Posts Tagged ‘Seoul’

While analysts call North Korea’s threats largely brinkmanship, there is some fear that a localized skirmish might escalate.

South Koreans wait to leave for the North Korean city of Kaesong at the Inter-Korea Transit Office in Paju, South Korea, on Monday

South Koreans wait to leave for the North Korean city of Kaesong at the Inter-Korea Transit Office in Paju, South Korea, on Monday

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — After weeks of warlike rhetoric, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gathered legislators Monday for an annual spring parliamentary session that followed a ruling party declaration that nuclear bomb building and a stronger economy were the nation’s top priorities.

The meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly follows near-daily threats from Pyongyang, including vows of nuclear strikes on South Korea and the U.S. The United States, meanwhile, sent F-22 stealth fighter jets to participate in annual war games with South Korea, and the new South Korean president, who has a policy meant to re-engage Pyongyang with talks and aid, told her top military leaders to set aside political considerations and respond strongly should North Korea attack. (more…)

Kim Jong-un says missiles are poised to ‘settle accounts’, but experts say North Korea has a history of making empty threats

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s latest threat to “settle accounts with the U.S.” — while displaying a “strike plan” that shows missiles tracking toward American cities — was widely seen as another example of the young leader’s erratic bluster.

The threat to lob long-range nuclear-tipped missiles at central U.S. cities is, in the opinion of most expert observers, overblown. But while making progress on its missile capability, the regime has other ways to wreak havoc, and this is what has officials and analysts increasingly worried.

“You only need to be wrong once,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said, in discussing assessments of North Korea. “I don’t know what president or what chairman or what secretary of Defense wants to be wrong once when it comes to nuclear threats.”

Officials are concerned that with the rising threats, Kim is backing his regime into a corner where it may be compelled to act in order to save face. And in the near-term, the regime has plenty of ways to do that.

It can continue to proliferate dangerous weapons to places like Iran and Syria. And, as it has repeatedly demonstrated, the regime can attack and provoke South Korea — the scenario many are worried about.

“We’re one dead fisherman away from something that could escalate quite quickly,” said Jim Walsh, an international security expert and research associate at MIT. “That’s the one I worry about.”

Walsh said despite the rhetoric, the “war fundamentals” have not changed. North Korea would be obliterated by South Korea in the event of a war, with or without U.S. military support — and the North Koreans know that.

But he said the “accidental war” — the provocation that goes too far and spirals into all-out conflict — is the real worry.

“The whole system is set up like a deck of cards right now,” Walsh said.

North Korea is infamous for testing and prodding South Korea. In 2010, under the current leader’s late father Kim Jong Il, North Korea was blamed for sinking a South Korean ship and killing 46 sailors, though North Korea denied it. That time, there were no serious repercussions for the North.

Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, suggested South Korea’s new president, Park Geun-hye, would not let such an attack slide.

“If that were to happen again or something like it, I believe it could lead to war,” O’Hanlon said.

Walsh said that while North Korea would fall, in the best-case scenario “you still get … 1,000 artillery shells landing on Seoul.”

O’Hanlon described a scenario where South Korea retaliates and North Korea escalates — and eventually the U.S. would be faced with the question of how to get involved militarily.

Hagel said Thursday that the U.S. “will unequivocally defend and we are unequivocally committed to that alliance with South Korea.”

Back in 1984, the U.S. prepared a campaign plan that would have made possible the destruction of the entire North Korean air force in 100 hours. Retired U.S. Air Force generals say the military could do it even faster today.

The Pentagon made clear this week that it is taking the threat seriously. It flew B-2 bombers 13,000 miles to a South Korean island where they dropped inert bombs. It is the first time the U.S. has ever sent B-2 bombers to the Korean Peninsula. A tweet from the U.S. embassy in Seoul said the bombers were “demonstrating the US’s ability to conduct precision strikes at will.”

Christian Whiton, a former State Department official now with the D.C. International Advisory, told Fox News that the major threat from North Korea is that “it’s proliferated virtually every weapon system it’s ever produced.”

“There’s a real threat that North Korea will continue to do what it does best, which is to profit off of proliferating the world’s most dangerous weapons to some of the world’s most odious people,” he said.

Despite repeated nuclear and missile tests, it is believed North Korea is still years away from being able hit the U.S. with a nuclear-tipped missile.

The Council on Foreign Relations projects that only North Korea’s Taepodong-2 missile could reach America. But that missile could only go as far as Alaska and has not yet been successfully tested. Its other rockets have a considerably shorter range.

While having made progress in their ballistic missile program, the North Koreans still have not mastered the technology of delivering a nuclear device by a long-range missile.

“If they ever do it, it’s going to be a while,” Walsh said of any effort to develop a missile capable of hitting the continental U.S.

Walsh also said it’s unlikely North Korea would ever send out a suicide bomber — equipped with a radioactive “dirty bomb” or some similar device — describing the move as too risky without much payoff for Pyongyang.

North Korea Says It Will Launch Nuclear Attack On America!!

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/03/29/what-kind-attack-could-north-korea-launch/#ixzz2Oy6AXqk8

SEOUL, South Korea — The U.S. military made a rare announcement that two nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers ran a practice bombing sortie over South Korea on Thursday, underscoring Washington’s commitment to defend its ally amid rising tensions with North Korea.

The two B-2 “Spirit” bombers made a nonstop round trip from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., demonstrating the United States’s ability to “provide extended deterrence to our allies in the Asia-Pacific region” and to “conduct long range, precision strikes quickly and at will,” the American command in Seoul said in a statement.

It was the first time the U.S. military publicly confirmed a B-2 mission over the Korean Peninsula. As the bombers dropped inert munitions that they carried 6,500 miles over the Pacific to an island bombing range off South Korea’s west coast, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel conferred with his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin, on the phone, reaffirming the United States’ “unwavering” commitment to defend the South.

After suffering from the American carpet-bombing during the 1950-53 Korean War, North Korea remains particularly sensitive about U.S. bombers. It keeps most of its key military installations underground and its war cries typically reach a frenetic pitch when American bombers fly over South Korea during military exercises. The resulting fear and anti-American sentiment is used by the regime to make its people rally behind Pyongyang’s “military-first” leadership.

Both B-52 and B-2 can launch nuclear-armed cruise missiles. The Pentagon used their training sorties over the Korean Peninsula to highlight the role the long-distance strategic bombers play as part of Washington’s “nuclear umbrella” over South Korea and Japan. In South Korea, North Korea’s successful launching of a three-stage rocket in December and its nuclear test last month were unsettling enough that several right-wing politicians began calling on their government to build nuclear arms.

A press release from the South Korean Defense Ministry Thursday said that the “extended deterrence” Mr. Hagel reaffirmed for South Korea included “nuclear umbrella” and “missile defense capabilities.”

The allies also agreed to develop “customized” plans to deal with various types of threats posed by North Korea’s nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, it said.

North Korea has escalated its bellicose rhetoric since its Feb. 12 nuclear test. It threatened pre-emptive nuclear strikes at Washington and Seoul for conducting joint military drills and supporting United Nations sanctions against the North. In response, Washington has stood behind the new government of President Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s first female president, by running B-52 bomber sorties over South Korea earlier this month and publicizing them. It also signed an agreement last weekend to enhance consultation and coordination of the allies’ responses to North Korean provocations. Such coordination became all the more important with growing North Korean threats; under a mutual defense treaty, Washington is obliged to intervene should a local skirmish expand into a full-blown war.

The Pentagon said the B-52 and B-2 training missions were part of its Foal Eagle joint military drill with South Korea, which began on March 1 and will run through April 30. North Korea cited the threat of B-52 bombers when it cut off its last remaining military hot lines with South Korea on Wednesday and warned of more “substantial military actions.” The military hot lines have been used to allow South Korean workers and cargo travelling to a joint industrial park in the North Korean town of Kaesong to clear a border crossing. The cross-border traffic operated normally on Thursday. About 420 South Korean commuters from Seoul entered Kaesong and 400 returned to Seoul as North Korea gave them a travel permit through an economic liaison office in Kaesong and the North Korean military did not stop them.

The Kaesong complex, which is an important source of income for the cash-strapped North Korean government, has survived years of military tensions and U.N. sanctions. In Kaesong, 123 South Korean companies employ 53,400 North Korean workers for an average monthly pay of $144. They produced $470 million worth of textiles and other labor-intensive goods last year. The fate of Kaesong is seen as a key test of how far North Korea would take its threats.

Source:http://www.nytimes.com