A floundering Kim Jong-il

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A floundering Kim Jong-il

North Korea has renewed its provocation of South Korea. Two of its patrol boats violated South Korean waters near the west coast Saturday night and turned back after we made broadcasts and gave warning shots. This comes as public anger boils here over the loss of 46 lives in the same waters from an explosive attack on the Cheonan on March 26.

Yet North Korea was brazen enough to broadcast via international shipping communication for the first time that a South Korean patrol ship had crossed over the sea border it had been claiming since 1999. The North Korean leadership reportedly sent down orders to forces near the Northern Limit Line to fire if South Korean vessels crossed into their waters. The NLL was drawn by the allied forces after the Korean War ended in 1953 with a cease-fire, but North Korea refuses to recognize the border. The North’s ships returned home quietly this time, but we must keep our guard up at the highest level.

North Korea out of the blue claimed success last week in harnessing nuclear fusion as a power source via the Rodong Sinmun, the country’s Workers’ Party bulletin. Regardless of the credibility of the report, North Korea’s declaration is, in a way, a reminder to international society of its nuclear capacity.

It obviously had no interest in regional peace and security to go blazoning about nuclear technology at such sensitive time. Even Chinese state media warned that North Korea should cease its stunts. But North Korea’s implementation of another physical threat by violating the NLL suggests it wants to push inter-Korean and regional relations to the extreme.

North Korea is struggling with a dire shortage of food and fuel and public unrest worsened by disastrous fallout from a currency revaluation late last year. It had hoped to seek a breakthrough with aid from South Korea and China along with peace treaty negotiations with the United States. All of their grand ideas flopped. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il ventured to China to seek aid but returned without the support it had hoped for.

But time is running out with Kim’s health deteriorating and an imperative need to establish a line of succession. The North may have reached its conclusion to heighten tension in the disputed waters to get the United States and China actively involved.

The government later this week is expected to announce the findings of the joint investigation on the Cheonan sinking as well as its planned action against North Korea. We must manifest our unified and determined stand against North Korea even if it pains us. Otherwise, we may never be free from the threat of another crisis like the Cheonan.
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