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

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid