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, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

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

Analysis: China Raises Hong Kong Rhetoric to Tiananmen Level

A front-page commentary in The People’s Daily called the current demonstrations 'chaos,' the same word Party officials used 25 years ago to describe the Tiananmen Square protests More

US Airstrikes Anger Syrian Civilians Fleeing Their Homes

Pentagon officials say they have seen no credible evidence of civilian deaths caused by US airstrikes against Islamic State militants More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid