[OUTLOOK]North bluster, or chaos again?“The United States really doesn’t know about us,” a North Korean involved in a committee for national reconciliation I met in Pyongyang said Tuesday. It was the day when North Korea’s foreign minister declared the North’s intention to carry out a nuclear test.
“The United States must believe that we would surrender if it pushes us with power and threatens us. But that is where it is wrong, because it does not know about our society and system,” he said in a very serious tone.
Another North Korean said he did not know much about the announcement, but said, “When we say we will do something, we mean it.”
On Korean Central Television, the North’s government television station, a woman newscaster read the statement of the foreign minister in a determined voice.
She articulated every word and read the statement as if declaring it herself. She raised her voice when she read, “A nuclear test has become inevitable because it is a necessary step to secure a deterrence of nuclear weapons.”
As the statement was read, a scary song entitled “Hundreds of Thousands of People Will Become Bombs,” played on the television.
The lyrics started with “no pressure will surprise us” and finished with “hundreds of thousands of people will become bombs for the sake of the country and nationals.” The refrain went, “When we say it, we mean it.”
Will North Korea actually carry out a nuclear test, as it said? In Pyongyang I feel that it is more than a threat by now.
It seems reasonable to assume that a nuclear test will be conducted unless a direct talk with the United States regarding financial sanctions is held.
There was an article entitled “Direct talks between Pyongyang and Washington are the only solution” in Tuesday’s issue of the Rodong Sinmun, the North’s newspaper for its Workers’ Party.
The article was written in a way to provoke international opinion and stated that the most constructive way to get out of the tense situation is to have direct talks between North Korea and the United States on Washington’s financial and economic sanctions against North Korea.
It is not unusual to see all kinds of slogans all over the place in Pyongyang, but this time, slogans about its military-first policy are seen more than others.
There are slogans written in red that read, “A Great Victory of Military-First Policy,” “Revolution Through Military-First Policy,” “Military and People are One.”
Due to this atmosphere, the fever of Chuseok is hardly felt in Pyongyang. Boys and girls are instead practicing a mass game in Kim Il Sung Square. In this square, the Juche Tower over the Daedong River can be seen.
I was told this is preparation for a celebration of the 61th anniversary of the foundation of the Workers’ Party on Oct. 10, and a celebration of the 80th anniversary of the formation of an alliance to overthrow imperialism on Oct. 17.
“We are preparing a grand event because this is the 80th year since the Great Leader Kim Il Sung, who led fighting against Japan during the Japanese occupation, declared anti-imperialism,” a North Korean guide said.
I followed a group of families to visit graveyards of their ancestors who had been working for the provisional government of Korea. North Koreans emphasized self-reliance to me, a Korean journalist, whenever there was a chance to talk.
They meant we should be reunified peacefully through self-reliance, escaping from Americans’ oppression. They repeated the themes of pride, dignity and self-reliance.
I responded that international order is about making harmony with other countries, that self-will is not enough to bring reunification.
But my words did not seem persuasive. We could not communicate because our perceptions are different.
After North Korea clearly revealed its intention to conduct a nuclear test, the situation on the Korean Peninsula was put into chaos once again.
South Korea is placed in a most difficult situation.
If North Korea carries out a nuclear test, South Korea will lose leverage to work between North Korea and the United States.
North Korea is pushing South Koreans into a corner, although North Korea says we are all the same nationals and it shouts for self-reliance.
It feels like a hopeless situation because there is no channel for South Korea and North Korea to talk with each other.
Now it seems the time has come to prepare all possible measures under the premise that the North’s nuclear test is only a matter of time.
* The writer is an editorial writer and traveling correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Bae Myung-bok
More in Columns
A cautionary tale
A government in disarray
China’s thin skin
The Korean War from China’s view
Who’s laughing now?