North Korea Warns Against Criticism at Nuclear Security Summit

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, shakes hands with his South Korean counterpart Lee Myung-bak during a joint press conference following their meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, March 25, 2012.
U.S. President Barack Obama, left, shakes hands with his South Korean counterpart Lee Myung-bak during a joint press conference following their meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, March 25, 2012.
William Ide

Only days before the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea began, North Korea issued a stern warning not to criticize its nuclear program, saying through its state media that any inclusion of it in a statement would be a "declaration of war."

Such threats from Pyongyang are not uncommon. North Korea often warns of war when it is facing international criticism. Now, there is growing concern about Pyongyang's plan to carry out a missile launch next month, only weeks after it appeared to have agreed to end such tests.

Analysts say that although North Korea likely will be on the agenda at the Nuclear Summit, it is unclear what role it will play in the main discussions.

Richard Bush, director of the Center for North East Asia Policy Studies at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, says that although North Korea’s warning will be regarded as a firing of "empty cannons," it is likely that Pyongyang will find its way into the summit's concluding statement because it "fits the interest of the host government [i.e., Seoul]."

Abraham Denmark, Asia-Pacific security advisor at the Center for Naval Analyses outside Washington, says Pyongyang will not be overlooked.  "North Korea represents the greatest challenge to the stability of Northeast Asia, and will rightfully be a top issue for leaders to discuss at the summit," he says.  "In fact, North Korea's bellicosity and its recent behavior makes it all the more an appropriate subject for discussion."

In addition to its threat of war, Pyongyang recently said it plans to launch a satellite next month.  The announcement came shortly after North Korea agreed in February to suspend nuclear tests, long-range ballistic missile launches and other nuclear-related activities.

Despite its insistence that the satellite launch is "scientific" in nature, the United States and other nations say it is being used to test North Korea's ballistic missile capabilities.

Georgetown University political scientist Balbina Hwang says the leaders' statement at the summit should reflect the content of the talks.  "Including truthful statements about North Korea, whether or not it displeases North Korea," she says.

At the last Nuclear Security Summit two years ago, North Korea was not mentioned in the final communiqué.  And the reclusive communist state received only minor attention on the sidelines of the meeting.  During that summit, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak invited then-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to attend this year's summit in Seoul, if Pyongyang agreed to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

That did not happen, and the North Korean leader died last December.  This year's summit comes at a time when there is much uncertainty about North Korea, which is in the midst of a leadership transition.

For many analysts, North Korea's rhetoric fits an old pattern.  The threat of war and plans for a missile launch are a reflection of domestic politics in North Korea, says Abe Denmark.  "Pyongyang is still establishing modes of behavior and decision making after the death of Kim Jong Il.  And it appears that leadership transition dynamics are being expressed in its foreign policy," he says.

Balbina Hwang says the satellite launch and agreement in February, while contradictory, are part of Pyongyang's tactics to draw fine lines of separation between its provocative activities.

"Although the U.S. government position is that a satellite launch was covered under the February 29 moratorium, the North Koreans are clearly trying to test that proposition in the arena of international opinion," she says.  "It is also a clever way for North Korea to throw the ball back into the U.S. court, as now, if the deal falls apart, the North Koreans can blame U.S. action or inaction, as the case may be."

Analyst Richard Bush agrees that Pyongyang's actions might be part of a pattern, but that they also might have been a miscalculation that the United States would accept its claim that a missile test and satellite launch are different.

"Pyongyang may also have been trying to influence the April South Korea National Assembly elections," Bush says.  "And I am sure that Pyongyang is annoyed enough that it is South Korea that is hosting this high-profile conference."

This forum has been closed.
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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs