Real Threats or Just More North Korean Saber Rattling?

February 28th, 2011

By Dan Miller

As noted in How About Adding a North Korea Crisis to the Mix? published on February 26th, the DPRK is showing multiple stress points — at least some news of revolts in Arab Lands has become available domestically, food shortages seem to be worsening and there have been limited popular protests. Meanwhile, efforts directed toward another nuclear test are progressing and one may not be far off.

The DPRK is not known for reticence when it comes to threats. Recently there have been more. South Korea and the United States presumably have contingency plans to deal with those threats, although in light of recent surprises and ill considered intelligence it is far from clear that they will be adequate.

The United States and South Korea plan to begin joint Key Resolve/Foal Eagle drills involving 200,000 South Korean and 12,800 US troops on Monday, February 28th. The DPRK has warned that its “‘unprecedented all-out counteraction’ … would turn the South’s capital Seoul into a ‘sea of flames,’ the Korean Central News Agency said Sunday.” That could happen if the Kim regime and the DPRK military (which may have different views) are willing to suffer the consequences.

Key Resolve, a command post exercise involving computer simulation, will last until March 10. Part of Foal Eagle, a joint air, ground and naval training exercise, will continue through April 30.

The exercise reportedly includes scenarios such as localised provocations, tracing weapons of mass destruction, a sudden regime change in the communist state and an exodus of refugees, Yonhap news agency reported.

It also said the US planned to deploy it 97,000-tonne aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan for the drills.

Also stirring the pot are the psychological operations activities being conducted by South Korea.

Conservative opposition politician Song Young-Sun, citing a report from the defence ministry, said on Friday balloons carrying humanitarian supplies such as medicine and clothes were being launched across the border by the military.

She said the balloons also carried news of civil uprisings against repressive regimes in the Arab World and were aimed at getting information to the people of North Korea, who are largely cut off from the outside world. …

The North threatened on Sunday it would begin firing on border areas where the South’s activists and military launch the balloons.

“Our army will stage a direct fire at… sources of the anti-DPRK psychological warfare to destroy them on the principle of self-defence, if such actions last despite our repeated warning,” KCNA said.

Pyongyang tightly controls access to the Internet and attempts to block other sources of information about the outside world. But DVDs and mobile phones smuggled from China have been eroding barriers.

A survey by two US academics of some 1,600 refugees from the North found that roughly half of them had access to foreign news or entertainment — a sharp rise from the 1990s.

Continue reading this article at The PJ Tatler »

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5 Responses to “Real Threats or Just More North Korean Saber Rattling?”

  1. Tom Carter |

    One of these days — surprise, surprise — the Korean Peninsula is going blow up and we’ll be faced with a war that we won’t be able to stay out of. Then everyone will be wondering where that mess came from.

    I have a theory, a la Marshall McLuhan, that the reason we’re paying so little attention to North Korea is because the media stars can’t parachute in and film themselves standing in front of military parades and starving peasants. If CNN (and, more and more, Al Jazeera) haven’t noticed something, it doesn’t exist. Simple as that.

  2. Dan Miller |

    Maybe CNN’s Wolf Blitzer should blitz back into Korea; he got lots of exposure the last time and may even have eaten lunches off it for days.

  3. Dan Miller |

    The noise from the DPRK continues. On March 1, it

    renewed threats of a “physical response” to ongoing South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises. “It’s becoming inevitable for our military to show a physical response in self-defense,” the official KCNA news agency quoted a spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry as saying.

    “Our military and people cannot suppress a flush of anger at the U.S., which has staged a massive war game against the North in a coercive manner. The U.S. should take all responsibility for the consequences of its military provocation,” he said.

    In an editorial, the official Rodong Sinmun daily said, “Alongside the U.S., the South Korean warmongers are staging the provocative joint military exercises on the assumption of an invasion of the North. Chances of dialogue and peace are disappearing from the Korean Peninsula, but the danger of war is increasing.”

    “The consequence of a war could be a nuclear catastrophe. To remove the danger of war, warlike forces should stop their game of northward invasion and their armament scheme,” it added.

    Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is giving further consideration to resuming the provision of food aid.

    The top US diplomat for East Asia, Kurt Campbell, told politicians any decision would be taken in close co-ordination with South Korea.

    Asked whether food aid could ultimately ease economic pressure on the North, which would effectively allow it to put more resources into its nuclear programmes, Mr Campbell said North Korea had shown historically that it was willing to allow “enormous suffering” among its people. Many starved during the 1990s, he said.

    “The choice here is whether these people are allowed to starve. It’s a humanitarian issue, not a political one,” he added.

    According to the Voice of Russia in New York City,

    [W]e should underline that these [joint US – South Korean military exercises] are routine, they are conducted every year, and from this side, the argumentation of Americans and South Koreans that it’s really peaceful and very routine maneuvers, maybe, have some grounds. But, at the same time, we may understand North Korea, which, in January of this year, put forward a number of peaceful proposals, to South Korea, first of all, and to the United States also, aimed at the reduction of the military activity. And you know that even with the North-South military initiations, talks on the military line took place – unfortunately, they were not successful. But, nevertheless, North Korea tries to demonstrate its peaceful approach after the last year of very hot clashes. And, these very large-scale maneuvers, if they are the response to this peaceful line, of course, they can be accepted by North Korea quite negatively.

    Right. The DPRK starves its peasants to supply food and other resources to its elite “leaders” (who get some pretty neat luxuries) and very large military, prepares for another nuclear test, threatens nuclear conflagration, makes hit and run attacks on places held by the South, and begs for food in exchange for “peace” so long as “humanitarian assistance” is provided. And the United States is “considering” resumption of enabling the DPRK.

  4. Tom Carter |

    Providing food aid to NK is stupid. It does, in fact, enable them to divert more resources to the elites and the military, although what they spend on their own people probably isn’t that great. One way or another, they’ll manage to divert any aid they get to their own purposes.

    The same was true during the sanctions against the Saddam regime in Iraq. At the same time Saddam was building splendid palaces and the elites were living like kings, children were starving. Yet he mounted a propaganda campaign, aided and abetted by leftists in the U.S. and Europe, that sanctions were causing children to starve to death. Of course, there was also the Oil for Food program, which resulted in massive corruption in Iraq and the UN, in addition to in a few other countries.

    My experience in development assistance, along with that of most other serious observers, is that aid which can’t be directly monitored all the way to the point of delivery is a very bad idea.

  5. Dan Miller |

    Same ol’ Shiite from the DPRK, interesting response from South Korea.

    North Korea threatened South Korea again Tuesday, the second day of the South Korea-U.S. joint military drill Key Resolve, saying, “Risk of a war is mounting on the Korean Peninsula. If war breaks out, it will only entail a nuclear disaster.”

    The North’s Korean Central News Agency quoted the Rodong Shinmun, the official daily of the Workers` Party, as saying in an editorial Tuesday, “Belligerent South Korean war maniacs are pushing ahead with the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military drills jointly with the U.S. under the assumption of invasion of the North.”

    South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin toured a frontline unit in the western section of the inter-Korean border Tuesday.

    “However good a plan we have in place to counter the North’s aggression, it only must entail action,” he said. “I urge our military units to take action first before reporting rather than asking at the site whether to open fire in the event of a military operation.”

    Kim said this at 7:55 a.m. when briefed by 1st Army Corps chief Choi Jong-il at the Army’s command control center in an underground bunker. “I ask that our military use its imagination about the various types of possible attacks (by the North) and constantly hold discussions,” Kim added.

    Are the ROK forces up to that sort of independent initiative?

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