The threat comes amid reports from the United Nations that China and the United States have reached agreement on new measures to punish the North for last month’s nuclear weapons test.
The North’s military said it could launch a “precise” strike anytime, unrestrained by the armistice. It also warned it could mount a strike with atomic weapons to counter any US nuclear threat.
In a statement on official media yesterday, the military called the joint exercise a “most blatant” provocation and slammed a “vicious” scheme by the US and its allies to push for tougher United Nations sanctions
UPDATE! March 18 2013: The North’s foreign ministry, in a statement carried by state TV on Sunday, rejected suggestions that the impoverished state was using its weapons program as a way of bullying neighbours into offering much-needed aid.
“The US is seriously mistaken if it thinks that [North Korea] had access to nukes as a bargaining chip to barter them for what it called economic reward,” the statement said ::::
The comments came days after the US national security advisor Tom Donilon said Washington was willing to hold “authentic negotiations” with the North if it changed its behaviour.
The armistice that ended the 1950-53 war will be “completely” nullified from March 11, when the South Korean-US exercise gets into full swing in the South, the North said. An annual exercise known as Foal Eagle began on March 1 and will run until April 30, involving more than 10,000 US troops along with a far greater number of South Korean personnel.
Separately, US and South Korean troops will stage a largely computer-simulated joint exercise called Key Resolve from March 11-21. The United States has had troops based in the South since the war, with a force currently numbering 28,500.
Pyongyang habitually denounces such drills as a provocative rehearsal for invasion but Seoul and Washington insist they are defensive in nature. The North said it would cut off a military hotline in the truce village of Panmunjom, which straddles the heavily fortified border with South Korea.
The armistice was never followed by a peace treaty and the combatants in the Korean conflict have remained technically at war. The hotline has been used by North Korean and US officers to prevent accidental conflicts.
The North in the past has threatened to scrap the armistice at times of high tension. Pyongyang said the February 12 nuclear test, its third and most powerful, was a response to tightened UN sanctions imposed after its long-range rocket launch last December.
But the underground blast brought strong international criticism, even from ally China.
North Scrapping Non-aggression Pact
UPDATE! March 7 2013: BBC is reporting that North Korea is making serious noises about scrapping all non-aggression pacts with South Korea, closing its hotline with Seoul and closing the crossing point between the two countries.
The announcement follows a fresh round of UN sanctions against Pyongyang over its controversial nuclear programme. The UN resolution was in response to the North’s nuclear test last month. Earlier, Pyongyang vowed to use its right to a pre-emptive nuclear strike against its “aggressors”.
The latest announcement, carried on North Korea’s state news agency, says the North is cancelling all non-aggression pacts with the South and closing the main Panmunjom border crossing inside the Demilitarized Zone.
It said it was notifying the South that it was “immediately” cutting off the North-South hotline.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is also reported to have visited front-line military units that were involved in the 2010 shelling of a South Korean island.
He is said to have urged the soldiers there to keep themselves ready to “annihilate the enemy” at any time, and reconfirmed so-called “enemy targets” on five islands in the West Sea. Earlier, the UN Security Council unanimously backed Resolution 2094, imposing the fourth set of sanctions against the North :: Read the full BBC article »»»»
North Says ‘NO MORE FOOD FOR NUKES!’
UPDATE! March 18 2013: North Korea says it would never trade its nuclear weapons program for aid and stressed its unshakeable stance to retain its “treasured sword” following a third atomic test last month. The North’s foreign ministry, in a statement carried by state TV on Sunday, rejected suggestions that the impoverished state was using its weapons program as a way of bullying neighbours into offering much-needed aid.
“The US is seriously mistaken if it thinks that [North Korea] had access to nukes as a bargaining chip to barter them for what it called economic reward,” it said.
The comments came days after the US national security advisor Tom Donilon said Washington was willing to hold “authentic negotiations” with the North if it changed its behaviour.
“To get the assistance it desperately needs and the respect it claims it wants, North Korea will have to change course,” he said last week.
But the North called its atomic weaponry a “treasured sword” to protect itself from what it called a hostile US policy. The US “temptation” may work on other countries “but it sounds nonsensical” to the North, the foreign ministry statement said.
“North Korea would like to re-clarify its unshakeable principled stand on its nuclear deterrence for self-defence.”
Last month’s test, its most powerful to date, prompted the United Nations to further tighten sanctions imposed following previous nuclear tests and long-range rocket launches in 2006 and 2009.
The tougher sanctions, along with an ongoing South Korean-US military exercise, sparked an angry response from Pyongyang, which said it was tearing up the armistice that ended the Korean War and ending non-aggression pacts with Seoul.
The country has suffered chronic food and fuel shortages for decades, with the situation exacerbated by floods, droughts, mismanagement and global sanctions.
International food aid, especially from South Korea and the US, has been drastically cut over the past several years amid tensions over the North’s nuclear and missile programs. A six-nation aid-for-denuclearisation forum on the North, involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, the US and Russia, have been at a standstill since the last meeting in December 2008.
Almost 28 per cent of the North’s children aged under five are stunted from malnutrition, a 2012 UN national nutrition survey showed.
US Nuclear Capable B-2 Stealth Bombers Fly Over Korea
UPDATE! 28 March 2013: The United States has revealed two of its nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers have carried out firing drills over the Korean peninsula. The state-of-the-art bombers flew from a base in the US state of Missouri in what has been called a long-duration, 20,800km round-trip training mission.
“This… demonstrates the United States’s ability to conduct long-range, precision strikes quickly and at will,” the US military said in a statement. “The B-2 bomber is an important element of America’s enduring and robust extended deterrence capability.”
The US-South Korea joint drills are held every year and are regularly condemned by Pyongyang as rehearsals for invasion.
This week North Korea put its rocket units on combat status and threatened to strike US bases in Hawaii, Guam and on the American mainland after recent flights over the peninsula by older B-52 bombers. The North also severed its last-remaining military hotline with South Korea, saying it was no longer needed given that “war may break out any moment”.
While most analysts have dismissed the bulk of the North Korean threats as rhetorical bluster, there are concerns that even a minor incident could swiftly escalate in such a volatile environment. On the ground in South Korea, the locals don’t seem to be paying much attention to the vitriol, apparently they’ve heard it all before…
North Korea Prepares Arsenal for US Strike, South Antes Up
UPDATE! 29 March 2013: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has reportedly ordered the country’s rocket units to be on standby to attack US military bases in South Korea and the Pacific.
The orders were made after the US flew two stealth bombers over the Korean peninsula in a show of force to Pyongyang. The North’s official KCNA news agency said Mr Kim signed off on the orders at a midnight meeting of top generals. He reportedly told them: “The time has come to settle accounts with the US imperialists in view of the prevailing situation.”
US bases in Hawaii, Guam, South Korea and Japan are said to be targets.
On Thursday, the US flew two radar-evading B-2 Spirit bombers on practice runs over South Korea, responding to a series of North Korean threats. They flew from the US and back again in what appeared to be the first exercise of its kind, designed to show America’s ability to conduct long-range, precision strikes “quickly and at will”, the US military said.
The news of Mr Kim’s response was unusually swift.
“He finally signed the plan on technical preparations of strategic rockets of the KPA (Korean People’s Army), ordering them to be standby for fire so that they may strike any time the US mainland, its military bases in… the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in south Korea,” KCNA said.
The North has an arsenal of Soviet-era Scud missiles that can hit South Korea, but its longer-range missiles are untested. Independent assessments of its missile capability suggest it may have theoretical capacity to hit US bases in Japan and Guam.
South Korean media says the South’s military has detected increased activity involving vehicles and troops at North Korean missile installations, just hours after threats were made.
“Sharply increased movements of vehicles and soldiers have been detected recently at North Korea’s mid and long-range missile sites,” Yonhap news quoted a military source as saying. “There is a combat duty readiness in effect at the North’s missile units since February 26 so there is a possibility they will actually fire.”
The report could not be independently verified. However US defence secretary Chuck Hagel says the North Korean threats have to be taken seriously.
“The North Koreans have to understand that what they’re doing is very dangerous. And they have some options,” Mr Hagel said. “They can take another approach to a better future, but what they’re doing now is not the way to do that. We have security issues here that we have to protect and commitments and our security interests.” Mr Hagel says the US has not done anything to provoke the secretive state. I don’t think we’re doing anything extraordinary or provocative or out of the orbit of what nations do to protect their own interests.” Mr Hagel said. “We must make clear that these provocations by the North are taken by us very seriously and we’ll respond to that.”
Malcolm Cook, the dean of international studies at Flinders University in Adelaide, says he hopes the West does not give North Korea the response he thinks it wants.
“I think certainly one of (Mr Kim’s) goals would be to strengthen his relationship with the pretty much dominating military in North Korea and to mobilise the people,” Professor Cook said. “This was supposed to be a year of celebration in North Korea, where they were supposed to become an economic powerhouse and so far that, of course, hasn’t happened. So one of the very few mobilising cards that he can play is this threat from the imperialist United States and North Korea’s ability to stand up to them. Also to try to pressure the United States, Japan and South Korea to change their relatively firm position against North Korea by increasing the sense of threat.”
Professor Cook says it would be a mistake for the West to over-react to the threats made by the North Korean regime.
“One of the risks is, as we’ve seen before, for those in the West, South Korea and Japan, to respond too much to these threats,” Professor Cook said. “And to change their position towards North Korea towards giving North Korea benefits from its threatening action. “So far a hasn’t happened for the last three years and I hope it continues that it won’t happen.”
North Korea Enters State of War
UPDATE! 30 March 2013: North Korea says it has entered a “state of war” with the South and will deal with every inter-Korean issue accordingly. The announcement was made in a joint statement attributed to all government bodies and institutions and carried by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). It comes as the North ratchets up talk of striking targets in the United States.
“As of now, inter-Korea relations enter a state of war and all matters between the two Koreas will be handled according to wartime protocol,” the North Korean statement said. “The long-standing situation of the Korean peninsula being neither at peace nor at war is finally over.”
The two Koreas have always technically remained at war because the 1950-53 Korean War concluded with an armistice rather than a peace treaty.
Earlier this month the North announced it was ripping up the armistice and other bilateral peace pacts signed with Seoul in protest against South Korea-US joint military exercises.
“This is not really a new threat – just part of a series of provocative threats,” the South’s Unification Ministry said in a statement.
The defence ministry added that no particular troop movement had been observed along the border.
Voiding the ceasefire theoretically opens the way to a resumption of hostilities, although observers note it is far from the first time that North Korea has announced the demise of the armistice. The armistice was approved by the UN General Assembly, and both the United Nations and South Korea have repudiated the North’s unilateral withdrawal.
Today’s statement also warns that any military provocation near the North-South land or sea border would result “in a full-scale conflict and a nuclear war”.
Most observers still believe this will remain a rhetorical rather than a physical battle, but the situation has now become so volatile that any slight miscalculation carries the potential for rapid escalation.
Yesterday the North issued a statement saying it had put its rockets “on standby” to strike the US mainland and military bases. Leader Kim Jong-Un vowed to “settle accounts” after nuclear-capable US stealth B-2 bombers flew over South Korea for a drill on Thursday.
The bulk of the threats emanating from Pyongyang have been dismissed as bluster. North Korea has no confirmed missile capability to reach the US mainland – or indeed Guam or Hawaii in the Pacific.
But Washington has opted to match the threats with its own muscle-flexing.
“We’ve seen reports of a new and unconstructive statement from North Korea,” said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council. “We take these threats seriously and remain in close contact with our South Korean allies. We would also note that North Korea has a long history of bellicose rhetoric and threats and today’s announcement follows that familiar pattern. We continue to take additional measures against the North Korean threat, including our plan to increase the US ground-based interceptors and early warning and tracking radar.”
America’s stealth bomber flights, which followed training runs by B-52 bombers, were part of annual drills between the United States and South Korea, which North Korea each year denounces as rehearsals for war.
Pyongyang has been particularly vocal this time, angered by UN sanctions imposed after its long-range rocket launch in December and the third nuclear test it carried out last month.
North Korea Stages Mass ANTI-US Rally
UPDATE! 30 March 2013: Tens of thousands of North Korean soldiers and civilians have held a huge rally and march in Pyongyang, as the hermit nation ratchets up talk of striking the United States.
The rally on Friday in the capital’s giant Kim Il-Sung square was attended by soldiers, veterans, workers and students, all wearing military uniforms. The North’s beloved leader, Kim Jong-Un, was not present.
State television said the rally took place to support a decision issued by the Korean People’s Army (KPA) supreme command on Tuesday – and ratified by Kim Jong-Un on Friday – to order missile units to prepare to strike the US mainland and military bases.
The North has no proven ability to strike the US mainland, but Kim Jong-Un has vowed to “settle accounts” after nuclear-capable US stealth B-2 bombers flew over South Korea for a drill on Thursday.
In the event of any “reckless” US provocation, North Korean forces should “mercilessly strike the US mainland … military bases in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea”, Kim Jong-Un was quoted as saying by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
The youthful leader argued that the stealth bomber flights went beyond a simple demonstration of force and amounted to a US “ultimatum that they will ignite a nuclear war at any cost”.
Friday’s rally was addressed by military and party officials who urged North Korean troops to launch a “merciless strike” on the US mainland and US military bases in the Pacific and South Korea.
“We are all ready to wipe them out for our final victory,” army officer Kwon Yong-Chol said.
Under giant portraits of Kim’s father Kim Jong-Il and grandfather Kim Il-Sung, the massed ranks of civilians and soldiers pledged their allegiance to the current leadership.
The bulk of the threats emanating from Pyongyang have been dismissed as bluster. North Korea has no confirmed missile capability to reach the US mainland – or indeed Guam or Hawaii in the Pacific.
However Washington has opted to match the threats with its own muscle-flexing.
“We will be prepared – we have to be prepared – to deal with any eventuality,” US secretary of defence Chuck Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon. “We must make clear that these provocations by the North are taken by us very seriously and we’ll respond to that.”
A South Korean military official quoted by Yonhap news agency said a “sharp increase” in personnel and vehicle movement had been detected at the North’s mid- and long-range missile sites. The defence ministry declined to confirm the report, saying only that all strategic sites in the North were under intense South Korean and US surveillance.
The US’s stealth bomber flights, which followed training runs by B-52 bombers, were part of annual drills between the United States and South Korea, which North Korea each year denounces as rehearsals for war.
Pyongyang has been particularly vocal this time, angered by UN sanctions imposed after its long-range rocket launch in December and the third nuclear test it carried out last month. China, North Korea’s sole major ally and biggest trading partner, appealed for calm and said “joint efforts” were needed from all parties to prevent the situation deteriorating further.
Australia Buys Into Nth/Sth Standoff
UPDATE! 31 March 2013: Australia’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr says the Federal Government is considering imposing its own sanctions against North Korea, as the rogue state continues to ratchet up threats against South Korea. North Korea has threatened to shut down a joint industrial complex with the South in the latest warning directed at its neighbour country.
The threat comes hours after Pyongyang declared it was in a “state of war” with South Korea, and warned Seoul and Washington that any provocation would swiftly escalate into an all-out nuclear conflict. The two Koreas have remained technically at war since a truce was reached years ago, but a peace treaty was never signed.
Senator Carr says the latest move by the North is no surprise.
“We see this as more evidence of a regime that places militarism ahead of the needs of its own people,” Senator Carr said. “It is a peculiarly repressive regime domestically, and a belligerent and militaristic one in its international stance.”
Senator Carr says Australia is considering going above and beyond the sanctions already in place.
“The United Nations sanction, which we helped craft in the Security Council, imposed a very strict embargo on the supply of weapons and nuclear materials to North Korea,” Senator Carr said. “We’re looking at further sanctions of our own, an extra layer of sanctions going further than the UN one.”
Senator Carr didn’t elaborate on what the further sanctions might involve.
The threat to shut down the joint industrial complex is the latest in a string of dire-sounding pronouncements from Pyongyang that have been matched by tough warnings from Seoul and Washington. The rhetoric is fuelling international concerns that the situation might spiral out of control.
The threat from the body in charge of the industrial complex just north of the Korean border followed an announcement by the North on Wednesday that it was cutting its last military hotline with the South.
“We will relentlessly close the industrial complex if South Korea tries to damage our dignity even a little,” the body said in a statement carried by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). “We warn that stern measures will be taken if (South Korea) continues to make reckless remarks defaming our dignity,” it said, adding the fate of the complex depends “entirely” on the attitude of Seoul.
The industrial complex, which lies 10 kilometres inside North Korea was established in 2004 as a symbol of cross-border cooperation. North Korea has always been wary of allowing crises in inter-Korean relations to affect the zone – a crucial hard-currency earner for the communist state.
But there had been concerns that operations at the complex would be affected by Pyongyang’s move to sever the military hotline used to monitor movement in and out of the zone. The line was used daily to provide the North with the names of those seeking entry to Kaesong, guaranteeing their safety as they crossed one of the world’s most heavily militarised borders.
A day after state media reported the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had put his military on standby to attack US military bases in South Korea and the Pacific, the North said all matters between the two Koreas “will be handled according to wartime protocol”.
“The long-standing situation of the Korean peninsula being neither at peace nor at war is finally over,” the statement said, adding that any US or South Korean provocation would trigger a “a nuclear war”.
The two Koreas have technically remained at war for the past six decades because the 1950-53 Korean War concluded with an armistice rather than a peace treaty. The North’s repeated threats of war has prompted Moscow to renew its calls for restraint on the Korean peninsula.
“We hope that all parties will exercise maximum responsibility and restraint and no one will cross the point of no return,” senior Russian Foreign Ministry official Grigory Logvinov told Interfax news agency. “We expect that everyone understands that a recurrence of the war on the peninsula is definitely unacceptable.” When asked by reporters if Pyongyang had the same understanding, Mr Logvinov said: “Of course. We were in contact with the North Korean side”.
In Seoul, the Unification Ministry insisted the war threat was “not really new”.
“This is not really a new threat – just part of a series of provocative threats,” the Unification Ministry said.
The White House labelled the latest statement from Pyongyang as “unconstructive” and, while taking it “seriously”, sought to place the immediate threat level in context.
“North Korea has a long history of bellicose rhetoric and threats and today’s announcement follows that familiar pattern,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.
Tension has been high since North Korea conducted a third nuclear weapons test in February in breach of United Nations sanctions and despite warnings from its ally, China, for it not to do so. Earlier this month the North announced it was ripping up the armistice and other bilateral peace pacts signed with Seoul in protest against South Korea-US joint military exercises.
North Expands Nuke Program
UPDATE! 1 April 2013: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has promised to expand his country’s nuclear weapons program, a day after Pyongyang announced it was in a “state of war” with the South.
In a meeting of the central committee of the ruling Workers’ Party, North Korea’s top leaders, including the supreme leader Kim Jong-un, said the country’s nuclear arsenal should be beefed up. The unruly regime vowed to never trade off its nuclear program for aid, saying nuclear weapons are not a “political bargaining chip”.
“Nuclear armed forces represent the nation’s life, which can never be abandoned as long as the imperialists and nuclear threats exist on earth,” the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted Mr Kim as saying.
Mr Kim told the meeting that North Korea will develop its nuclear arsenal “simultaneously” with efforts to boost the nation’s economy, KCNA said. The leadership also vowed to conduct more satellite launches, which other countries suspect are covert tests of banned ballistic missile technology. It was the first time the North Korean ruling party had convened a plenary meeting of its decision-making body since September 2010.
The meeting came as tension continues to increase on the Korean peninsula. Over the weekend, Pyongyang ratcheted up its rhetoric, announcing it was in a “state of war” with the South and warning Seoul and Washington that any provocation would swiftly escalate into an all-out nuclear conflict. South Korea brushed off the statement as little more than tough talk. Few experts see any indication Pyongyang will risk a near-certain defeat by re-starting full-scale war.
The North has been threatening to attack the South and US military bases on an almost daily basis since the beginning of March, when US and South Korean militaries started routine drills that have been conducted for decades without incident. The two Koreas have been technically in a state of war for six decades since a truce ended their 1950-53 conflict, but a peace treaty was never signed.
South Vows Retaliation
UPDATE! 2 April 2013: South Korea has unveiled new plans that will allow its military to launch pre-emptive strikes against the North if it shows signs of an imminent nuclear or missile attack. Defence ministry officials unveiled the pre-emptive strike policy in a meeting with South Korean president Park Geun-Hye in Seoul. President Park warned Kim Jong-un’s regime that she would order immediate and strong counter-strikes if the North carried out any provocation. The South Korean President indicated retaliation would be automatic, and would not depend on political considerations.
“If there is any provocation against South Korea and its people, there should be a strong response in initial combat without any political considerations,” President Park said. “As commander-in-chief of the armed forces, I will trust the military’s judgement on abrupt and surprise provocations by North Korea.”
The warning came as The Washington Post reported that the North may be experimenting with a new type of nuclear bomb. Citing unnamed US officials and weapons experts, the newspaper said the effects of North Korea’s nuclear test in February were remarkably well contained, with few radioactive traces escaping into the atmosphere. The newspaper says a successful test of a uranium-based bomb would confirm that Pyongyang has achieved a second pathway to nuclear weapons, using its plentiful supply of natural uranium and new enrichment technology.
North Korea last week announced the two countries were now in a state of war and at the weekend vowed to enshrine its right to nuclear weapons in law.
South Korea and the United States have met the near-daily threats from the rogue state with their own warnings of severe repercussions, fuelling international concern that the situation might spiral out of control. Last week, North Korean state media reported that the military had been put on standby to attack US military bases in South Korea and the Pacific.
Pyongyang has also shut down its last military hotline with the South and has threatened to close a joint-Korean industrial complex that lies within the North’s borders. The Kaesong estate – established in 2004 as a symbol of cross-border cooperation – is a crucial source of hard-currency revenue for North Korea which has never allowed past crises on the peninsula to impact its operations.
On Saturday, the North’s state body in charge of the complex said it would shut Kaesong down completely if South Korea continues to affront Pyongyang’s “dignity”. The border crossing to Kaesong, which lies 10 kilometres on the North side, was functioning normally on Monday.
The operating stability of the complex is seen as a true bellwether of inter-Korean relations, and its closure would mark a significant escalation of tensions beyond all the military rhetoric.
The escalating tensions come as the US reportedly scrapped plans to show off its stealth fighter jets as part of an ongoing military exercise in the South. Two F-22 Raptor fighters arrived in the South on Sunday to participate in the annual Foal Eagle exercise that will last until April 30, a spokesman for the US forces in South Korea told AFP. The jets were reportedly flown out of the US air base in Okinawa, Japan.
North Korea had threatened to strike the US mainland and US bases in the Pacific in response to the drill. It denounced the joint US-South Korean military drills as a prelude to an invasion, and vowed to launch full-scale war in response to any provocation.
Japan’s NHK network is reporting that US plans show off the stealth fighters have since been cancelled, with sources saying it could upset North Korea.
The North’s rubber-stamp parliament, meanwhile, has named former premier Pak Pong-ju, who was sacked in 2007 for failing to implement economic reforms, as its prime minister in a move that cements the grip of the ruling Kim dynasty on key posts in the country.
Mr Pak, believed to be in his 70s, is a key ally of Jang Song-thaek, the uncle of Kim Jong-un, and worked for Jang’s wife, Kim’s aunt Kim Kyong-hui. The move does however leave Mr Kim dangerously dependent on his aunt and uncle who have reasserted control over the military in a purge. Mr Pak is a career technocrat, took the post of premier in 2003 to implement an ambitious economic reform policy that allowed autonomy in farm production and pricing liberalisation that was brought in in July 2002.
But he was removed in 2007 when it became clear the steps aimed at boosting the impoverished state’s economy, which had experienced devastating famine in the 1990s, were not producing desired results and the North’s military began protests at the cabinet, wielding greater power on state matters.
Military Strength: North vs South
|North Korea DPRK||South Korea|
|Active troops||1.2 million||655,000|
|Reserves||5-7.7 million||3 million|
|Air Defence Guns ADG||11,000||300|
US Warns North “Stop Threats”
UPDATE! 3 April 2013: The White House has told North Korea to stop making threats after the isolated state dramatically upped its warlike rhetoric, saying it had authorised plans for nuclear strikes on US targets.
“The moment of explosion is approaching fast” state news agency KCNA reported the North Korean military as saying, warning that war could break out “today or tomorrow”
“We formally inform the White House and Pentagon that the ever-escalating US hostile policy toward the DPRK (North Korea) … [will be smashed by the] cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means of the DPR.”
Pyongyang’s latest pronouncement came as Washington scrambled to reinforce its Pacific missile defences, preparing to send ground-based interceptors to Guam and dispatching two Aegis class destroyers to the region.Tension was also high on the North’s heavily fortified border with South Korea, after Kim Jong-Un’s isolated regime barred South Koreans from entering a Seoul-funded joint industrial park on its side of the frontier.
It has since threatened to pull its 53,000 workers from the Kaesong industrial zone close the complex.
“We’ve seen today’s statement by North Korea, again making unhelpful and unconstructive threats,” US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said. “It is yet another offering in a long line of provocative statements that only serve to further isolate North Korea from the rest of the international community and undermine its goal of economic development. North Korea should stop its provocative threats and instead concentrate on abiding by its international obligations.”
Pyongyang has successfully carried out test nuclear detonations, most experts think it is not yet capable of mounting a device on a ballistic missile capable of striking US bases or territory.
Mounting tension in the region could however trigger incidents on the tense and heavily militarised border between the North and South.Earlier, US defence secretary Chuck Hagel said Pyongyang represented a “real and clear danger” to the US and allies South Korea and Japan.
“They have nuclear capacity now, they have missile delivery capacity now,” Mr Hagel said after a strategy speech at the National Defence University. “We take those threats seriously – we have to take those threats seriously. We are doing everything we can, working with the Chinese and others, to defuse that situation on the peninsula. I hope the North will ratchet its very dangerous rhetoric down.”
The Pentagon said it would send ground-based THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) interceptor batteries to protect US bases on the island of Guam, complementing two Aegis anti-missile destroyers already dispatched to the region. North Korea has singled out US military bases in Guam and Hawaii among its potential targets in threats in recent weeks.
“The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and stands ready to defend US territory, our allies, and our national interests,” a Pentagon spokeswoman said.
Mark Borthwick, a director of the US Asia Pacific Council in Washington, has told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat program that the deployment sends a message to America’s allies that it is taking the situation seriously.
“It means at a high altitude it can cover a very broad area of defence, and the capacity therefore amounts to a good deal more than Guam,” Mr Borthwick said. “Similarly the destroyer capacity could also cover a broad range, so really the idea is to demonstrate… Guam may be a staging point but we are looking out for a broader region.”
Meanwhile, North Korea has blocked access to its joint industrial zone with South Korea for a second consecutive day, an AFP journalist near the border between the two countries said. About 40 vehicles were waiting to cross the border to go to the Seoul-invested Kaesong complex but turned around after a loudspeaker announcement that crossings to the North were prohibited, he said. A total of 526 South Koreans and 421 vehicles had planned to cross the border into North Korea on Thursday, the unification ministry in Seoul said.
US Arms Guam in Light of “Real and Clear Danger”
UPDATE! 4 April 2013: The Pentagon has confirmed it’s deploying a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system (THAAD), which includes a truck-mounted launcher, interceptor missiles, an AN/TPY-2 tracking radar and an integrated fire control system. US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel cited a “real and clear” danger from North Korea, saying their actions threatened the interests of South Korea and Japan, as well as US interests in the Pacific and Asia.
“They have nuclear capacity now, they have missile delivery capacity now,” Mr Hagel said. “We are doing everything we can, working with the Chinese and others, to defuse that situation on the peninsula. I hope the North will ratchet its very dangerous rhetoric down.”
Guam is a US island territory 3,380 kilometres south-east of North Korea in the Pacific Ocean. The territory is home to 6,000 American military personnel, including Marines and submarine and bomber crews. The announcement comes as the North Korean Army says its has final approval to launch “merciless” military strikes on the United States, involving the possible use of “cutting-edge” nuclear weapons.
“The moment of explosion is approaching fast,” the North Korean military said, warning that war could break out “today or tomorrow”.
In a statement published by the official KCNA news agency, the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army said it was formally informing Washington that US threats would be “smashed by…cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means”.
“The merciless operation of (our) revolutionary armed forces in this regard has been finally examined and ratified,” it said.
We formally inform the White House and Pentagon that the ever-escalating US hostile policy toward the DPRK and its reckless nuclear threat will be smashed by the strong will of all the united service personnel…and cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means of the DPRK, and that the merciless operation of its revolutionary armed forces in this regard has been finally examined and ratified. Spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army
The White House has told North Korea to stop making threats. “We’ve seen today’s statement by North Korea, again making unhelpful and unconstructive threats,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. “It is yet another offering in a long line of provocative statements that only serve to further isolate North Korea from the rest of the international community and undermine its goal of economic development. North Korea should stop its provocative threats and instead concentrate on abiding by its international obligations.”
Despite a successful long-range rocket launch in December, most experts believe North Korea is years from developing a genuine inter-continental ballistic missile that could strike the mainland United States. Hawaii and Guam would also be outside the range of its medium-range missiles, which would be capable, however, of striking US bases in South Korea and Japan.
UPDATE! 5 April 2013: North Korea has placed two of its intermediate-range missiles on mobile launchers and hidden them on the east coast of the country, South Korean media has reported. Claiming to be citing a top government official, the Yonhap news agency says both missiles have now been loaded on to vehicles equipped with launch pads.
“It has been confirmed that North Korea, early this week, transported two Musudan mid-range missiles by train to the east coast and loaded them on vehicles equipped with launch pads,” Yonhap quoted the official as saying.
The defence ministry, which confirmed the movement of the first missile yesterday, declined to comment on the new report. It marks the latest incremental move by North Korea which, incensed at fresh UN sanctions and South Korea-US military drills, has issued a series of apocalyptic warnings of nuclear war in recent weeks. The North has said nuclear conflict could break out at any time on the Korean peninsula in a month-long war of words that has prompted the United States to move military assets into the region.
Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who has arrived in China for five days of high-level talks, has promised to raise Australia’s concerns about North Korea with Chinese president Xi Jinping. The South Korean government official cited in the Yonhap report said vehicles carrying the North’s missiles had apparently been hidden in special underground facilities.
“The North is apparently intent on firing the missiles without prior warning,” he added.
The Musudan missile has never been tested but is believed to have a range of around 3,000 kilometres, which could theoretically be pushed to 4,000km with a light payload. That would cover any target in South Korea and Japan and possibly even reach US military bases located on the Pacific island of Guam. Yonhap quoted sources as saying Pyongyang is likely to fire it around the middle of April, when North Koreans celebrate the birthday of their late founder, Kim Il-sung.
A provocative missile test-fired into the sea over Japan is one scenario that analysts have said the North could choose to exit the current crisis with a face-saving show of force.
Prime Minister Gillard says she has spoken with South Korean president Park Geun-hye to “assure her of the solidarity of Australia”.
“The United States is showing restraint and a calm approach here, a very calm and purposeful approach. I think South Korea is showing remarkable restraint and I made that point to president Park,” Ms Gillard said on arrival in China. “There is always the risk of miscalculation when tensions are inflamed, which is why it is very important that we all do everything we can to get North Korea to step back from these provocative and belligerent statements.”
Ms Gillard praised China’s recent support of strong UN Security Council against Pyongyang and says she will encourage the new China’s new president and premier to help end the current crisis.
“Australia has made very clear its condemnation of the belligerent and provocative statements we have heard from North Korea,” Ms Gillard said. “I will be urging the Chinese leadership to use its influence to help with this issue with North Korea and most particularly to help see an end to these provocative statements, to get North Korea to engage again with six-party talks and to get North Korea to accept the offer of the president of South Korea for trust building dialogue.”
The Japanese government says it is taking every possible measure to collect information and cooperate with other countries amid signs of the missile launch. It said it would respond to any North Korean missile launch immediately and that it was bracing for a “worst-case scenario”. Japan prime minister Shinzo Abe said his government was “calmly watching” the situation but admitted North Korea’s rhetoric was growing “increasingly provocative”.
The United States has said it was taking “all necessary precautions” against the threats emanating from Pyongyang. The European Union called on North Korea to stop stoking tensions and re-engage with the international community. Russia’s foreign ministry termed the North’s neglect of UN resolutions as “categorically unacceptable”.
The latest development comes as computer hackers appeared to infiltrate North Korea’s official news website and its Twitter and Flickr feeds, posting unflattering images of leader Kim Jong-un.
Anonymous Cheeky Hacks North Korea’s Most Loved Leader
Computer hackers appear to have infiltrated North Korea’s official news website and its Twitter and Flickr feeds, posting unflattering images of leader Kim Jong-un. Hackers targeted the China-based website Uriminzokkiri, which distributes news and propaganda from North Korea’s state media. They blocked access to the site and its companion feeds were attacked and defaced. On Twitter, the Uriminzokkiri account’s profile photo was changed to one of a couple dancing the Tango, and a series of tweets read “Hacked” and “Tango Down”.
The male dancer was wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, a trademark of the Anonymous hacktivist group. The website’s Flickr page showed a number of images, including a mock-up “Wanted” poster featuring Kim with a pig’s nose and ears and a Mickey Mouse tattoo on his chest. Another simply read “We Are Anonymous”. Uriminzokkiri is best known for posting propaganda videos excoriating the United States and including images like the White House framed in the crosshairs of a sniper’s rifle sight. On September 18, 2012, Uriminzokkiri uploaded a video containing a photoshopped image of South Korea’s president Park Geun-hye performing Gangnam-style dance moves. The video mocked her as a devoted admirer of the autocratic Yushin system set up by her father.
The latest hacking incident also follows a major cyber attack that crashed the computer networks at South Korean TV broadcasters and banks last month. That attack was widely blamed on North Korean hackers. Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are at the highest in years, with Pyongyang threatening all-out war against South Korea and the United States.
North Korea has moved a medium-range missile to its east coast which could reach a “considerable distance” but not the US mainland, according to South Korea. Intelligence analysis quoted by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the east coast missile, reportedly facing Japan, was believed to be a Musudan which has an estimated range of around 3,000 kilometres or more. Yonhap quoted sources as saying Pyongyang is likely to fire it around the middle of April, when North Koreans celebrate the birthday of their late founder Kim Il-Sung. A provocative missile test-fired into the sea over Japan is one scenario that analysts have said the North could choose to exit the current Korea peninsula crisis with a face-saving show of force.
First Published 20 September 2012
VIDEO BACKGROUND: Gangnam Style Parody by North Korea
On September 18, 2012, North Korea uploaded a video with the title “I’m Yushin style!” onto the government website Uriminzokkiri as a parody of South Korea’s ruling conservative party presidential candidate Park Geun-hye. The video shows a photo-shopped image of her doing the horse-riding dance, and mocks her as a devoted admirer of the “Yushin” system of autocratic rule set up by her father, Park Chung-hee.
UPDATED! 8 April 2013: The United States has delayed an intercontinental ballistic missile test amid concerns it may inflame tensions with North Korea. A US Defence Department spokesperson confirmed the launch, which was scheduled in California for next week, has been postponed.
The spokesperson said it was put off due to concerns the launch “might be misconstrued by some as suggesting that we were intending to exacerbate the current crisis with North Korea”.
“We wanted to avoid that misperception or manipulation,” US Defence Department spokesperson added. “We are committed to testing our ICBMs to ensure a safe, secure, effective nuclear arsenal.”
The Minuteman 3 test at Vandenberg Air Force Base will now take place at some stage next month.
North Korea, incensed by United Nations sanctions and South Korea-US military drills, has issued a series of apocalyptic threats of nuclear war in recent weeks.
The Pentagon’s announcement followed reports that the North had loaded two intermediate-range missiles on mobile launchers and hidden them in underground facilities near its east coast. They were reported to be untested Musudan missiles which are believed to have a range of around 3,000 kilometres that could theoretically be pushed to 4,000km with a light payload. That would cover any target in South Korea and Japan, and possibly even reach US military bases located on the Pacific island of Guam.
The North has no proven intercontinental ballistic missile capability that would enable it to strike more distant US targets, and many experts say it is unlikely it can even mount a nuclear warhead on a mid-range missile. Nevertheless, the international community is becoming increasingly skittish that, with tensions showing no sign of de-escalating, there is a real risk of the situation spiralling out of control.
Meanwhile, British foreign secretary William Hague says he sees no immediate need to withdraw his country’s diplomats from North Korea despite a warning from Pyongyang that it could not guarantee their safety if conflict broke out on the Korean Peninsula. He said Britain would keep the situation under review, working with China and other countries on the UN Security Council.
Mr Hague says it was important to remain calm.
“The international response to this, including our response, must be clear and united and calm,” he said. “We should be clear that North Korea has a strategic choice to make between increased isolation or better relations with the rest of the world. At the moment they’re making the wrong choice.”
The latest crisis erupted when North Korea fired a long-range rocket in December that could theoretically reach the continental United States, but instead splashed down near the Philippines. The North later carried out its third nuclear test in February, defying even its main ally China.
The UN Security Council on March 7 unanimously approved new sanctions that include greater scrutiny of financial dealings by the impoverished regime.
North Prepares For More Nuclear Testing
UPDATE! 8 April 2014: North Korea appears to be preparing for a fourth nuclear test, South Korea’s government has confirmed, following intelligence reports of heightened activity at its main atomic test site.
“There are such signs,” unification minister Ryoo Kihl-Jae told a parliamentary committee hearing when lawmakers asked him to confirm the reports.
It was the North’s third nuclear test in February, and subsequent UN sanctions, that kick-started the cycle of ongoing escalating military tensions the international community is desperate to break. The JoongAng Ilbo daily said South Korean intelligence had detected unusually busy personnel and vehicle movements at the North’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site since last week.
“We are trying to figure out whether it is a genuine preparation for a nuclear test or just a ploy to heap more pressure on us and the US,” it cited an unnamed South Korean government official as saying.
Intelligence reports also suggest Pyongyang has readied two mid-range missiles on mobile launchers on its east coast and was aiming at a test-firing before the April 15 birthday of late founding leader Kim Il-sung. A missile launch would be highly provocative, especially given the strong rebuke the North’s sole ally China handed it on the weekend and a US concession to delay its own planned missile test. The mobilisation of missiles is the latest provocation since Friday when Pyongyang told diplomats to consider leaving by Wednesday because it cannot guarantee their safety in the event of any conflict.
Japan has ordered its armed forces to shoot down any North Korean missile headed towards its territory. The New York Times reported the US and South Korea have drawn up plans for a measured tit-for-tat response to North Korean actions, which will be limited in order to prevent an escalation to broader war. Citing unnamed US officials, the newspaper said the new “counter-provocation” strategy calls for an immediate but proportional “response in kind” if the North decides to launch a missile or ground attack.
North Korea’s bellicose rhetoric has reached fever pitch in recent weeks, with near-daily threats of attacks on US military bases and South Korea in response to ongoing South Korea-US military exercises.
There has been growing global concern that the crisis could spiral out of control, and China appeared to respond at the weekend to repeated calls for it to take a harder line with Pyongyang.
“No-one should be allowed to throw a region, even the whole world, into chaos for selfish gains,” Chinese president Xi Jinping told the Bo’ao Asia Forum in southern China on Sunday.
Although he did not mention North Korea by name, Mr Xi’s remarks were taken as a clear warning to Pyongyang, which is hugely dependent on China’s economic and diplomatic support. The US, which has met the North’s threats with some military muscle-flexing of its own, offered a calibrated concession on Saturday by delaying a planned intercontinental ballistic missile test.
A US defence official said defence secretary Chuck Hagel had postponed the Minuteman 3 test because it “might be misconstrued by some as suggesting that we were intending to exacerbate the current crisis with North Korea”. The mid-range missiles mobilised by the North are reported to be untested Musudan models with an estimated range of around 3,000 kilometres that could theoretically be pushed to 4,000km with a lighter payload.
That would cover any target in South Korea and Japan, and possibly even US military bases on the Pacific island of Guam. The North has no proven inter-continental ballistic missile capability that would enable it to strike more distant US targets, and many experts say it is unlikely it can even mount a nuclear warhead on a mid-range missile.
North Pulls Plug on Co-operative Business
UPDATE! 9 April 2013: North Korea says it will put all of its 53,000 workers out of the joint industrial zone it runs with the South, and will suspend operations there. The move follows weeks of warlike rhetoric from the North after it was sanctioned by the United Nations for carrying out its third nuclear test in February.
The announcement comes after Pyongyang had already barred South Korean workers from entering the site on its side of the border.
Located 10 kilometres inside North Korea, the Kaesong industrial estate was a joint project set up nine years ago, and had been a rare symbol of cooperation between the two Koreas. Its 120 factories, run by South Korean managers, produce everything from shoes, clothes and watches while relying on the labour of tens of thousands of North Koreans. The North says it will temporarily shut the site down while considering whether or not to close it permanently.
US/EU Dismiss North’s Nuke Threats
UPDATE! 10 April 2013: Both the White House and the European Union have described North Korea’s warnings of “thermo-nuclear war” on the Korean peninsula as “unhelpful rhetoric”. North Korea has told foreign companies, organisations and tourists in South Korea to consider leaving for their own safety.
Warning that events were “inching closer to thermo-nuclear war”, the North’s official news agency said it did not want foreigners to come to harm if war breaks out.
White House spokesman Jay Carney labelled that statement unhelpful, and said it would only serve to “further isolate North Korea”. European Union delegates meeting in Brussels have drawn up a response to the North Korean warnings, saying it is wrong to proclaim that war is imminent and Pyongyang should heed international demands regarding its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The EU’s note, agreed by the bloc’s 27 member governments on Tuesday, is a response to a warning by North Korea last week that it could not guarantee the safety of diplomats in the country after April 10. An EU diplomat said the note underlined the need for North Korea to act sensibly and rejected “its analysis that full-scale war is imminent”.
North Korea asked embassies last week to consider moving staff out of the country.
Seven EU countries – Germany, Sweden, Britain, Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania – have embassies in Pyongyang. These countries were considering their response to North Korea’s warning but none was currently planning to evacuate any staff, an EU official said.
The US has said there are no signs of war preparations, such as the mass movement of any of North Korea’s 1 million troops. Analysts say more than half are deployed within 100 kilometres of the demilitarised zone dividing the two Koreas.
Japan Readies Missiles
Meanwhile, Japan says it has deployed missile interceptors to the centre of Tokyo and will use them to shoot down any missile heading towards its airspace.
A spokesman for Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe says the Japanese government believes it is important for all members of the international community to take a clear stance and to encourage North Korea to understand that continued provocations will not serve its national interests. Two Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air missile launchers have been were stationed at the defence ministry in Tokyo.
“We are proceeding with measures including deployment of PAC-3 as we are on alert,” defence minister Itsunori Onodera said.
Local reports say PAC-3 missiles will be deployed in another two locations in the greater Tokyo area.
“The government is making utmost efforts to protect our people’s lives and ensure their safety,” prime minister Shinzo Abe told reporters on Tuesday morning [local time].
“As North Korea keeps making provocative comments, Japan, cooperating with relevant countries, will do what we have to do. For the moment, the most important thing is to implement sanctions under the UN Security Council resolutions.”
PAC-3 batteries will also be installed in the semi-tropical island chain of Okinawa.
Apparently Pyongyang’s Nice at This Time of Year
REBLOG! 10 April 2013: There seems to be a little lull in news out of North Korea today …so I thought I’d inject some humour. SMH’s Adrian Bridge – a wonderfilled SMH travel writer – has penned a great piece about holidaying in the North. With threats of nuclear strikes, missile tests and increasingly hostile rhetoric towards foreigners, North Korea is not the obvious destination for a holiday. But Regent Holidays, a leading British tour operator to the country, last week reported a huge surge in interest in trips to the hardline state.
Gillian Leaning, Regent’s marketing manager, said there had been a 400 per cent increase in inquiries about trips to North Korea.
”Whether a country is in the news for good or bad reasons, people become curious,” she said. ”North Korea is not somewhere that is usually on the travel radar, but it is now. People want to see what it is like for themselves.”
On Friday Kim Jong-un’s government told Britain to consider evacuating its embassy in Pyongyang, but the Foreign Office is not advising Britons to avoid North Korea :: Read Adrian Bridge’s full article »»»»
UPDATE! 11 April 2013: via Socially Engineered, ooops, seems the humour continues… Emergency Service officials in the Japanese city of Yokohama have been left red-faced after mistakenly announcing the launch of a North Korean missile to 40,000 followers on Twitter. The city, south of Tokyo, prematurely fired its tweet just before noon (local time), announcing “North Korea has launched a missile” with blank spaces to indicate the exact time.
South Korean and US forces have raised their alert status to “vital threat” before an expected North Korean missile test, with tensions high in the run-up to a key anniversary. Any launch could coincide with visits by US secretary of state John Kerry and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who will both be in South Korea this Friday.
South Korean foreign minister Yun Byung-Se told parliament the launch could take place “any time” and warned Pyongyang it risked triggering a fresh round of UN sanctions.
[Image Below] Seems emergency response workers in the Japanese city of Yokohama are a little trigger happy after mistakenly announcing the launch of a North Korean missile to 40,000 followers on Twitter.
“We received a call from one of our followers who had noticed the mistake,” a city official said. “We had the Tweet ready and waiting, but for an unknown reason it was dispatched erroneously.”
Apparently a worker at the Yokohama Crisis Management Centre had prepared a draft Tweet that was to be released IF North Korea launched a missile attack on the city – geez, who hasn’t pressed print too early – and mistakenly sent it live. The city retracted the tweet about 20 minutes later and apologised to followers of @yokohama_saigai, the official said. Japan is on full alert ahead of an expected mid-range missile launch by North Korea, with Patriot missiles stationed in its capital to protect the 30 million people who live there :: Read the full article »»»»
UPDATE! 13 April 2013: As if one oops wasn’t enough… A Japanese official mistakenly announced the launch of a North Korean missile instead of sending an alert about a strong earthquake that hit western Japan. An official at the transport ministry’s western Osaka aviation bureau mistakenly e-mailed 87 airport offices that a North Korean missile had been launched, the ministry said.
The official was trying to send a message to check on possible airport damage immediately after the magnitude-6.3 earthquake hit the western Hyogo prefecture, it said. Instead of sending an e-mail about the quake, a pre-prepared alert ready to go in the event of a North Korean missile launch was mistakenly dispatched. The incorrect message was retracted six minutes later but at least one domestic flight was delayed due to the mistake, the ministry said.
Japan is on full alert ahead of an expected mid-range missile launch by North Korea, with Patriot missiles stationed in its capital to protect the 30 million people who live there.
A magnitude-6.3 quake struck near Awaji island in the Seto Inland Sea south-west of the city of Kobe at 5:33am (6:33am AEST), Japan’s meteorological agency said, injuring at least 24 people and destroying some houses.An 82-year-old woman in Fukui prefecture suffered a broken leg after she fell to the ground, while another woman, 74, in Hyogo prefecture, broke her hip bone.
Japan’s public broadcaster NHK showed footage of flattened brick walls and one house where all the roof tiles had collapsed to the ground. Local train services were suspended for safety checks, while Kansai airport in Osaka Bay was temporarily closed.
US Calls For Calm
UPDATE! 13 April 2013: US president Barack Obama has urged North Korea to end its “belligerent approach”, as a military intelligence assessment suggests Pyongyang could place a nuclear warhead on a missile. The dire warning from Washington about the North’s nuclear capabilities, revealed by a US politician, comes as all eyes are on Pyongyang, which is widely expected to soon launch a missile and trigger a new cycle of tension. G8 foreign ministers meeting in London drove home the message, condemning “in the strongest possible terms” the North’s nuclear activities and threats to the region, which have escalated in recent days.
The North’s December rocket launch and February nuclear test, along with UN sanctions imposed for each, are at the core of the current crisis that has seen Pyongyang threaten nuclear strikes against the United States and its allies.
Speaking at the White House, Mr Obama said “nobody wants to see a conflict” with the North. But he emphasised that the United States was ready to take “all necessary steps to protect its people” and defend its allies in the region.
“We both agree that now is the time for North Korea to end the kind of belligerent approach that they’ve been taking,” President Obama said. “It’s important for North Korea, like every other country in the world, to observe basic rules and norms.”
In Washington, US congressman Doug Lamborn, reading from an unclassified portion of a Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) report, said Pyongyang could be capable of launching a nuclear warhead, albeit an unpredictable one.
“DIA assesses with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles,” the report said, according to Mr Lamborn. “However, the reliability will be low.”
US intelligence agencies have declined to comment but have issued no statement rebutting the politician’s portrayal of the findings. But Pentagon spokesman George Little said: “It would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced in the passage.”
South Korea’s defence ministry also says it does not believe the North Korea has succeeded in making a miniature nuclear warhead for a missile.
Foreign spy services and arms experts have struggled to track North Korea’s progress in its bid to miniaturise a nuclear device that could be fixed on a ballistic missile. Intelligence officials in Seoul say the North has two mid-range missiles ready for imminent launch from its east coast, and South Korea and Japan remain on heightened alert for any test.
But the North’s state media focused its attention on Thursday’s first anniversary of new leader Kim Jong-Un becoming head of the ruling Workers Party and next Monday’s birthday celebrations for late founder Kim Il-Sung.
“History has never seen any socialist leader like him,” official party mouthpiece Rodong Sinmun said in praise of Kim Jong-Un, calling him the “number one man of conviction and will”.
US secretary of state John Kerry has met China’s top leaders in an effort to persuade them to exert pressure on North Korea to scale back its belligerent rhetoric and ongoing threats. Kerry met first with China’s foreign minister Wang Yi after flying in from talks in South Korea with president Park Geun-Hye, where he offered public US support for her plans to initiate some trust-building with the North. The Korean peninsula has been engulfed by escalating military tensions and dire threats of nuclear war ever since North Korea conducted a rocket test last December and a nuclear test in February.
“Obviously there are enormously challenging issues in front of us, and I look forward to having that conversation with you today,” Mr Kerry told Mr Wang. Mr Wang agreed the visit came at a “critical moment”.
China has backed North Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War and could wield tremendous leverage over the isolated communist regime thanks to the vital aid it provides, including almost all of its neighbour’s energy imports. But analysts say it is wary of pushing too hard for fear of destabilising North Korea, which could send a wave of hungry refugees flooding into China and ultimately lead to a reunified Korea allied with the United States.
Pyongyang Rejects South’s Offer of Talks
UPDATE! 13 April 2013: North Korea has dismissed the South’s offer for dialogue on the future of the Kaesong joint industrial zone, calling the offer an “empty” political gesture. The North announced the withdrawal of its 53,000 workers and the suspension of operations at Kaesong at the beginning of the week, as military tensions on the Korean peninsula soared.
South Korea on Thursday called for Pyongyang to “come to the dialogue table” to revive the complex, a rare symbol of cross-border economic cooperation and crucial hard currency source for the North. But Pyongyang dismissed the offer by the South’s Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-Jae as a “meaningless” and “cunning” gesture aimed at concealing its true intentions to invade the North.
“We found the offer an empty, meaningless act,” a spokesman from the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea told state media.
The official cited the South’s ongoing joint military drill with its ally, the United States, and a call for the North to give up its nuclear ambitions as obstacles preventing talks.
“If the South is genuine about having talks … it should first abandon the confrontational posture,” the spokesman said.
Neither side has allowed previous crises to significantly affect the complex, which was built in 2004 and produces good ranging from shoes to watches and is seen as a bellwether for stability on the Korean peninsula. Tensions have been running high after a recent series of apocalyptic threats from the North in response to fresh UN sanctions imposed after it staged a long-range rocket launch and a third nuclear test.
Kerry in Japan For Talks
UPDATE! 14 April 2013: US secretary of state John Kerry has arrived in Japan to discuss the tensions on the Korean peninsula, after securing vital support from China to help defuse the weeks-long crisis. Japanese defence minister Itsunori Onodera said he expected the top US and Japanese diplomats to send a “strong message” urging North Korea to listen to the international community.
“It is important that we coordinate internationally and firmly tell North Korea that it must give up its nuclear and missile programmes,” Mr Onodera said.
Mr Kerry’s visit follows an intense day of diplomacy Saturday in Beijing, where he warned Chinese leaders including president Xi Jinping that the stakes were high as China’s erratic ally North Korea threatens a missile launch. China is Pyongyang’s sole major ally and backer, and is widely seen as the only country with leverage to influence its actions – although it is also reluctant to risk destabilising the regime.
“The importance of the visit yesterday really cannot be overstated,” Mr Kerry told US embassy staff in Beijing on Sunday ahead of his departure for Tokyo. This is a critical time needless to say, being able to speak directly to my Chinese counterpart and try to focus on some very critical issues is of major importance.”
State councillor Yang Jiechi, who is in charge of Beijing’s foreign policy, said China was committed to “advancing the denuclearisation process on the Korean peninsula” and “will work with other relevant parties including the United States to play a constructive role”.
US Helicopter Crashes Near North Korean Border
UPDATE! 16 April 2013: AFP is reporting that a US military helicopter carrying 16 people has crashed near the North Korean border with no apparent casualties. An American military official described the crash as a “hard landing” in Cheolwon county, which touches on the border with North Korea.
The official identified the aircraft as a CH-53 US Marine helicopter that was carrying three crew and 13 other personnel.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency had previously identified the helicopter as a UH-60 Black Hawk with 12 personnel on board.
Yonhap quoted emergency rescue workers as saying all those on board the helicopter survived the crash, which comes at a time of heightened military tensions on the Korean peninsula.
The precise cause of the crash is not immediately clear, but the incident occurred during ongoing South Korea-US joint military exercises.
North Korea has condemned the joint exercises as a rehearsal for invasion, and made a series of threats of military retaliation.
There are 28,500 US military personnel permanently stationed in South Korea.
North Demands Lifting Sanctions Before Talks
UPDATE! 18 April 2013: North Korea has laid down rigid pre-conditions for talks with Seoul or Washington, but they have been swiftly rejected by the South as “incomprehensible”. The list of demands from the North’s top military body includes the withdrawal of UN sanctions and a guaranteed end to South Korea-US joint military drills.
South Korea, together with the US, has made any talks conditional on the North taking steps towards denuclearisation. South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-Young called the North’s pre-conditions “absurd” and said it was time for Pyongyang to choose engagement with the international community over provocation.
“We strongly urge the North to stop making such incomprehensible demands and to make the wise choice we have repeatedly urged,” Mr Cho told a press briefing.
Dialogue has become the new focus of a blistering rhetorical battle that has sent military tensions soaring on the Korean peninsula ever since the North carried out its third nuclear test in February. Some analysts see the North’s engagement in a debate over dialogue – no matter how unrealistic the conditions – as a welcome shift from the apocalyptic threats of nuclear war that have poured out of Pyongyang in recent weeks.
“I don’t think Pyongyang really expects these conditions to be met,” said Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. “It’s an initial show of strength in a game of tug-of-war that at least shows a desire to have a dialogue down the line.”
The first step demanded by the North’s National Military Commission was the withdrawal of “cooked up” UN sanctions that were imposed after the nuclear test in February.
North Korea has repeatedly cited the sanctions as a prime trigger for the current crisis. The other main bone of contention has been ongoing joint South Korea-US military drills, which have involved the deployment of nuclear-capable B-52s and B-2 stealth bombers. Both countries must provide international guarantees that such “nuclear war drills” will never be repeated, the commission said. “Dialogue and war games can never go together,” it added.
Daniel Pinkston, a North Korea expert with the International Crisis Group, ruled out any suggestion that the North was softening its position and said those hoping a dialogue might emerge were being wilfully naive. The North, Mr Pinkston argued, had bound itself to a course that could only end with its recognition as a nuclear power – a status that is anathema to the United States and its allies.
South Korea’s new president, Park Geun-Hye, has made tentative – and conditional – offers of talks, which received the backing of US secretary of state John Kerry during his recent north-east Asia tour. Both Ms Park and Mr Kerry stressed that any talks would have to be substantive and predicated on signals from North Korea that it “change its ways” and respect its international obligations, especially with its nuclear program.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged Pyongyang on Wednesday to “seriously” consider Seoul’s offer.The commission statement came just hours after the North’s main body for inter-Korean relations ruled out any immediate return to the negotiating table.
The South’s dialogue offer is a “deceptive artifice” designed to appease public opinion and to hide its responsibility for pushing the peninsula “to a state of war”, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said.
update source: bbc