North needs to cool down

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North needs to cool down

Tensions have ratcheted up again as North Korea upped its saber-rattling against the United States and China ahead of the April 25 celebration of the founding of its military.

Pyongyang should be fully aware of what it is getting into as Washington clearly warned of unprecedented action that could include a preventive strike should it cross the line by going ahead with another nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missile test.

North Korea appears to be intentional in its recent bout of bellicose rhetoric. On Friday, North Korea’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee issued a statement warning the state would use “any means necessary to protect the peace on the peninsula.” The committee, that used to serve as inter-Korean dialogue channel, boasted that Pyongyang has “all options available” ranging from “weapons of mass destruction such as the hydrogen bomb to intercontinental ballistic missiles.” Although it claimed to be a peace-loving socialist country, the statement said “ultimately we do not fear war.”

To demonstrate it is not bluffing, North Korea reportedly has evacuated residents near the Pungye-ri nuclear test site, a move it took in the past ahead of detonating a nuclear device.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is foolish if he believes the brinkmanship his father used to get his way with the international community over the last two decades would still work. First of all, its longstanding patron China has turned its back. The recent tone of the state media that serve as the mouthpiece for the Xi Jinping government suggests how dramatically Beijing has changed its attitude. The Global Times, controlled by China’s Communist Party, in an editorial said Beijing would oppose if Washington launches a military attack on North Korea’s nuclear facility through “diplomatic channels” but won’t get “involved through military action,” suggesting China could condone U.S. strike if it is restricted to nuclear test and missile launch sites. Chinese authorities also have been talking of cutting off the oil supply to North Korea.

The moves from Washington also raise the possibility of a military option. President Donald Trump on April 26 will be meeting with congressmen to explain his policy to solve North Korea nuclear issue as the strike groups USS Carl Vinson, USS Ronald Reagan and Nimitz gather around the peninsula. Trump’s session would be held behind closed doors at the White House, suggesting the U.S. commander in chief could be discussing classified defense affairs.

North Korea’s Kim should read the current affairs with a cool head. There is also a possibility that Trump and Xi struck a bargain over the North Korean nuclear issue during their summit. Kim could be pushing his state towards doom if he foolhardily tests the two superpowers.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 24, Page 34
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