WAR TALK TAG-BACK RATCHETS UP ANOTHER NOTCH
While North Korea has issued many threats against the US and South Korea in the past, this current level of sustained rhetoric is rare, observers say. On 16 March, North Korea warned of attacks against South Korea's border islands, and advised residents to leave the islands. In 2010 it shelled South Korea's Yeonpyeong island, causing four deaths.
On Wednesday, March 27th, Pyongyang cut a military hotline with the South - the last direct official link between the two nations. A Red Cross hotline and another line used to communicate with the UN Command at Panmunjom have already been cut, although an inter-Korean air-traffic hotline still exists. The jointly-run Kaesong industrial park is still in operation, however, and over 160 South Korean commuters entered North Korea yesterday to work in its factories.
North Korea is not thought to have the technology to strike the US mainland with either a nuclear weapon or a ballistic missile, but it is capable of targeting some US military bases in Asia with its mid-range missiles.
Tensions in the Korean peninsula have been high since North Korea's third nuclear test on 12 February, which led to the imposition of a fresh raft of sanctions.
The US had already flown nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over South Korea earlier this month, in what it called ‘a response to escalating North Korean threats’.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov voiced concern that "we may simply let the situation slip out of our control and it will slide into a spiral of a vicious circle". He added what was needed was not a build-up of military muscle and a pretext for using military means to achieve "geopolitical objectives", in remarks seen as an implicit criticism of US bomber flights. While condemning Pyongyang's actions as "unacceptable", he gave a more general warning about "unilateral steps being taken around North Korea that manifest themselves in a build-up of military activity".
China, North Korea's biggest trading partner, immediately reiterated its call for all sides to ease tensions.
The US - which flew two stealth bombers over the peninsula on Thursday as part of the ongoing annual ready for "any eventuality" on the peninsula.
After a late-night meeting with the army's strategic rocket force, Kim Jong-un "judged the time has come to settle accounts with the US imperialists", KCNA reported.
While many observers dismiss the rhetoric as bluster, others warn of "the tyranny of low expectations" when it comes to understanding North Korea, because there have been a number of serious regional confrontations. "If you follow North Korean media you constantly see bellicose language directed against the US and South Korea and occasionally Japan is thrown in there, and it's hard to know what to take seriously. But then when you look at occasions where something really did happen, such as the artillery attack on a South Korean island in 2010, you see there were very clear warnings," Professor John Delury at South Korea's Yonsei university told the BBC.
The North consistently warned that military exercises being conducted in the area would spark retaliation.
Delury argues that ‘misreading Pyongyang's intentions and misunderstanding its capabilities’ has kept the US and South Korea stuck in a North Korean quagmire.
(Story from BBC; Ed note: A recent visit by Dennis Rodman, possibly the first American to be welcomed into North Korea since Kim's dad's days of rule, has all but been overlooked as a possible route to settling the divergent political viewpoints while the famous trip to China by Richard Nixon seems totally forgotten, even in the press. We are in the first 3 ½ year period of the Tribulation and you, my dear readers, heard it here first. Sit back, pull up a chair, and be prepared to duck behind a table like Gabby Hayes in a Roy Rogers Republic movie western.