to happen in two or three months, somewhere in late April, after the end of the US-South Korean military drills - the traditional exercises that always cause tension - and after the UN passes its resolution and North Korea responds to it in a corresponding negative way. I believe that the tension will abate a little by April," Toloraya said.

"But so far, quite tense three or four months lie ahead," the expert said.

[Source: Itar Tass, Moscow, 11Jan16]

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