Saturday 24 March 2018

Kim Jong-Un tells North Korea 'prepare for war'

NORTH Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has told troops to prepare for "all-out war" as tensions continue to rise on the Korean peninsula.

Kim Jong-un has visited North Korean troops on the border with the South and called on them to be ready "to annihilate the enemy," the latest broadside in an increasingly bitter war of words with Seoul and Washington.


Kim was addressing troops dug into coastal positions facing Yeonpyeong island, which North Korean artillery shelled in 2010, killing four people and injuring 19.


Pictured with binoculars, Kim "stressed the need for the soldiers to keep themselves fully ready to go into action to annihilate the enemy any time an order is issued and instructed them to deal deadly blows at the enemies and blow up their positions," North Korean state media reported Friday.


Kim's comments come after the United Nations Security Council imposed new sanctions on Pyongyang for carrying out a third nuclear test in February.


The immediate response from North Korea was to announce that it was withdrawing from the armistice that has kept the peace on the peninsula since the end of the Korean War in 1953 and the curtailment of the hot-line that has linked the governments in Pyongyang and Seoul and is meant to serve as a direct link in times of crisis.


Although the North's rhetoric is more belligerent than usual, analysts say the regime is unlikely to be looking for a full-scale conflict. The problem is that given heightened tensions, a relatively minor incident could act as a flashpoint to a far more serious clash.


Pyongyang has also threatened to unleash its missile to turn both Seoul and Washington into "a sea of fire," while in a statement Friday, the North Korean foreign ministry added that a "second Korean War is unavoidable."


"The U.S. regards it as its primary goal to put the whole of the Korean Peninsula under its control in a bid to secure a bridgehead for landing in the Eurasian continent," the statement said. "It also seeks a way out of a serious economic crisis at home in unleashing the second Korean war."


South Korea is refusing to blink in the face of some of the strongest language to come from a neighbour with a reputation for being bellicose, with a spokesman for the defence ministry telling reporters in Seoul that "If North Korean attacks South Korea with a nuclear weapon, Kim Jong-un's regime will perish from the earth."


"Although atomic bombs were used twice in the past to end World War II, if a nuclear bomb is used against a free and democratic society ... then mankind would not forgive it," Kim Min-seok said.


The new South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, also vowed to deal with any provocations from the North strongly.


"Our current situation is very grave," said Park, who was only sworn in as president in mid-February. "North Korea pressed ahead with a nuclear test and long-range missile development and is threatening to nullify the Armistice Agreement.


"I will devote all my efforts to making the Republic of Korea a prosperous and strong nation with robust security," she said at a graduation ceremony for military cadets at the Gyeryongdae military base in central South Korea.


"I will deal strongly with North Korea's provocations," she added.


Daniel Pinkston, a North Korea expert with the International Crisis Group in Seoul, said that while Pyongyang's rhetoric has been "more shrill than usual," it is almost certainly an effort to get South Korea, the US and other states that have joined the sanctions against it to back down.


"By this kind of behaviour, they are trying to signal that they believe they have the greater tolerance and that they are willing to take the bigger risks," Pinkston told The Daily Telegraph.


"It's a game of brinkmanship and they keep ratcheting up the pressure in the hope that the other side will cave in," he added.


And while the North may not be actively looking for a conflict, that might happen, he warned.


"There is always the possibility of a miscalculation and an inadvertant escalation, and that possibility is increasing right now," Pinkston said. "Somewhere along the line, there could be a mistake; the unauthorised used of a weapon or an overflight that results in a shoot-down."


Washington has reassured both Seoul and Tokyo, its two key allies in the region, that its forces are capable of dealing with a North Korean ballistic missile attack, while warning Pyongyang that further provocations will only further isolate the regime.


Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyo's Waseda University and an expert on North Korean affairs, agrees that Kim is looking to intimidate his enemies rather than start a war.


"In truth, the North does not have the capability to wage war at the moment as they only have around 400,000 tonnes of oil for their military, meaning they can't fight," he told The Telegraph.


"The country is also unstable and Kim's grip is not so strong at the moment," he said. "It's very likely that his military leaders are engaged in a power struggle and they need a certain level of tension to maintain their own control."


Prof. Shigemura believes a more likely show of strength will be in the form of another nuclear test, as the North has already warned, or in the more immediate future the launch of short-range anti-shipping missiles. Intelligence reports have suggested that Pyongyang has declared an area off its coast a no-go zone for shipping and that missile tests linked to military manoeuvres scheduled to start on Monday may be imminent.


Julian Ryall

Online Editors

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