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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

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