North Korea’s state-run news agency has published new warnings to South Korea and the United States, threatening a “great war.”
- "Let’s Realize the Nation’s Desire for a Great War for National Reunification"
- "We Will Mercilessly Punish Aggressors, Provokers through National Actions"
- "U.S. Imperialists and South Korean Lee Myung Bak Regime Should Not Act Reckless"
The messages appeared just days after North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Kil Yon told the United Nations that a hostile U.S. policy toward Pyongyang has turned the Korean Peninsula into the world's most dangerous hotspot.
, a North Korea expert at Tufts University’s The Fletcher School, said both the U.N. speech and the KCNA warnings are part of a well thought out strategy to remind voters in both South Korea and the U.S. that Pyongyang is a priority.
South Korea is holding a presidential election in December, just a month after the United States, and the frontrunner is Park Guen-hye, a member of the conservative ruling party that has taken a hawkish stance toward Pyongyang.
“By creating a mini headache, by causing problems, North Korea expects to be rewarded, not just with attention but by creating a political need in Washington and Seoul to take care of the problem,” Lee said.
He added that there is a high probability North Korea could start a naval skirmish in the coming weeks to provoke South Korea in an effort to sway the election toward the opposition.
“The effect on South Korea is usually apprehension about further escalation and war breaking out. Instead of blaming North Korea, South Koreans are prone to blaming their government - the current government - that has taken a more hardline approach to North Korea than its predecessor,” he said.
South Korean navy patrol ships fired warning shots last month toward six North Korean fishing boats that crossed the disputed Yellow Sea border between the two countries. Pyongyang does not recognize the border.
North and South Korea are still technically at war, since their 1950 to 1953 conflict ended in a truce. The de facto peace has been strained by North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests, moves Pyongyang says are in response to Washington’s hostile policies.
Six-party negotiations to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program have failed and, in recent years, taken a backseat to the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and unrest in the Middle East.
North Korea hasn’t made any military provocations since leader Kim Jong Il died last year and was succeeded by his youngest son, Kim Jong Un. For all the traditional belligerent rhetoric directed toward South Korea and the U.S., North Korean state media has also taken great care to depict the new leader as different from his father, showing him visiting school children, an amusement park and and attending a concert with his wife.
But Lee said North Korea will have to do more than just paint a reformed image of its young leader to prove the country truly is reforming. Until then, he said, the U.S. and South Korea likely will be hoping the North doesn’t start another crisis - at least until their elections are over.