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April 24th, 2012
By Dan Miller
The perception that North Korea is “almost ready” to conduct another nuclear test “soon” has been voiced since before the abortive missile test on Friday the Thirteenth of April at 7:39 AM Korean time. It is now anticipated “soon,” whatever that may mean — in hours, days, weeks, months or whenever the astrological signs favor it and perhaps it will never will happen. However, according to “U.S. officials,” it could happen on the night of April 24th. Still, they
couldn’t be specific on a date for the test, but they told NBC News they were “100 percent” certain there would be a nuclear test within the next two weeks or “at any time.”
The article continues,
At the high end of the range, U.S. officials and other researchers said, North Korea may already have up to “a few dozen” nuclear weapons that could be fitted atop its vast fleet of ballistic missiles. Currently, North Korean missiles are limited to an intermediate range, capable of hitting cities in Japan or South Korea but not the United States. What the new test could reveal is an improvement in the type of weapons North Korea has.
I speculated here that there might be a test “soon” after the failed missile launch but that it would be fairly easy to fake it rather than to make it. Neither seems to have happened as of the time this article was posted.
Last week, North Korea
renewed its promise to wage a “sacred war,” saying South Korean President Lee Myung-bak had insulted the North’s April 15 celebrations of the birth centennial of national founder Kim Il Sung.
President Lee must be a terrible war-mongering and reactionary hater of the peaceful yet all powerful Kim regime; there can be no other possible explanation. More recently, North Korea threatened, with customary hyperbole,
imminent “special actions” that would reduce South Korea’s conservative government to ashes within minutes, sharply escalating the rhetoric against its southern rival. (Emphasis added.)
This most recent threat from the North’s military leadership comes amid concerns that North Korea may also be plotting other provocations in the wake of her unsuccessful rocket launch condemned by the U.N. Security Council as a violation of a ban against missile activity.
The threat was also directed against South Korea’s paranoid “conservative media.” South Korea
appears to be taking seriously the latest attack threat from North Korea.
Police say they have increased patrols around headquarters of nine conservative media outlets in Seoul after North Korea vowed to soon carry out a “special military action” on them by “unprecedented means and methods.”
South Korea’s government says it is concerned about Pyongyang’s threat to reduce to ashes, in several minutes, the support base for the country’s president, including several broadcasters and a leading daily newspaper, the Dong-a Ilbo.
Foreign ministry spokesman Cho Byung-je characterizes the latest threat from Pyongyang as “very dangerous and harsh.”
Cho says South Korea’s government and military are strengthening their security postures and are on alert to prepare for any situation. He also warns that any military provocation by North Korea will be answered with a punishment by the South. (Emphasis added,)
The linked article cites speculation about the form the threatened attack may take.
Officials in the South Korean government say there are no reports of any unusual military movements in the North.
That has led to speculation that the unique assault North Korea’s military vows to carry out against the South could be nontraditional, such as cyber attacks on the government and media.
Kim Hung-kwang, who was a computer science professor at a North Korean university – and now heads a defectors’ intellectual group – says Pyongyang has a proven capability for distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks via the Internet.
Kim says he anticipates North Korea will attempt something much more paralyzing than those previous attacks, such as taking down South Korean government internal computer systems. And as far as an attack on the South Korean media, he says, based on Monday’s declared threat by Pyongyang, it will be something unexpected and unprecedented. (Emphasis added.)
Increased police patrols around the Dong-a Ilbo and other reactionary media outlets seem an odd way to thwart a cyber attack unless it is thought that perhaps North Korean agents will attempt to gain entry to government and media buildings and destroy computers. That, one supposes, might create some ashes, as claimed.
What is the North Korean strategy?
The longer North Korea can keep her military happy and her enemies — real, imaginary and useful for regime stability — on edge the better for her. Bluster, threaten, chill out and beg, then repeat as often as needed, has been a successful prescription in the past and well might avoid the imposition of new and stronger sanctions this time. She probably has little to worry about on the sanctions front because her neighbor and closest ally, China, has often failed to go along with them when important to the Kim regime and has helped her to evade them. China seems less likely now than before the failed missile test to challenge North Korea or to encourage others to do so. On April 23d,
China and North Korea have both pledged strong ties and friendship, amid serious tensions between the two Koreas in the wake of Pyongyang’s failed rocket launch. Chinese President Hu Jintao emphasised close ties between the two nations at a meeting with a Workers’ Party delegation from the DPRK headed by Kim Yong-il in Beijing on Monday.
Jintao said that advancing friendship and cooperation between China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) will continue to be the guideline of the ruling party and government of China.
Also Monday, North Korea’s top leader Kim Jong Un pledged to further enhance his nation’s traditional friendship with China.
It has been claimed that a Chinese company, Hubei Sanjiang, assisted North Korea with a transport mechanism for a new missile, larger than the one that disintegrated shortly after take off on April 13.
[T]he Obama administration does not believe the sale was made with permission from Beijing, but the US is concerned that China is unable to fully enforce the United Nations sanctions because of the large number of Chinese companies producing equipment that has both civilian and military uses.
A U.S. official also
said that Washington plans to use the issue as leverage to convince China to ratchet up its enforcement of sanctions on Pyongyang.
An army of determined community organizers (sent to China) might help to convince China to shape up. On further thought, they might even do some good in North Korea. However, Washington’s plan seems destined for failure in any event because China will, as always, act in her own perceived best interests. She needs to keep the Kim regime happy because regime happiness is conducive to stability and because a loss of stability in North Korea would precipitate a mass exodus to China. China already has quite enough difficulty feeding her own people, is now experiencing significant domestic political crises and is at the center of worsening tensions in the South China Sea.
All of which brings us back to the current North Korean threats to “reduce South Korea’s conservative government to ashes within minutes.” (Emphasis added.) Actually doing it would bring retaliation from South Korea and perhaps even from the United States, endangering the tranquility of the Kim regime, destabilizing the peninsula and ultimately sending masses of hungry and therefore unwanted North Koreans to China. China would not like that and will likely find ways to prevent it, even if the North Korean threat is more than bluster for domestic consumption or a necessary part of polishing the begging bowl for the international community to fill.
(This article was also posted at Dan Miller’s Blog.)
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