News / Asia

    S. Korea Vows Retaliation if North Breaks Truce

    A North Korean soldier looks through a window as a South Korean stands guard at the U.N. truce village building that sits on the border of the Demilitarized Zone in Panmunjon, South Korea. (File)A North Korean soldier looks through a window as a South Korean stands guard at the U.N. truce village building that sits on the border of the Demilitarized Zone in Panmunjon, South Korea. (File)
    x
    A North Korean soldier looks through a window as a South Korean stands guard at the U.N. truce village building that sits on the border of the Demilitarized Zone in Panmunjon, South Korea. (File)
    A North Korean soldier looks through a window as a South Korean stands guard at the U.N. truce village building that sits on the border of the Demilitarized Zone in Panmunjon, South Korea. (File)
    South Korea is responding firmly to North Korea's threat to abrogate next Monday the peninsula's truce agreement and resume military action.

    "If North Korea conducts any provocations that threaten the life and safety of South Koreans then it should be clear there will be strong and decisive punishment not only against the source of the aggression and its support forces, but also the commanding element," South Korean army general Kim Yong-hyun told reporters Wednesday at the Ministry of National Defense.

    The South Korean response follows some of the most explicit threats of action in years from the North.

    The Wednesday edition of the North Korean worker's party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, says Pyongyang will be compelled to take action because joint annual drills involving U.S. and South Korean forces are actually intended as a surprise "preemptive nuclear strike" against the North.

    No Plans To Reduce Participation In Joint Drills

    U.S. Forces Korea spokeswoman Jennifer Buschick says "there are no current plans to reduce participation or scope" of annual defensive joint drills, including the Key Resolve command post exercise set to commence March 11th. Key Resolve will involve 3,500 members of the U.S. forces and about 10,000 South Korean military personnel.

    The North's official news agency, KCNA, quotes the army's supreme command as saying it intends to counter the American-led military operation with a "diversified precision nuclear strike means of Korean style."

    North Korean radio and television late Tuesday preempted their 8 p.m. newscasts to carry a ten-minute statement read by General Kim Yong Chol, head of the army's General Reconnaissance Bureau.

    The four-star general, with a reputation as a hardliner, declared the armistice will be "totally nullified" and that the hotline between North Korean and U.S. forces at the Panmunjom truce village will be cut.

    North Korea “will make a strike of justice at any target anytime it pleases without limit, not bound to the armistice agreement and achieve the great cause of the country reunification, the cherished desire of the nation,” Kim said.

    North Korea made a previous threat, in 2009, to abrogate the armistice.

    North Korean Intentions Difficult To Predict

    Japan's Kyodo news agency, in a report from Pyongyang, says “indications of North Korea preparing for a war were observable in the capital” as people began covering buses and trains with camouflage netting. The report adds that according to North Koreans it is the first time in many years such preparatory measures to evade attack have been taken.

    Analysts say it is difficult to predict Pyongyang's intentions. North Korea has, in the past, backed away from brinksmanship while at other times its rhetoric has been followed by action, including military strikes.

    Chang Yong-seok, senior researcher with the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University, says these kind of statements are intended for domestic political consumption to maintain a sense of crisis among the North Korean people. But Chang cautions the possibility of an actual military provocation by Pyongyang is now higher than normal. He explains it is hard to predict what will happen or when. But he says the North Koreans do not want to conduct an offensive action that would lead to full-scale war.

    South Korea's semi-official Yonhap news agency quotes military sources in Seoul as saying North Korea has begun submarine drills in the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan (East Sea) and increased preparations for its own nationwide military exercises next week.

    Past Military Drills Have Sparked Skirmishes

    South Korea blames the North for a 2010 torpedo attack on one of its coast naval vessels that killed 46 personnel. Later that same year North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong island in what it says was retaliation for a South Korean military drill. The artillery attack killed four people, including two civilians.

    Asia analyst Mike Chinoy at the University of Southern California tells VOA he is concerned about the possibility of an accidental clash next week when military exercises are under way on both sides of the DMZ.

    "All it would take is one helicopter that has a mechanical problem and has to come down on the North Korean side of the demilitarized zone, or some firing exercises in which somebody puts in the wrong coordinates and an artillery shell goes in the other direction," says Chinoy. "These kinds of accidents, which have happened before, could in the current circumstances create a dynamic of escalation that would be harder to manage.”

    Tokyo is "continuing to prepare for all contingencies" in order to maintain its peace and security, Japanese deputy chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters Wednesday.

    White House spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday described the latest threats from North Korea as "not new" and urged it to heed "President Obama's call to choose the path of peace and come into compliance with its international obligations."

    United Nations Poised To Enact New Sanctions

    The U.N. Security Council, meanwhile, is poised to enact new sanctions in the wake of North Korea's rocket launch in December and its third nuclear test last month.

    A draft resulting from an agreement between U.S. and Chinese negotiators targets illicit activities of North Korean diplomats believed to be abusing their immunity privileges. It also tightens scrutiny on transfers of bulk cash and further restricts travel.

    South Korea's ambassador to the United Nations, Kim Sook, told VOA the full Security Council will make a decision soon and his government, at the moment, is satisfied with the language contained in the draft.

    Diplomats from several countries say the enhanced U.N. sanctions include mandatory inspections of vessels entering or leaving North Korean waters suspected of carrying prohibited items, including luxury goods such as jewelry and automobiles.

    The draft also calls for additional "significant measures" in the event of further North Korean launches or nuclear tests.

    Some critics contend sanctions, until now, have been largely ineffective in preventing North Korea from developing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.

    Youmi Kim in the VOA Seoul Bureau and Victor Beattie in Washington contributed to this report.

    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha!

    How immigrants are triggering a great transformation in American cuisine

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
    March 06, 2013 11:03 AM
    These continuous exchanges of agressive words make no sense; the NKorean establishment is of an unstable mind set, that has a very strange view of the World. The SKorean establishment should keep its cool, stay alert, prepare for the worst, and let the unstable people vent. The escalation on word gamemanship is not constructive; it will just escalate to an actual confrontation(s), given the nature of the people involved.

    My prediction is that the escalating war exchange of words has reached near the tipping point, and the dictatorship is pushing itself into a corner, from which it will actually take some physical action, to extradicate itself and save face.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora