News / Asia

North Korea Renews Threats

North Koreans dance together beneath a mosaic painting of the late leader Kim Il Sung during a mass folk dancing gathering in Pyongyang, April 11, 2013.
North Koreans dance together beneath a mosaic painting of the late leader Kim Il Sung during a mass folk dancing gathering in Pyongyang, April 11, 2013.
VOA News
Despite ever increasing tensions on the Korean peninsula, students in the North Korean capital broke out into dance Thursday.

Young people in Pyongyang wore suits and traditional dresses as they performed folk dances to celebrate the anniversary of leader Kim Jong Un's appointment to the country's top party post.

But on state-run television, news readers issued new threats of impending war, saying "our arms are ready to fire and the exact coordinates are input to the warheads. Once we push the button, it will be fired, and the strongholds of our enemies will be turned to a sea of flames.''

A U.S. Army soldier gestures to a fellow solider as they participate in annual military drills in Yeoncheon, South Korea, near the border with North Korea, April 11, 2013.A U.S. Army soldier gestures to a fellow solider as they participate in annual military drills in Yeoncheon, South Korea, near the border with North Korea, April 11, 2013.
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A U.S. Army soldier gestures to a fellow solider as they participate in annual military drills in Yeoncheon, South Korea, near the border with North Korea, April 11, 2013.
A U.S. Army soldier gestures to a fellow solider as they participate in annual military drills in Yeoncheon, South Korea, near the border with North Korea, April 11, 2013.
U.S. and South Korean forces remain on heightened alert for a possible North Korean missile test, and in London foreign minister from the Group of 8 (G8) issued a communique condemning Pyongyang's "current aggressive rhetoric."

Earlier, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said the time has come for North Korea to calm down.

"This war rhetoric is not in any way acceptable, and the G8 has a united position on this. We are all convinced that this escalation of war rhetoric needs to end," he said. "It is about level-headedness, de-escalation, and it is unacceptable that North Korea's escalation creates so much tension in this situation."

South Korea's defense ministry said Thursday it is fully prepared to deal with a North Korean launch. Spokesperson Kim Min-seok, insisted the military is ready to intercept any rocket.

"Our military is concerned a North Korean missile launch can threaten our territory and our people's safety, so we are preparing a full defensive posture," he said. "Also, we are preparing so that when North Korea launches the missile, we can immediately figure out where it is heading."

Kim said Seoul believes the launch could occur on or before the Monday birthday of North Korea's late founding leader, Kim Il Sung. The date is one of the most important on the North Korean calendar.

But the defense ministry refused to comment on a report by Japan's Kyodo news agency, which quoted an unnamed Tokyo defense official as saying a North Korean missile launcher was in a "raised position."

Despite concerns, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told lawmakers Thursday that all of North Korea's actions appear to be a ploy for the sake of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

He said, "I think first and foremost it's to show that he is firmly in control in North Korea."

North Korea is believed to have moved several mid-range missiles to its east coast in preparation for tests to demonstrate its ability to strike American targets in the region.

Officials believe the missiles include the previously untested Musudan, which has a longer range and could potentially reach South Korea, Japan, or the U.S. territory of Guam.

Meanwhile, South Korea is suggesting dialogue with the North could help reduce tensions. The South's Unification Ministry Thursday called on Pyongyang to engage in talks over the closure of a joint industrial center.

South Koreans arrive with their belongings from North Korea's Kaesong at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, April 9, 2013.South Koreans arrive with their belongings from North Korea's Kaesong at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, April 9, 2013.
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South Koreans arrive with their belongings from North Korea's Kaesong at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, April 9, 2013.
South Koreans arrive with their belongings from North Korea's Kaesong at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, April 9, 2013.
North Korea this week pulled its workers from the Kaesong industrial zone, placing in doubt the future of the last remaining sign of economic cooperation between the two wartime foes. It earlier blocked South Korean access to the center.

On Thursday, Taiwan became the first country to warn against traveling to North Korea. A foreign ministry statement urged citizens to delay non-essential trips to the country because of the unpredictability of the security situation.

South Korea's central bank, however, reassured investors that the threats pose no immediate threat to Seoul's economy, which is Asia's fourth largest.

  • North Korean children hold up red scarves to be tied around their necks during an induction ceremony into the Korean Children's Union held at a stadium in Pyongyang, April 12, 2013.
  • Two military officers admire displays at a flower show featuring thousands of Kimilsungia flowers, named after the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, Pyongyang, April 12, 2013.
  • South Korean soldiers stand guard at an observation post near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) which separates the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul April 11, 2013.
  • Female North Korean soldiers patrol along the banks of Yalu River, near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, April 11, 2013.
  • A North Korean man blocks his face with his hand from being photographed as he and other residents take a ferry in Yalu River, near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, April 11, 2013.
  • People take part in an oath-taking before the statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il on Mansudae Hill in Pyongyang, April 10, 2013. (KCNA)
  • Anti-North Korean protesters release balloons with peace messages on the Grand Unification Bridge leading to the North near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, north of Seoul, April 10, 2013.
  • South Koreans arrive with their belongings from North Korea's Kaesong at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, April 9, 2013.
  • Visitors look at the industrial complex in Kaesong, North Korea, through binoculars at Dora Observation Post in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, April 9, 2013.
  • A South Korean military vehicle passes by gates leading to the North Korean city of Kaesong at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, April 8, 2013.
  • An elementary school teacher orders her students to leave as they watch South Korean housewives denounce annual South Korean-U.S. military exercises, near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, April 8, 2013.
  • South Korean army soldiers patrol along a barbed-wire fence near the border village of the Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, April 8, 2013.
  • North Korean military dogs run to a target with a portrait of South Korean Defence Minister Kim Kwan-jin during a military drill, April 6, 2013. (KCNA)

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