News / Asia

North Korea Prepares Public for Potential Conflict With South

A bus covered in a net-like object drives on a street in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo taken by Kyodo, March 6, 2013.
A bus covered in a net-like object drives on a street in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo taken by Kyodo, March 6, 2013.
North Korea appears to be preparing its people for a potential conflict with the U.S.-backed South, by taking steps to camouflage public transport and broadcasting messages from citizens in favor of war.

South Korean and Japanese media reported Wednesday that authorities in Pyongyang have begun to cover up buses and trains with camouflage netting, a precautionary measure that has not been seen in the North Korean capital for years. South Korea's Yonhap news agency said the situation in Pyongyang was similar to 1993 when it declared a quasi state of war shortly before withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

North Korean state television also broadcast footage of Pyongyang residents, such as this man, expressing support for the government's threat to scrap a 1953 armistice with the United States in the coming days.

"North Korea cannot stand it any more," he said. "As long as the U.S. and South Korean puppets want war, I think we should form a strong army to take hold of this opportunity to reunify the Korean peninsula."

South Korean media said Pyongyang also has started submarine training as part of a program of military exercises.

South Korean General Kim Yong-hyun reacted to the latest North Korean moves by vowing a "strong and decisive" response if Pyongyang follows through on Tuesday's threat to break the truce.

"If North Korea dares to undertake provocation and to threaten the lives and safety of our people, we make it clear that we have all preparations in place for a strong and decisive punishment, not only against the source of the aggression and its support forces, but also the commanding element," said General Yong-hyun.

North Korea said it plans to void the 1953 cease-fire that ended the Korean War because of a U.S.-led drive for sanctions against it and ongoing military exercises between Seoul and Washington.

It is not unusual for Pyongyang to issue such statements during times of heightened tension on the Korean peninsula. But, analysts said the latest threats may be more serious, because they were made by a high-ranking official, and came with a deadline.

In a Tuesday appearance on state television, North Korean General Kim Yong Chol said Pyongyang will "completely nullify" the armistice beginning March 11, and cut off communications to U.S. and South Korean forces at the border village of Panmunjom.

The deadline coincides with the start of a second round of U.S.-South Korea military exercises. A first round began earlier this month. The U.S. has said the annual drills are defensive in nature, but North Korea views them as preparation to invade.

Meanwhile, United Nations diplomats said they hope to vote Thursday on a resolution punishing North Korea for its latest nuclear test last month. The Security Council held a closed-door meeting on the issue Tuesday.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the resolution would impose some of the toughest sanctions ever ordered by the United Nations. She said the sanctions would target illicit activities by the North's diplomats and Pyongyang's banking relationships. It also would tighten inspections on cargo headed to and from the country.

The resolution, which has the support of both the U.S. and China, may further anger an already isolated North Korea. But despite its latest threats, many analysts said Pyongyang is unlikely to carry out large-scale clashes in response to the sanctions.

Mike Chinoy, an Asia analyst at the University of Southern California, told VOA the real danger lies in the possibility of an accidental clash next week, when North Korea is due to stage competing military drills at the same time as the United States and South Korea.

"All it would take is one helicopter that has a mechanical problem and has to come down on the North Korean side of the demilitarized zone, or some firing exercises in which somebody puts in the wrong coordinates and an artillery shell goes in the other direction," said Chinoy. "These kinds of accidents, which have happened before, could in the current circumstances create a dynamic of escalation that would be harder to manage."

The waters outside North and South Korea have been the scene of several deadly incidents in the past decade. The South blames the North for a 2010 torpedo attack on one of its coastal naval vessels that killed 46 personnel. Later that year, North Korea shelled a frontier island where the South has a military base. That attack killed four people, including two civilians.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
March 07, 2013 5:30 AM
It would be the world against N Korea. They don't stand a chance.

by: NVO from: USA
March 06, 2013 6:12 PM
F! North Korea and your autocracy. Crazy regime.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs