North Korea escalated its war of words against the South Korean government on Monday, when a newscaster interrupted regular programming on North Korea's central television station and forcefully read an unusual announcement from a unit of the army's supreme command.
A special operation would reduce to “ashes in three or four minutes” the supporters of South Korea's president and their bases utilizing “unprecedented peculiar means and methods," said Ri Chun Hee, a senior North Korean broadcaster.
Pyongyang blames President Lee Myung-bak for insulting the North at a time when the country was mourning its late leader, Kim Jong Il, who died in December, and then during this month's celebrations marking the centennial of the birth of North Korea's founder, Kim Il Sung.
North Korea often uses belligerent language and threatens violence against South Korean leaders. But some analysts who closely monitor the North’s bombastic rhetoric say the latest message may presage some sort of attack.
Daniel Pinkston, the senior analyst in Seoul for the International Crisis Group, says while there is no indication of a mobilization of North Korea's military, the announcement from Pyongyang is puzzling and worrying.
"I don't know what a special team could do in three or four minutes,' noted Pinkston. "Maybe some type of special operations or some type of asymmetric attack that could include cyber attacks or attacks against unexpected, unusual targets in the South, maybe attacks against South Korean targets abroad."
North Korea suffered a loss of face when its highly promoted April 13 “space launch” failed after two minutes. The North said it was trying to place a satellite into orbit. Much of the international community regarded it as a provocative ballistic missile test in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
South Korea last week unveiled a missile of its own that it says is capable of quickly striking any target in the North.
An uneasy peace has prevailed on the Korean peninsula since 1953 when an armistice was signed halting three years of devastating warfare. The two Koreas have never signed a peace treaty and have no diplomatic relations.