News / Asia

North Korea Escalates Threat to Scrap US Truce

A giant North Korean flag flutters on the top of a tower in the propaganda village of Gijeongdong, North Korea, seen from South Korea, near the border village of Panmunjom, Feb. 15, 2013.
A giant North Korean flag flutters on the top of a tower in the propaganda village of Gijeongdong, North Korea, seen from South Korea, near the border village of Panmunjom, Feb. 15, 2013.
North Korea's latest threat to nullify a 1953 armistice agreement with the United States marks an escalation of its long-standing rhetoric against Washington.

Pyongyang has threatened before to scrap the armistice that ended the Korean War, but Tuesday's warning broadcast on North Korean state television appeared to be more significant, both in detail and the way it was presented.

In the broadcast, Korean People's Army spokesman Kim Yong Chol read a statement criticizing the United States and South Korea for starting a two-month series of military exercises.

The North Korean officer said the drills, which began March 1 and run to the end of April, are "blatant acts of military provocation." He said the KPA Supreme Command will respond to the exercises with what he called a series of "even more powerful and real countermeasures."

The officer said Pyongyang also will "completely nullify" the 1953 armistice beginning March 11, and cut off a truce hotline to U.S. and South Korean forces at the border village of Panmunjom.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry responded by saying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un should promote peace and engage in negotiations rather than "abrogate" the truce.  

VOA Seoul Correspondent Steve Herman said Pyongyang's warning appears to be more than just a rhetorical threat against its enemies.

"Usually such threats are not read out on television and broadcast on radio by a high-ranking general, as is the case that we have seen here," Herman said. "Now, this statement did go out in the Korean language initially, so this was certainly intended for a domestic audience primarily in North Korea."

North Korea issued the threat as the United States, South Korea and their allies made progress in seeking a new round of U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang for conducting a third nuclear test last month.

The United States said Tuesday it has persuaded North Korea's main ally, China, to back a draft U.N. Security Council resolution targeting "illicit" activities by North Korean diplomats and banks.

Herman said Pyongyang may use those diplomatic moves as another pretext to break the truce.

"Most analysts, most watchers are expecting that as a result of the further sanctions that the U.N. Security Council is now almost certain to enact sometime this week, as well as a [North Korean desire to respond] to the new administration coming in here in South Korea - and in the past when there has been a new administration in Seoul there has been some sort of [North Korean] test to get the attention of the South - that there will be some kind of provocation eventually," he said.

But Herman said North Korea's armistice statement does not necessarily require it to cancel the truce.

"This is a bit conditional," he added. "They are saying this is linked to annual joint exercises that are about to begin between the United States and South Korea, so some of the language could be read as, this would only take place if the exercises would go ahead."

U.S. and South Korean forces began an annual exercise named Foal Eagle on March 1st, but a separate computer-simulated drill called Key Resolve is not due to start until March 11. Both nations have said the exercises are defensive in nature.

North Korea largely has avoided following through on previous threats of retaliation for U.S.-South Korean drills, instead preferring to uphold the 1953 truce.

That document was signed by military commanders of the United States, North Korea and China, without South Korean participation. Its terms included establishing a demilitarized zone as a buffer between the opposing forces, arranging the repatriation of prisoners of war and establishing a Military Armistice Commission.

Herman said Pyongyang has a compelling reason to keep the truce in effect.

"That armistice was signed by Kim Il Sung. And for the Korean People's Army to then void something that was signed by the founder of North Korea, who is still the eternal leader, who is revered as almost a deity in North Korea, would be profound," Herman said. "So I think a lot of analysts are going to have a difficult time thinking that the KPA is going to take lightly nullifying the armistice agreement."

The risk of renewed conflict remains. The truce never was upgraded to a peace agreement, leaving the Korean peninsula in a technical state of war since 1950.

Steve Herman

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


Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: J from: Los Angeles
March 05, 2013 8:43 PM
Funny, last I read, according to the UN, this was a UN truce, not a US truce. VOA or NK, get your facts straight.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs