News / Asia

South Korea Sees North's Threats at Unprecedented Levels

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, April 2, 2013.South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, April 2, 2013.
x
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, April 2, 2013.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, April 2, 2013.
South Korea says it will never accept rival North Korea as a nuclear-weapons state. But there appears to be no international consensus on how to prevent that.

Speaking Tuesday in Seoul, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se characterized Pyongyang's recent belligerent threats as more diverse, frequent and intense than previously seen.

He told a forum organized by the JoongAng newspaper and the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) North Korea is engaged in an unprecedented level of “psychological warfare.”

U.S. President Barack Obama and South Korea's President Park Geun-hye depart a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, May 7, 2013.U.S. President Barack Obama and South Korea's President Park Geun-hye depart a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, May 7, 2013.
x
U.S. President Barack Obama and South Korea's President Park Geun-hye depart a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, May 7, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama and South Korea's President Park Geun-hye depart a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, May 7, 2013.
But he added that, despite this, President Park Geun-hye will continue the process of trust-building, which should neither be interpreted as appeasement nor intended to undermine the North Korean leadership.

The foreign minister also cautions that there are limits to what the South will accept.

"To safeguard peace we'll never allow a nuclear-armed North Korea and [will] make sure there is a corresponding price for North Korea's provocations," he said.

Speaking earlier to the same group, former U.S. senator Richard Lugar described the North Korean threat as “global in nature” and not one that should “be defined merely by the range of its missiles.”

The retired chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee warns that the Obama administration's policy of “strategic patience” towards Pyongyang cannot continue to be applied indefinitely.

"If it is, strategic patience becomes little more than a policy justification for avoiding the problem and the potential political consequences of making a mistake," he said. "The Obama administration should be sober about what can be accomplished in the short run, but it must be willing to consider a wider range of strategies, even if they carry some risk."

The former senator suggests that responsible leaders take fresh measures to constrain the illicit activities of North Korean trading companies functioning as what he calls “conduits for nuclear proliferation and the dissemination of weapons technology.”

Michael Green, former senior director of Asia on the U.S. National Security Council, is pessimistic further sanctions will fundamentally change the mind of North Korea's current leader, Kim Jong Un, because the essence of the Pyongyang government, as he puts it, is a hybrid Stalinist theocracy and a criminal enterprise.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visits the Turf Institute of the Bioengineering Branch in Pyongyang, May 6, 2013. (KCNA)North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visits the Turf Institute of the Bioengineering Branch in Pyongyang, May 6, 2013. (KCNA)
x
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visits the Turf Institute of the Bioengineering Branch in Pyongyang, May 6, 2013. (KCNA)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visits the Turf Institute of the Bioengineering Branch in Pyongyang, May 6, 2013. (KCNA)
"But with the emphasis on the theocracy being the main source of legitimacy for Kim Jong Un. For precisely that reason it, in my view, could collapse at any time. That makes it, in the long run, quite vulnerable," he said.

Green's CSIS colleague, Victor Cha, also a former Asian policy director at the National Security Council, says preparations must be made for instability in North Korea. Cha contends Pyongyang's decision-makers have "boxed themselves into a corner from which they cannot escape."

"The best scenario is that they continue to rattle the cages, but they don't do anything that might kill people or hurt people. But I'm not so certain that they'll stay in that corner forever and simply shout harmlessly and not do anything that's provocative," he said.

Another former U.S. official told the same gathering that Pyongyang must be given a stark choice. Richard Armitage, who served as U.S. deputy secretary of state from 2001 until 2005, suggests telling North Korea it has to choose between its weapons of mass destruction or regime change.

North Korea is believed to have a small arsenal of nuclear weapons and is developing ballistic missiles that might deliver such bombs a long distance.

It recently vowed a nuclear attack on the United States - a threat which most analysts do not consider viable.

The heightened bellicose rhetoric came amid the North's latest underground nuclear and long-range missile tests, actions banned under United Nations Security Council sanctions.

Since Saturday, North Korea has fired six short-range projectiles into the sea off its east coast. Both Seoul and Washington say the latest firings do not appear to violate Pyongyang's international obligations.

Steve Herman

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

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs