News / Asia

What's Behind North Korea's Bluster?

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (R) stands with military officers in Pyongyang April 13, 2012.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (R) stands with military officers in Pyongyang April 13, 2012.
VOA News
For the past week, the world has been hearing almost daily threats and belligerent statements from North Korea. 

While this kind of talk is not new for the government in Pyongyang, the pace and pitch of the recent pronouncements stand out. To help add perspective to these developments, VOA turned to its correspondent in Seoul, Steve Herman, and asked what might be behind Pyongyang's escalating war of words.

Decoding North Korea
Decoding North Koreai
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

VOA: "Steve, after the younger Kim took over, there was sort of a long period where we didn’t hear these kinds of statements. What can you tell about why this would be happening now?"

Steve Herman: "Well, that's a good question. Now there are two things that we can point to that have been going on that would fit into the pattern of how North Korea behaves. One is they always vociferously object to the annual joint military exercises that U.S. and South Korean militaries do. 

"Second: the North Koreans have a pattern of testing new South Korean presidents. And we have a new president, who was just recently inaugurated.  So we can combine these two together and that would partly explain why we are seeing these sort of provocations so frequently. But a number of diplomats I've been speaking with, military officials and people in the intelligence community, concur on something that I also feel, and this is just a hunch.

"We're missing something. There is a piece of the puzzle that we don't know.  There may be something else going on in Pyongyang. Whether this involves some struggle for power within the military -- or something that the North Koreans believe or fear beyond their normal types of concerns, we don't know for sure.

"We also have to remember that North Korea obviously feels under siege on the diplomatic front with the additional sanctions that have been put into place by the U.N. Security Council, including support, to some degree, for those sanctions from China, which you know, of course, has to be North Korea's sole significant ally since the demise of the Soviet Union.  So as much as some of this is directed at the United States, some of this may also be directed to get something out of China as well."
 
The late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (L) and his father, the late North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, are seen in this undated photo released by state media.The late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (L) and his father, the late North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, are seen in this undated photo released by state media.
x
The late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (L) and his father, the late North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, are seen in this undated photo released by state media.
The late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (L) and his father, the late North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, are seen in this undated photo released by state media.
VOA: "The thought often is in North Korea that the real power lies with the military generals. Do you have any sense of whether or not that's the case?"

Steve Herman: "I would be very cautious about anyone who jumps to conclusions that Kim Jong Un is 'not in charge.' He is the hereditary ruler of North Korea. That has been very important in Korean history. That blood tie to his grandfather is the foundation of the Democratic Peoples of the Republic of Korea and I don't think we should forget that. The other thing that always must be kept in mind with North Korea: the military comes first in North Korea. Period. Full stop. Even though Kim Jong Un may be only about 30 years old, has spent part of his early days being educated in Europe, but he was the one over his other brothers selected by his father."

You May Like

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs