South Korea and the US began staging joint military drills on Monday, prompting an infuriated response from North Korea.
Although strategists believe that none of the three parties are planning to incite large-scale conflicts, the dangerous situation in the Korean Peninsula is still alarming.
The possibility of another shelling, as occurred in Yeonpyeong in 2010, is rising. Once an emergency occurs, its explosive impact on the situation as a whole will be much greater than it has been in the past.
Perhaps it is South Korea that is now suffering the most. Although North Korea operates from isolation, it has often sought the initiative, as it has nothing left to lose.
In contrast, South Korea has to take more into strategic consideration, such as its alliance with the US, peace in the peninsula, and its own economic development and national influence.
The South seems to be at a loss. Peace on the peninsula is more important to the South than it is to any other nation. But it relies too much on its alliance with the US and adjusts its own strategies by looking to US strategies in Northeast Asia.
South Korea and the US have very different interests when it comes to pursuing peace on the peninsula.
Peace on the peninsula is crucial to the fate of the South. But for the US, it is leverage to counter China's rise, and the South seems be more of a pawn for the US, as part of its rebalancing strategy in East Asia.
The South may have already realized that it does not have the same stance as the US. But it feels helpless as it lacks the courage and capability to step away from the influence of its alliance with the US. It has been relying on the alliance for such a long time that the sense of security brought by the alliance has far outweighed the safety risks generated by different interests between the two. However, if South Korea continues to do so, it will only act as a puppet of the US and will never be able to seize the initiative in making its own policies regarding the peninsula and Northeast Asia.
The South believes that it is the North that is responsible for provocations, while the South never takes the initiative in attacking the North. The South also hopes that the North does not go to extremes, so they may have the foundation for cooperation.
But the South forgets that the North is the most vulnerable country in Northeast Asia.
It is also the most impoverished and has been excluded from the prosperity of the whole region. The South will say that Pyongyang deserves this, however, the North's sense of insecurity and the differences between the two Koreas are the core reasons for the instability of the peninsula.
If the North has to suffer, the South will be bound to suffer as well. Therefore, the South is ultimately the decisive factor in terms of peace on the peninsula.