More North Korean Saber Rattling
North Korea is continuing its saber rattling in the wake of an apparent agreement on new UN sanctions:
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Thursday threatened for the first time to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States and South Korea, issuing the warning as the United Nations was preparing tough new sanctions over its nuclear program.
The threat from the North Korean Foreign Ministry came hours before the United Nations Security Council was scheduled to meet on the sanctions, which are aimed at squeezing the international financing of the already isolated regime in Pyongyang.
Calling such sanctions “an act of war,” North Korea has sharply escalated its threats against the United States and its allies in the last few days, declaring the 1953 armistice that stopped the Korean War null and void and threatening to turn Washington and Seoul into “a sea in flames” with “lighter and smaller nukes.”
The combative country had often warned that it had the right to launch pre-emptive military strikes against the United States, which it claimed was preparing to start a war on the Korean Peninsula. On Thursday, it ratcheted up its hostile language by talking about pre-emptive nuclear strikes for the first time, citing the ongoing joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises as a proof that the Americans and their allies themselves were preparing for “a nuclear war aimed to mount a pre-emptive strike” on North Korea.
“Now that the U.S. is set to light a fuse for a nuclear war, the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK will exercise the right to a preemptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors and to defend the supreme interests of the country,” a spokesman of the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a Korean-language statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. He used the acronym for his country’s official name, Democratic People’s republic of Korea.
The spokesman said that North Korea was no longer bound by the 1953 armistice ending the Korean War — and its military was free to “take military actions for self-defense against any target any moment” — starting from Monday, when it declared the cease-fire was terminated.
The resolution the United Nations was about to adopt to impose more sanctions against the North “will compel the DPRK to take at an earlier date more powerful second and third countermeasures as it had declared,” the spokesman added, without elaborating.
“Given that it has become difficult to avert the second Korean war,” he added. “The DPRK strongly warns the U.N. Security Council not to make another big blunder like the one in the past when it earned inveterate grudge of the Korean nation by acting as a war servant for the U.S. in 1950.”
In the past, whenever the United Nations considered more sanctions, North Korea’s typically strident rhetoric had grown harsher with threats of war. The threats were just that, and analysts said the message was meant as much for its home population, to whom they said the young leader Kim Jong-un sought to inspire a sense of crisis, as it was meant to unsettle the region to force Washington to engage it with concessions.
Photos filed by news agencies from Pyongyang and carried in South Korean media Thursday showed buses covered with military camouflage and university students rushing out of their classroom building in military uniforms in a military exercise.
Few analysts believed that North Korea would launch a military attack at the United States, which would be suicidal for the regime. But officials in Seoul feared that North Korea might attempt an armed skirmish to test the military resolve of Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s first female president, who took office less than two weeks ago.
On Wednesday, in an uncharacteristically blunt response to North Korea’s threat, a South Korean army general called a news conference and warned that if provoked, South Korea would strike back at the top North Korean military leadership. The two Koreas’ front-line units exchanges artillery fire after North Korea launched a barrage against a South Korean border island in 2010.
In the same year, 46 South Korean sailors were killed when their navy corvette sank in an explosion the South blamed on a North Korean torpedo attack.
I guess it’s time to start paying attention to the Korean Peninsula again.