North Korea warning about nuclear war with South Korea, U.S.
PHOTO: In this May 30,
2013 file photo, U.S. and South Korean Army soldiers cross Nam Han river during
a joint military exercise between the U.S. and South Korea in Yeoncheon near
the border with North Korea
SEOUL, South Korea (AP)
-- North Korea's propaganda machine is churning out near-daily denunciations of
the United States and South Korea for a series of soon-to-start military
maneuvers, warning nuclear war could be imminent and saying it will take
dramatic action of its own if further provoked.
North Korea's increasingly shrill opposition to the annual joint drills named
Foal Eagle looks very similar to the kind of vitriol that preceded the start of
the same exercises last year and led to a steep rise in tensions on the Korean
Peninsula. That round of escalation culminated in threats of a nuclear strike
on Washington and the flattening of Seoul before the maneuvers ended and both
sides went back to their corners.
It appears the first stages of this year's battle have already begun - though
some experts say they don't think it will be as high-pitched as last year's.
In the latest of North Korea's increasingly frequent salvos against the
exercises, it said through its state-run media that the United States is
building up its military forces in Asia so it can invade the country - formally
called the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK - and take control of
the whole region.
"It is the strategic goal of the U.S. to invade the DPRK, bring its
neighboring countries under its control with it as a stepping-stone and,
furthermore, dominate the whole Asia-Pacific region," the ruling party's
Rodong Sinmun said in an analysis on Monday. "The U.S. is working hard to
kick off large-scale joint military drills this year, too, for the purpose of
mounting a pre-emptive nuclear attack upon the DPRK."
The invectives against the exercises began earlier this month, when North
Korea's powerful National Defense Commission proposed the rivals halt military
actions and "mutual vilification" to build better relations. The
North, however, strongly hinted it would maintain its nuclear weapons program
while urging South Korea to cancel the drills with the United States, set to
begin in late February.
North Korea's ambassador to key ally China offered a somewhat less caustic line
at a rare news conference on Wednesday. Ji Jae Ryong told international media
that North Korea wants to reduce tensions to allow steps toward reconciliation
and eventual unification between North and South.
"First, we propose taking preparatory measures in response to the warm
call for creating an atmosphere for improving North-South ties. In this regard,
we officially propose the South Korean authorities take critical measures of
halting acts of provoking and slandering the other side from Jan. 30," Ji
But Ji reiterated that North Korea had no intention of abandoning its nuclear
Seoul-based analyst Daniel Pinkston, of the International Crisis Group, said
that although some experts saw the proposal as an overture or part of a
"charm offensive" by North Korea, it was intended more as a means of
setting the stage for more heated actions ahead - since the North has no reason
to expect that Washington and Seoul would seriously consider nixing Foal Eagle.
"It feeds into the propaganda cycle again," he said. "It's a way
of showing the domestic audience that, `we made a serious overture. We tried to
bend over backwards. But they showed their true colors.' I don't see any cooperative
measures or charm offensive at all."
Seoul and Washington have essentially ignored North Korea's proposal.
Seoul instead demanded that North Korea take "practical" action for
nuclear disarmament if it truly wants peace on the peninsula. But Seoul has
proposed working-level talks on Wednesday to discuss allowing Koreans separated
by the 1950-53 Korean War to reunite. North Korea didn't immediately respond to
The fighting between North and South Korea ended six decades ago with an
armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula still technically in a
state of war. North Korea remains highly sensitive to all military activity in
the South, and sees Seoul as a puppet state because nearly 30,000 U.S. troops
are based on its soil.
This year's drills, in which troops will train on land, sea and in the air, are
expected to last until about April.
Yoo Ho-yeol, a professor of North Korea studies at Korea University in South
Korea, said he doesn't expect as much tension as last year.
"North Korea is maintaining its nuclear weapons program but hasn't
launched any fresh provocation, so this year's drills would be more like the
routine ones they conducted in previous years," he said.