Ag­gres­sive talk from North Korea con­cerns US lead­ers

Pakistan Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

WASHINGTON— The lat­est round of threats ex­changed by North Korea and the United States is drag­ging on longer and tak­ing on a more vir­u­lent tone than in the past, pro­vok­ing deep con­cerns among Amer­i­can of­fi­cials and their al­lies.

Fol­low­ing blus­tery warn­ings by Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s 30-year-old leader, and videos de­pict­ing North Korean at­tacks on the United States, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion took the un­prece­dented step this week of send­ing two stealth bombers to South Korea as part of an on­go­ing mil­i­tary train­ing ex­er­cise.

But de­spite the es­ca­lat­ing ten­sions, U.S. of­fi­cials said they have fo­cused more closely on what North Korea is do­ing than on what it is say­ing.

“Putting on a show is not the same as tak­ing ac­tion,” said a se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss the volatile sit­u­a­tion. “De­scrib­ing the sit­u­a­tion as akin to war is not to be re­motely con­fused with want­ing a war, let alone go­ing to war.”

The se­nior of­fi­cial and oth­ers said that U.S. mil­i­tary com­man­ders are closely watch­ing the sit­u­a­tion, which has es­ca­lated since North Korea con­ducted a nu­clear weapons test in De- cem­ber. In ad­di­tion, of­fi­cials cited new lev­els of co­op­er­a­tion and mu­tual con­fi­dence be­tween the United States and al­lies in South Korea and Ja­pan.

While a di­rect at­tack on U.S. forces on the main­land or in the Pa­cific seems un­likely, non­govern­ment an­a­lysts said the ris­ing ten­sions in­crease the risk of some form of lim­ited armed con­flict. North Korea re­cently cut off

its mil­i­tary phone line with the South, which is used to co­or­di­nate lo­gis­tics along the de­mil­i­ta­rized bor­der buf­fer.

In a new escalation of rhetoric early Satur­day, North Korea’s of­fi­cial KCNA news agency re­ported that the coun­try was en­ter­ing a “state of war” with South Korea and that “all is­sues raised be­tween the North and the South will be han­dled ac­cord­ingly.”

Some ex­perts noted that South Korea also has adopted a more ag­gres­sive rhetor­i­cal pos­ture. Se­nior of­fi­cials quoted anony­mously in the me­dia have sug­gested that plans have been drawn up for “sur­gi­cal strikes” against North Korea.

“The level and scope of the rhetoric [in North Korea] is stronger than in the past,” said Scott A. Sny­der, a Korea ex­pert at the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions. “This time we’ve seen a higher level of threat, de­liv­ered at a higher level.”

He added, “There’s room for mis­cal­cu­la­tion right now.”

Ear­lier this month, the Pen­tagon an­nounced it was sig­nif­i­cantly bol­ster­ing Amer­ica’s mis­sile de­fense ca­pa­bil­i­ties on the West Coast. Sec­re­tary of De­fense Chuck Hagel said Thurs­day that the United States has no op­tion but to take Py­ongyang’s threats se­ri­ously.—Agen­cies

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