News / Asia

    South Korea Decries North's 'Psychological Tactics'

    North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) visits a long-range artillery sub-unit of the Korean People's Army Unit 641, March 11, 2013, in this picture released by the North's official KCNA news agency in Pyongyang, March 12, 2013.
    North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) visits a long-range artillery sub-unit of the Korean People's Army Unit 641, March 11, 2013, in this picture released by the North's official KCNA news agency in Pyongyang, March 12, 2013.
    North Korea's official media is quoting its leader, Kim Jong Un, using the most threatening language yet during a visit to a front-line unit poised to attack a South Korean frontier island.

    Meanwhile, a major conservative daily newspaper in Seoul quotes a government official saying American nuclear weapons will remain in South Korean waters following current drills, to deter the North.

    South Korea's Ministry of National Defense says a fresh threat by North Korea's leader against a frontier island is part of psychological tactics intended to change policy in Washington and Seoul.

    Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters North Korea is preparing a large-scale military drill later this month, and Kim Jong Un is expected to attend.

    The spokesman says the drills could lead to provocation.  He says South Korean forces are closely monitoring the North Korean military.

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    At the top of Tuesday's North Korean radio newscasts were details of the Monday inspection by the country's leader to a coastal detachment said to be ready to attack South Korea's frontier Baengnyeong island.

    The announcer quotes Kim Jong Un telling the troops to turn the enemy island into a sea of flames.

    The announcer says Kim informed the soldiers that, once his order is issued, to give the “insane enemy” a taste of real war by “breaking their waists and completely cutting their strings of life.”

    According to the broadcast, the North Korean leader also specified that the 4th Army Corps should wipe out the island's radar post, artillery defenses, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, rocket launchers and howitzer batteries controlled by the South Korean 6th Marines.

    South Korea's semi-official Yonhap news agency says Kim's recent visits to units along the southwestern coast have local observers concerned of another military clash between the two Koreas in the Yellow Sea.

    The increasingly bellicose rhetoric from Pyongyang comes amid tighter economic sanctions imposed on it by the United Nations Security Council and the United States, and annual military exercises involving American and South Korean troops.

    A major conservative daily in Seoul, the Joong Ang Ilbo, quotes a government official saying U.S. nuclear weapons, likely on submarines, will remain in South Korean waters after the joint defense drills end next month.

    The United States removed its nuclear weapons from the peninsula in 1991.

    U.S. Forces Korea, asked for a response by VOA, issued a general statement saying the United States “remains steadfast” in its commitment to defend its ally, which includes the extended deterrence provided by “conventional forces and a nuclear umbrella.”

    An official at the U.S. Defense Department, speaking to VOA on condition he not be named, denies South Korean media reports that a U.S. aircraft carrier, stealth fighters and B-52 bombers have been participating in the joint annual military exercises in and around South Korea. But the official acknowledges a B-52 Stratofortress performed a "routine continuous bomber presence mission" on March 8, near the Korean peninsula.  However, he says the flight was not part of the exercise.

    The U.S. Navy is acknowledging the participation of two guided missile destroyers, the USS Lassen and USS McCampbell in the Foal Eagle exercise, which began March 1.  According to a Navy officer, the ships are focusing on “training in anti-submarine warfare, air intercept control, communication and command and control.”

    • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Wolnae Islet Defence Detachment in the western sector of the front line, which is near Baengnyeong Island of South Korea, March 11, 2013. (KCNA)
    • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a long-range artillery sub-unit of the Korean People's Army Unit 641, March 11, 2013. (KCNA)
    • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un holds a guitar during his visit to a military unit on the Wolnae Islet Defence Detachment in the western sector of the front line, which is near Baengnyeong Island, South Korea, March 11, 2013. (KCNA)
    • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves while in a boat during his visit to the Wolnae Islet Defence Detachment in the western sector of the front line, which is near Baengnyeong Island of South Korea March 11, 2013. (KCNA)

    A separate overlapping command post exercise, Key Resolve, began this week. It brings some U.S. forces to the peninsula from overseas bases. U.S. officials insist it is purely a defensive training.

    Tensions on the peninsula have risen to levels not seen in years.

    North Korea contends the current U.S.-South Korean exercises are part of an escalating confrontation against it and a prelude to a nuclear attack, justifying Pyongyang in preparing its own preemptive nuclear strike.

    The North has also announced that, effective March 11, it was abrogating the armistice agreement it signed in 1953, along with its allied Chinese military command and opposing U.N. forces.

    United Nations spokesman Martin Nesirky says, despite Pyongyang's assertion, the armistice is still in place.

    "The terms of the armistice agreement do not allow either side unilaterally to free themselves from it. And, the secretary-general would certainly reiterate the validity and importance of this critical agreement," he said.

    South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young told reporters Seoul demands Pyongyang retract the statement claiming to nullify the armistice agreement, as that threatens peace in the region.

    Even though South Korea was not a signatory, the spokesman says Seoul will completely abide by the armistice, strengthen cooperation and discussions with the United States and China, sternly responding to any attempt by the  North to scrap the agreement.

    The armistice has, for the most part, kept a cease-fire in place for the past 60 years. But, the two Koreas have never signed a peace treaty nor normalized relations, meaning they have technically remained at war during the subsequent decades.

    Steve Herman

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

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: carin from: usa
    March 12, 2013 12:53 PM
    If nuclear arms are being used make sure the little whippersnapper gets the first dose right in the snoot,how sickening to have this little caricature running around today the day with such large agenda, unable to see the illness they created to their own people,they all look unhealty unsmiling and in dire need to get a life,something enjoyable

    by: paris tun
    March 12, 2013 11:26 AM
    Seems like, war can break out at any times between the N.Korea and S.Korea, if Kim Jong Un regime is bold enough to make decisive threats and attacks on S.Korea. But I doubt it ,cos' most dictators are such cowards that they would only oppress and bully powerless and voiceless population.
    If the war did break out, the international community should see this as an opportunity to END the evil regime once and for all and help the korean people reunited.But at the end of the day, it all comes down to capability and will of S.korea and its allies.
    I think,this war will be different from the Iraq war cos' north korean people are not extremists and hopefully, all they want is the freedom from a evil regime, so secretive that you don't really know what kind of abuses are happening inside that country.

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