- KCNA via Reuters
British troops could be deployed to help the United States fight North Korea if it strikes Guam even though it’s not obligated to under NATO rules, according to a new government report.
A report from the House of Commons Library said that the UK could effectively help invade the Korean peninsula in the event of a military confrontation.
It said: “The consensus is that a North Korean attack on Guam would not trigger Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, under which members are obliged to come to each other’s defence if attacked.”
Article 5 applies only to areas physically in Europe or the North Atlantic Ocean, which is made clear in the treaty itself.
Guam, the US island territory that Kim Jong Un’s regime has repeatedly threatened to strike, is in the Pacific Ocean and therefore outside of NATO’s remit.
That same restriction was why the UK couldn’t invoke Article 5 over Argentina’s invasion of the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean in 1982, the report noted.
Despite the lack of a legal obligation, however, Britain could still come to the United States’ aid if it asks. Per the report:
“This does not mean that NATO allies would not assist the US in the event of an outbreak of hostilities with North Korea. In the event of an act of pre-emptive North Korean aggression, some of them (including the UK) would likely want to respond positively to a US request for assistance.”
The US is allowed to attack North Korea if it strikes Guam, as Article 51 of the United Nations Charter allows member states to launch military action in self-defence.
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The House of Commons Library report came the same day North Korea renewed threats against Guam, saying that a recent missile test that flew over Japan was a “meaningful prelude to containing Guam.”
Speaking in Japan on Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Theresa May insisted that North Korea’s missile tests were “illegal,” but did not answer when asked whether she would commit British troops to fight North Korea.
Twenty-nine British troops are currently in South Korea conducting military drills to ensure stability on the Korean peninsula, which North Korea called “arrogant provocations.”
May also said China “should be using its leverage with North Korea” to contain its nuclear threats, but the House of Commons paper suggested that this was unlikely.
The report said that while China – North Korea’s largest trading partner – agreed on recent UN sanctions against Kim Jong Un’s regime, “its heart has so far never really been in it.”
Dave Denoon, director of New York University’s Center on US-China Relations, also told Business Insider this week that China was unlikely to impose sanctions on North Korea, because crippling the North Korean economy could result in large refugee flows into China:
NATO’s Article 5 hinges on the 29-member bloc’s principle of collective defence, which states that an attack against one ally is considered an attack against all allies.
The only time Article 5 has been invoked was after the September 11 attacks on the United States.
That response saw NATO member countries stepped up intelligence-sharing efforts and provided other NATO countries with access to ports and airfields, among other measures.