The North and South divide in Korea is a remnant of the Cold War which justifies American military presence in the region.
Prior to Japan’s defeat in World War II, Korea was unified under Japanese colonialism until the United States of America and the Soviet Union, who emerge from the war as military superpowers, divided the state through the 38th Parallel.
The North was under Soviet influence hence adopting communism while the South was under American influence who was against the spread of communism.
Korea’s strategic location is key for both China and the United States to curb influence in the region due to its proximity to Japan and China.
Consequently, in 1950, the North invaded the South to reunify the country under communism, but the United States would not allow it.
During a United Nations Security Council meeting, the Soviet Union’s representative was not present due to protesting at the fact that China’s seat was still being held by the ousted Kuomintang instead of the Chinese Communist Party that voted for intervention.
Hence, under American leadership, a coalition of forces fought the communist forces which compromised both North Korean and Chinese soldiers with the support of the
Soviet Union in a 3-year war until both parties agreed to restore the 38th Parallel but North and South Korea never signed a treaty to formally end the war.
North Korea is a threat to stability in the region, but China is a greater threat to the United States’ military power, therefore, under the pretext of North Korean aggression in the region, American military presence grew to protect their interests in Japan and South Korea.
While North Korea is protected by China, their political leadership embarks on developing nuclear weapons to protect themselves from foreign aggression.
This increased the necessity of American military presence in the region; after all South Korea and Japan do not possess nuclear weapons.
In summary, North Korea is a threat to peace and stability in the region, but it is necessary for the continuation of American presence in the region to contain Chinese influence across the region.
However, in light of recent discussion of de-nuclearisation in North Korea, it will be interesting to see if all parties will reach and fulfil the agreement, and what would the American reason be to continue their military presence.