News / Asia

    Analysts: North Korean Threats Raise Tensions

    South Korean army soldiers patrol along a barbed-wire fence near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Mar. 27, 2013.
    South Korean army soldiers patrol along a barbed-wire fence near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Mar. 27, 2013.
    Mike Richman
    In recent weeks, North Korea has been directing new vitriol at the United States and South Korea, threatening to turn Seoul into a "sea of fire" and launch nuclear strikes on U.S. targets.

    Two Washington-based analysts said it is unlikely North Korea will go to war with the United States. The greater danger, they said, is that Pyongyang does something to provoke a conflict between the two Koreas.

    Concern in Yellow Sea

    Bruce Klingner of the Heritage Foundation said fighting could occur in the Yellow (West) Sea near the maritime boundary created at the end of the Korean War in 1953. North Korea has never recognized the boundary and redrew it in the late 1990s, bringing five South Korean islands into its own sphere.



    "There are five islands just south of the Northern Limit Line, the disputed maritime boundary, and recently North Korea has moved additional artillery down to that area," Klingner said. "[North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un visited several of the islands. The rhetoric is very specific about the South Korean Sixth Marine Brigade on one of the islands. So that is causing growing concern both here and in Seoul.”

    Major instability in the region last surfaced in 2010, when a torpedo sank the South Korean warship Cheonan, killing 46 sailors. Seoul blamed the attack on Pyongyang, which denies carrying it out. Also that year, the North fired artillery at Yeonpyeong, one of the five South Korean Islands, and killed four more people.

    Ellen Kim of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said Pyongyang must be dissuaded from making provocations.

    "If there’s any provocation like the Cheonan incident, South Korea will respond kinetically, and if there’s any miscalculations or any accident during this response, this could easily escalate into a larger conflict,” said Kim.

    South Korea did not retaliate for the incidents in 2010. But South Korea's new president Park Geun-hye recently said she will "deal strongly with North Korea's provocations."

    According to Klingner and Kim, North Korea has been so bellicose partly because it is angry about being hit with new U.N. sanctions. The sanctions were imposed after the North's long-range rocket test late last year and its nuclear test last month.

    North Korea's "hard-line" approach

    UN Security Council Resolution 2094

    • Condemns in strongest terms North Korea's ongoing nuclear activities
    • Imposes new financial sanctions to block transactions in support of illicit activities
    • Strengthens states' authority to inspect cargo, deny port, overflight access
    • Enables stronger enforcement of sanctions by U.N. member states
    • Imposes sanctions on new individuals and entities
    North Korea has been railing against the new U.N. measures.   

    As for North Korea's 28-year-old leader, Kim Jong Un, Ellen Kim said she hopes he understands the "danger of his actions" and is not a "risk taker." She noted he may be more "reckless" than his father, the late Kim Jong Il.

    "We thought when he initially came into power he brought some changes, at the very surface level," said Kim. "So everybody was hoping that Kim Jong Un takes North Korea in a different direction. But now a lot of people are disappointed, and they don’t think Kim Jong Un is a reformer, and it seems like he’s going back to his father’s hardline policy in a much more dangerous direction.”

    Klingner sounded pessimistic when asked if Kim Jong Un is surrounded by rational people who can influence him to back off.

    "They are the same leaders, the same advisors who were in place when Kim Jong Il lashed out against South Korea, sinking a South Korean naval ship in South Korean waters, shelling a civilian island," he said. "So it's the same advisors around the new leader.”

    Earlier this week, North Korea announced it had cut its last military hotline with South Korea. The North said such communication links are no longer necessary since "war may break out at any moment."

    Klingner said it is unknown if Pyongyang is trying to communicate with Seoul possibly by using a back channel such as China, North Korea's top ally.
     
    "There is a possibility the U.S. or South Korea can contact the North through what’s called the New York channel, the permanent mission that North Korea has to the U.N. in New York," Klingner said. "There’s also ways of passing messages via China. We don’t know if North Korea is accepting messages or initiating any messages.”

    On Wednesday, a State Department spokesman said the U.S. remains "prepared to engage constructively" with Pyongyang provided it lives up to its international obligations and refrains from provocative behavior.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora