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

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

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