Bracing for provocation

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Bracing for provocation

North Korea has resorted to tough language against South Korea and the United States once again as it had habitually done in the past, particularly around this time of the year when the two allies conduct a joint military drill. But Pyongyang went too far this time. In a televised statement, four-star general Kim Yong-chol - the orchestrator of the Yeonpyeong bombardment and the Cheonan attack - said that North Korea would employ “precise nuclear attacks” without mentioning the targets. Kim also said that North Korea would nullify the six-decade-old armistice agreement signed at the end of the Korean War. He added that Pyongyang will halt the activities of the North Korean mission to Panmunjeom at the tense border and cut off telephone lines of the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission.

The following day, the Rodong Sinmun threatened to turn Seoul and Washington into “seas of fire” through nuclear strikes.

No doubt Pyongyang is attempting to raise tension on the Korean Peninsula to the highest possible level. Despite a tougher UN Security Council resolution against its third nuclear test in February, Pyongyang seems to want to stoke psychological warfare with Seoul by allowing the general to appear on television to revive its southern compatriots’ anger at the two tragedies he orchestrated. North Korea has habitually sought to invalidate the armistice agreement, as seen in a vow in 2003 to “take strong action beyond the confinements of the pact.” At every opportunity, Pyongyang urges Washington to sign a peace accord with it.

The North’s demands have several foundations. It needs U.S. forces to pull out from South Korea and it ardently desires international recognition as a nuclear power. But Pyongyang’s argument is built on the wrong premise that the day of peace will only come after it signs a peace deal with Washington after as many provocations as it can manage. Such a belief is based on the delusion that Seoul and Washington will surrender to Pyongyang’s menace after a third nuclear test. That’s preposterous.

North Korea can find a much easier way to a peace deal with America: giving up its nuclear weapons as it agreed in six-party talks in 2005. A joint statement declared that it would discuss ways to establish a permanent peace on the peninsula in accordance with progress toward the North’s denuclearization. We urge Pyongyang to make a decision quickly. As the ratcheted-up security threat from North Korea sharply raises the possibility of provocations, our military must also devise effective responses to deter any attacks.

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