Threat from North Korea growing

The parading of U.S. air and naval power within view of the Korean peninsula — first a few long-range bombers, then stealth fighters, then ships — is as much about psychological war as real war.
Associated Press
Apr 3, 2013

 

The U.S. wants to discourage North Korea's young leader from starting a fight that could escalate to renewed war with South Korea.

Worries in Washington rose Tuesday with North Korea's vow to increase production of nuclear weapons materials. Secretary of State John Kerry called the announced plan "unacceptable" and stressed that the U.S. is ready to defend itself and its allies. But he and other U.S. officials also sought to lower the rhetorical temperature by holding out the prospect of the North's reversing course and resuming nuclear negotiations.

At a joint news conference with visiting South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, Kerry said the U.S. would proceed "thoughtfully and carefully" and in consultation with South Korea, Japan, China and others.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in a call late Tuesday to China's defense minister, called the North's development of nuclear weapons a "growing threat" to the U.S. and its allies.

Hagel, citing North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in his phone conversation with Chang Wanquan, said Washington and Beijing should continue to cooperate on those problems, according to a Pentagon statement describing the call.

Michael Green, an Asia specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it should be no surprise that North Korea is vowing to restart a long-dormant nuclear reactor and ramp up production of atomic weapons material.

"This is part of their protection racket," Green said in an interview. "I think the end state North Korea would like is that we, the U.S. in particular, but also China, Japan, South Korea, are so rattled by all this that we decide it's just better to cut a deal with them."

Tensions have flared many times in the six decades since a truce halted the 1950-53 Korean War, but the stakes are higher now that a defiant North Korea appears to have moved closer to building a nuclear bomb that could not only threaten the South and other U.S. allies in Asia but possibly, one day, even reach U.S. territory.

That explains, in part, why the U.S. is displaying military muscle to warn the North to hold its fire.

Washington also wants to leave no doubt that it has the South's back, and that Seoul should not act rashly. Nor does the U.S. want South Korea to feel compelled to answer the North's nuclear drive by building its own bomb.

"We are in the business of assuring our South Korean allies that we will help defend them in the face of threats," Pentagon press secretary George Little said, adding, "We are looking for the temperature to be taken down on the Korean peninsula."

Even without nuclear arms, the North poses enough artillery within range of Seoul to devastate large parts of the capital before U.S. and South Korea could fully respond. The U.S. has about 28,500 troops in the South, and it could call on an array of air, ground and naval forces to reinforce the peninsula from elsewhere in Asia and the Pacific.

In just the past few months, North Korea has taken a series of steps Washington deemed provocative, including an underground nuclear test in February. In December the North Koreans launched a rocket that put a satellite into space and demonstrated mastery of some of the technologies needed to produce a long-range nuclear missile. And several weeks ago, the North threatened to pre-emptively attack the U.S.

Bruce Bennett, a specialist in North Korean affairs for the RAND Corp., said he believes much of the recent taunting from North Korea reflects turmoil among the ruling elite in Pyongyang. He cited unusually high turnover among senior officials during the 15 months that Kim Jong Un — grandson of the nation's founder — has been the top leader.

"I think with the purges going on, he's got some instability that is generally not being recognized" outside of North Korea and that may be pushing Kim to take a more confrontational stance, Bennett said in an interview. "He's trying to be blustery to make it appear that he's really in control, he's really strong and he can defeat us."

In response, the Pentagon announced it would beef up missile defenses based on the U.S. West Coast, and it highlighted over a period of days the deployment of B-52 and B-2 bombers, as well as two F-22 stealth fighters, to South Korea as part of an annual U.S.-South Korean exercise called Foal Eagle, which lasts through April.

On Tuesday, officials said the Navy was keeping the USS Decatur, a destroyer armed with missile defense systems, in the vicinity of the Korean peninsula for an unspecified period instead of continuing its journey back to the U.S. after a Mideast deployment. And they said a similar ship, the USS McCain, had been shifted slightly to the waters off the southwest coast of the Korean peninsula as a further precautionary move.

North Korea has been an enigma to most outsiders since it was founded by Kim Il Sung in 1948. The United States has often misjudged the North's political path. After the founding Kim died in 1994, for example, U.S. intelligence officials said they believed his successor son, Kim Jong Il, would be more accommodating to the West.

"Flaky as he may be, (Kim Jong Il) nevertheless ... realizes the only way they're going to extricate themselves from the shambles that their economy is in now is to get outside help," James R. Clapper Jr. told a congressional panel in January 1995. Clapper was director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the time; today he is President Barack Obama's most senior intelligence adviser as director of national intelligence.

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AP broadcast correspondent Sagar Meghani contributed to this report.
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Comments

wiredmama222

This country needs to beef up the western shores of this countries defense system by reopening bases closed during the Clinton years. They need to do so quickly. They also need to back off the Korean shores a bit and stop rattling their swords before WE start a war. Why is it that we can't let other countries alone to do what they want for five minutes?

What north Korea wants in nurclear capabilities is NOT our business. If they want to be RECOGNIZED...which is all they are asking for, then fine. We cannot stop that. Don't start shouting no we won't at the top of our lungs now and make them mad. For crying out loud, you don't do that to someone with their finger on the kill switch. Are you crazy?????

We can ill afford to be the police of the world and the controller of all things any more. Its time our top leaders realized we have lost a great deal of our capabilities to do that in a draining economy. Start thinking about our own problems and start thinking about taking care of what AMERICANS need before you get us involved in another war for crying out loud. We can't afford to have more young men die for nonsense and our money drained for stupidity.

Huron_1969

NK is picking the fight and is making real threats and you think we should ignore them? Do you even know what their strongest capability is?

gene44870

hey huron , to be honest with you , who in the heck knows what they have or dont have , but the fact stil remains that we have only thie information in front of us that we can go on ,
I myself think he is NK has some n.w but how relieable and wait range they have , and the length of time that this has been going on makes me think that he does have weapons that can reach the United States , now how fair inland they can go is anyones guess . they could reach pearl harbor or they could reach washington D.C or even new york
And if they do , the united states can not blame this on anyone but ourselves , because we are a wait and see country and a country that says we will cut off supplies to you if you dont stop your program as we the U.S as well as the U.N and our allies demand .
This has been going on sense last nov , maybe even earlier then that , and now we are in a time that we dont know what way to turn cause we are in the dark as to the weopens he might have
Its time for the United States to tell these other ountries that we are not going to stand but and let you do what you will when it places other countries and peacefull countries .You make threats , then you better be able to live up to them , cause we can and will come after you and you will lose more then just lives and property , You will have lost yourself respect , and thats only if you have any .
to go and start a war back up just cause you can , and place honest and law bidding people and peace loving people not to mention children at risk , you have to know we will come after you and you will pay for your sins

Señor Clown

It's a shame that our own Dear Leader, and the string of idiots that have preceded him in office, haven't followed the advice given in George Washington's farewell address. They named the capitol after him, and threw his foreign policy manual in the trash.

WiseManOnceSaid

No kidding. Instead we try to pretend we are the most important and tell everyone else what to do. We always want to be the puppet master. Few people realize we are the ones who armed most of the people we fight with today in the first place..

mikel

we don't need to start a war with n. korea. however, that should not stop us from getting rid of our obsolete bomb, nuclear and rocket fired munitions over top of them!!!!

gene44870

we never did start the war , all we did was go and help defend and when you really look at this , this war was never really over , it was just a 60 year cease fire and sent everyone home .
No Pease Treaty was ever sign and that means this war in not over yet , the only way the war would be over would be if a peace treaty was signed at the end of 53 fighting .
Now I guess its going to be up to us to go back and finish what should have been finished 60 years ago

Bluto

This situation with North Korea is very important to the U.S. . It has been speculated that they are sharing nuclear missile tech. with Iran . That should be reason enough to keep an eye on them .

gene44870

yea and they are getting materials from Russia with love .So we are going to have to keep an eye on them as well

PaulYall

I perfect demonstration of the English language! HMMM..maybe you should be speaking German or perhaps Japanese? You don't think we have 28,500 troops in the area because we are bullying anybody. We have them there to protect the future of all man kind! Not to mention your everyday going shopping at will FREEDOM. So think before ya say something like that!

Cracked Cherry

We wont have much of a military left when our reserve currency is worth fifty cents on the dollar, Which is coming soon.

gene44870

The thing that bothers me the most is that the u.n as well as the united states and our allies gave this nut to much time to bring his missles up to where they are today .
We think cutting off aid to this country was going to help in keeping the peace in that country and now what scares me the most is that this unstable nut case is going to use our good will to bite us in the butt
I just had a feeling that this was going to come to a head and cause the war that wasnt over to begin with to start the war back up
The thing everyone has to understand is that between 1950 and 1953 shots where fire and men were killed and wounded , and by all standards the only thing that happen to stop the killing back then was not a peace treaty .
so one could say that this has to be one of the longest war in the world .
the only thing that I can hope for is that there people can stop this before we do end up in a blood bath
The U.S has all ready lost to many men and women in the last ten plus years and to find out that we may have to return to battle over something that should have been slove sooner is just out right crazy

Katelih-Trailer...

Don't fret folks...Dennis Rodman is going to fix all of this....LMAO !

goofus

Oh lord where will we get our Hyundai's and Daewoos?????

goofus

Oh lord where will we get our Hyundai's and Daewoos?????