Published April 03, 2013
April 3, 2013: South Korean Marines pass by K-55 self-propelled howitzers during an exercise against possible attacks by North Korea near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea. (AP)
North Korea has railed for weeks against joint U.S. and South Korean military exercises taking place in South Korea and has expressed anger over tightened sanctions for a February nuclear test.
The spokesman said in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency that troops have been authorized to counter U.S. aggression with “powerful practical military counteractions.”
National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden called the threats “unhelpful and unconstructive.”
“It is yet another offering in a long line of provocative statements that only serve to further isolate North Korea from the rest of the international community and undermine its goal of economic development,” she said. “North Korea should stop its provocative threats and instead concentrate on abiding by its international obligations.”
The Pentagon said in Washington that it will deploy a missile defense system to the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam to strengthen regional protection against a possible attack from North Korea. The defense secretary said the U.S. was seeking to defuse the situation.
Despite the rhetoric, analysts say they do not expect a nuclear attack by North Korea, which knows the move could trigger a destructive, suicidal war that no one in the region wants.
The strident warning from Pyongyang is latest in a series of escalating threats from North Korea, which has railed for weeks against joint U.S. and South Korean military exercises taking place in South Korea and has expressed anger over tightened sanctions for a February nuclear test.
Following through on one threat Wednesday, North Korean border authorities refused to allow entry to South Koreans who manage jointly run factories in the North Korean city of Kaesong.
Washington calls the military drills, which this time have incorporated fighter jets and nuclear-capable stealth bombers, routine annual exercises between the allies. Pyongyang calls them rehearsals for a northward invasion.
The foes fought on opposite sides of the three-year Korean War, which ended in a truce in 1953. The divided Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war six decades later, and Washington keeps 28,500 troops in South Korea to protect its ally.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Washington was doing all it can to defuse the situation, echoing comments a day earlier by Secretary of State John Kerry.
“Some of the actions they’ve taken over the last few weeks present a real and clear danger and threat to the interests, certainly of our allies, starting with South Korea and Japan and also the threats that the North Koreans have leveled directly at the United States regarding our base in Guam, threatened Hawaii, threatened the West Coast of the United States,” Hagel said Wednesday.
In Pyongyang, the military statement said North Korean troops had been authorized to counter U.S. “aggression” with “powerful practical military counteractions,” including nuclear weapons.
“We formally inform the White House and Pentagon that the ever-escalating U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK and its reckless nuclear threat will be smashed by the strong will of all the united service personnel and people and cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means,” an unnamed spokesman from the General Bureau of the Korean People’s Army said in a statement carried by state media, referring to North Korea by its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “The U.S. had better ponder over the prevailing grave situation.”
However, North Korea’s nuclear strike capabilities remain unclear.
Pyongyang is believed to be working toward building an atomic bomb small enough to mount on a long-range missile. Long-range rocket launches designed to send satellites into space in 2009 and 2012 were widely considered covert tests of missile technology, and North Korea has conducted three underground nuclear tests, most recently in February.
“I don’t believe North Korea has to capacity to attack the United States with nuclear weapons mounted on missiles, and won’t for many years. Its ability to target and strike South Korea is also very limited,” nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker, a senior fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, said this week.
“And even if Pyongyang had the technical means, why would the regime want to launch a nuclear attack when it fully knows that any use of nuclear weapons would result in a devastating military response and would spell the end of the regime? ” he said in answers posted to CISAC’s website.
In Seoul, a senior government official said Tuesday that it wasn’t clear how advanced North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities are. But he also noted fallout from any nuclear strike on Seoul or beyond would threaten Pyongyang as well, making a strike unlikely. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly to the media.
North Korea maintains that it needs to build nuclear weapons to defend itself against the United States. On Monday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un led a high-level meeting of party officials who declared building the economy and “nuclear armed forces” as the nation’s two top priorities.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Hungry Soldier Killed Colleague With Ax, Ate Flesh And Sold Rest
by Monica Davis
Kim is desperate. His country is crumbling around him; his soldiers are eating each other; spring floods have destroyed most of his food crops and war is the only money maker he has.
The situation is a slow moving nightmare which reportedly began in 2011, when the situation was so bad, government functionaries were blackmailing food vendors and farmers for rice to feed the army. the situation has gotten progressively worse since then.
This year, summer floods have devastated the food crops. Over 400,000 children are severely malnourished. Others have simply faded away and starved to death.
North Koreans have been smuggling video out of the country. One shows a Communist Party official demanding rice from a market vendor. Another shows a starving girl, who is looking for grass to eat. The once powerful north Korean Army was once immune to food shortages. The leaders fed the army first, which makes sense: no dictatorship can afford to have a starving army. That’s a good way to get deposed and shot.
Unfortunately, right now, there isn’t enough food to keep the military wolf off his back. Which brings us to this current threat level. The North’s leaders are playing an old game: threaten to shoot missiles at South Korea, threaten American military interests in the Pacific reagion, and wait for Uncle Same to send food. But this time, Kim may be more desperate than his father ever was.
His army is starving. Some of the military are resortiing to cannibalism. At least one soldier killed a comrade, ate some of the flesh and tried to sell the rest. Government food handouts have been small or non-existent for 2 years. Half of the army is malnurourished.
Smuggled footage of the hermit nation reveals food shortages, government blackmail of food vendors and farmers, and drastically reduced food rations. Kim;s back is up against the wall. He could start a war simply to reduce his population and give the army an enemy to focus on.
Some of the footage comes from desperate North Koreans who smuggle the information out. The fooftage below shows the escalation of the crisis, where communist functionaries are now extorting grain from market vendors.
In the footage, a party official is demanding a stallholder make a donation of rice to the army.
“My business is not good,” complains the stallholder.
“Shut up,” replies the official. “Don’t offer excuses.”
It is clear that the all-powerful army – once quarantined from food shortages and famine – is starting to go hungry.
“Everybody is weak,” says one young North Korean soldier.”Within my troop of 100 comrades, half of them are malnourished,” he said. MOREHERE
In one account, a male guard who could not bear his hunger killed his colleague using an ax, ate some of the human flesh and sold the remainder in the market by disguising it as mutton, the report said, without giving any further details such as when the alleged crime occurred.
North Korea has drastically cut public food handouts as it heads towards a new hunger crisis with people again eating grass to survive, one of the most experienced aid workers in the isolated nation said.
Food rations have been cut to as low as 150 grammes (5.3 ounces) a day per person in some parts of the country as foreign donations collapse and higher international prices make imports more expensive, said Katharina Zellweger, head of a Swiss government aid office in Pyongyang. SOURCE
Posted by Max Fisher on March 25, 2013; Washington Post
North Korea loves to threaten to start World War III. In the last week alone, it has warned Japan that it might launch a preemptive nuclear strike against it and released a video detailing its plan for a three-day invasion of South Korea.
The threats – turning Seoul into a sea of flames, eradicating the American military presence and maybe America itself – are empty, of course. And not just because North Korea doesn’t actually have any incentive to start a second Korean War (it has every incentive to make empty threats). They’re also empty because the North Korean military is just not that powerful anymore.
The photo at the top of this page helps to make my point, but first a bit of background.
It is true that the North Korean military is very big, one of the world’s largest standing armies: 1.1 million troops! 4,200 tanks! 820 fighter jets! It’s also, by virtue of Pyongyang’s “military first” policies, perhaps the most privileged and best funded arm of the state, maybe outside of Kim Jong Un’s personal piggy banks.
Even the military’s size and political backing, though, can’t make up for North Korea’s isolation and impoverishment. Most of those fighter jets, for example, will never take off because the regime can’t afford enough fuel to fill them up. Even if they could somehow procure enough jet fuel, the fighters “would have been shot out of the sky in the first few hours of a conflict,” Dartmouth professor and North Korea-watcher Jennifer Lind told NPR recently. The tanks, likewise, are old and inferior.
North Korean propaganda frequently tries to make the case that, not only is their national army fearless and enormous, but it’s also breathtakingly advanced. This propaganda is for domestic consumption, of course, but seeing it from the outside is a nice reminder of the wide technological gap between North Korea and its neighbors South Korea and Japan, not to mention the United States.
Take the above photo, just released by North Korean state media from leader Kim Jong Un’s big trip to visit Unit 1501 of the Korean People’s Army, which is reportedly developing new and exciting military technology.
If you’ve been spending a lot of time reading about North Korea’s recent flurry of threats and provocations, apparently edging right up to the line of starting a war, perhaps it will ease your mind a bit to glimpse the technology and leadership behind its million-man army.
The Wall Street Journal’s Tom Gara tweeted, “North Korea appears to have crossed a dangerous threshold and developed a fully-functioning calculator.”
The ever-obsessive blog North Korea Leadership Watch of course has notes on the trip. Apparently, this military unit also manufactures playground equipment, such as plastic slides.
They also allegedly made this bit of equipment, in the photo below, which looks like it might be some sort of range-finder or infrared sensor, perhaps of the kind meant to use with guided munitions. It’s difficult to tell what it’s resting on top of: a vehicle of some kind? The hatch suggests it’s maybe an armored personnel carrier, although that armor looks awfully thin. It could also possibly be a submarine, given that other photos appear to show a long series of top-side hatches that might be launch tubes.
Of course, the point of this photo is less about the maybe-infrared viewfinder and more about having Kim Jong Un leaning jauntily against it, alongside some poor general who looks like he doesn’t really understand what pose he’s supposed to take. But that’s North Korea for you: irreverence in the service of militarism, itself in the service of dictatorship.
SEOUL | Tue Mar 26, 2013 4:35am EDT
(Reuters) – North Korea said on Tuesday its strategic rocket and long-range artillery units have been ordered to be combat ready, targeting U.S. military bases on Guam, Hawaii and mainland America after U.S. bombers flew sorties threatening the North.
The order, issued in a statement from the North’s military “supreme command”, marks the latest fiery rhetoric from Pyongyang since the start of joint military drills by U.S. and South Korean forces early this month.
South Korea’s defense ministry said it saw no sign of imminent military action by North Korea.
“From this moment, the Supreme Command of the Korean People’s Army will be putting into combat duty posture No. 1 all field artillery units, including long-range artillery units and strategic rocket units, that will target all enemy objects in U.S. invasionary bases on its mainland, Hawaii and Guam,” the North’s KCNA news agency said.
The North previously threatened nuclear attack on the United States and South Korea, although it is not believed to have the capability to hit the continental United States with an atomic weapon. But the U.S. military’s bases in the Pacific area are in range of its medium-range missiles.
South Korea’s defense ministry said it had detected no signs of unusual activity by the North’s military but will monitor the situation. The South and the U.S. military are conducting drills until the end of April, which they have stressed are strictly defensive in nature.
The North has previously threatened to strike back at the U.S. military accusing Washington of war preparations by using B-52 bombers which have flown over the Korean peninsula as part of the drills.
North Korea has said it has abrogated an armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War and threatened a nuclear attack on the United States.
(Reporting by Jack Kim and Ju-min Park; Editing by Neil Fullick)