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

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra 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.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid