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

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory 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.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid