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

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.