Editorial: North Korea Aggression Threatens Growth

For the past half century, Asia has seen few direct conflicts on the continent. The relative peace has allowed many Asian countries, including Indonesia, to post strong economic growth and pull millions of people out of poverty.

That peace is now under threat as saber rattling on the Korean Peninsula has sent shock waves rippling through the region. If North Korea does fire its missiles, the whole region will be drawn into the conflict.

Following new UN sanctions against North Korea for its Feb. 12 nuclear test, the country last week placed two of its intermediate-range missiles on mobile launchers and hid them on the east coast of the country in a move that could threaten Japan or US Pacific bases.

Over the weekend, Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry said that its North Korean counterpart had briefed all foreign representatives in Pyongyang, including Indonesian diplomats, urging them to consider evacuating the country following leader Kim Jong-un’s threat that North Korea would launch missile attacks on the United States and South Korea.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has urged all concerned parties, including the two Koreas and the United States, to maintain communications and dialogue. This is crucial, as miscommunication or a miscalculation on either side could result in a full-scale war.

Such an outcome will not only disrupt security in North Asia, but will also impact on the economic climate of the whole Asia-Pacific region. This would affect economic growth and trade, which have been thriving over the past few years.

Asia has too much to lose and all efforts must be made to dissuade the North Koreans from lighting the fuse. The reclusive nation has in the past engaged in similar aggression without actually pulling the trigger. The world must ensure that it does not do so this time.