Stop raising the tension

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Stop raising the tension

North Korea’s belligerent moves have gone too far. After cutting off military hot lines between Seoul and Pyongyang, the recalcitrant country vowed to attack not only South Korean artillery units along the tense border but also U.S. bases in the Pacific and even in North America. It has even decided to move a missile to the East Coast after threatening to shut down the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the last remaining vestige of inter-Korean economic cooperation.

That’s not all. Pyongyang declared that it would reactivate the defunct nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, legitimize its nuclear armaments, and accelerate its nuclear arsenal based on Kim Jong-il’s proclamation that abandonment of its nuclear capability would amount to the destruction of the country. The unprecedented, extreme rhetoric has been preceded by concrete actions, including a series of long-range missile launches and a third nuclear test in February.

Despite its over-the-top words and actions, there is no sign in the North of preparation for all-out war. According to our military intelligence authorities, some North Korean soldiers have been mobilized to plant rice. Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said at a security briefing at the National Assembly that the military is bracing for any type of localized aggression even though there is no indication of a full-scale war.

All that strongly suggests that Pyongyang is engaged in psychological warfare.

South Korean and U.S. forces responded to the North’s bluff with a show of overwhelming military superiority. The U.S. sent a strong message to Pyongyang by deploying highly sophisticated weapons to the peninsula such as nuclear submarines, an Aegis destroyer, B-52 bombers, B-2 strategic bombers, F-22 Raptor stealth fighters as well as the SBX-1 mobile radar system. In response to the possibility of localized attacks, both allies vowed to return fire ten times harder.

Despite such displays, ordinary South Koreans don’t believe war is on the way. That means that the escalation of tension by the North has hardly affected the South. Pyongyang’s provocations are aimed at consolidating Kim Jong-un’s power base at home.

We urge North Korea to stop ratcheting up tensions and instead pay attention to economic development. It has taken a step in that direction by reinstating Pak Pong-ju, a pioneer of economic reform, as prime minister. The North must engage in more aggressive reform for rapprochement with the international community.

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