Posts Tagged ‘U.S.’

(Reuters) – South Korea will strike back quickly if the North stages any attack on its territory, the new president in Seoul warned on Monday, as tensions ratcheted higher on the Korean peninsula amid shrill rhetoric from Pyongyang and the U.S. deployment of radar-evading fighter planes.

North Korea says the region is on the brink of a nuclear war in the wake of United Nations sanctions imposed for its February nuclear test and a series of joint U.S. and South Korean military drills that have included a rare U.S. show of aerial power.

North Korea said on Saturday it was entering a “state of war” with South Korea in response to what it termed the “hostile” military drills being staged in the South. But there have been no signs of unusual activity in the North’s military to suggest an imminent aggression, a South Korean defence ministry official said last week.

“If there is any provocation against South Korea and its people, there should be a strong response in initial combat without any political considerations,” President Park Geun-hye told the defence minister and senior officials at a meeting on Monday.

The South has changed its rules of engagement to allow local units to respond immediately to attacks, rather than waiting for permission from Seoul.

Stung by criticism that its response to the shelling of a South Korean island in 2010 was tardy and weak, Seoul has also threatened to target North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and to destroy statues of the ruling Kim dynasty in the event of any new attack, a plan that has outraged Pyongyang.

Seoul and its ally the United States played down Saturday’s statement from the official KCNA news agency as the latest in a stream of tough talk from Pyongyang.

North Korea stepped up its rhetoric in early March, when U.S. and South Korean forces began annual military drills that involved the flights of U.S. B-2 stealth bombers in a practice run, prompting the North to puts its missile units on standby to fire at U.S. military bases in the South and in the Pacific.

The United States also deployed F-22 stealth fighter jets on Sunday to take part in the drills. The F-22s were deployed in South Korea before, in 2010.

On its part, North Korea has cancelled an armistice agreement with the United States that ended the Korean War and cut all hotlines with U.S. forces, the United Nations and South Korea.

NUCLEAR WEAPONS “NOT A BARGAINING CHIP”

Park’s intervention came on the heels of a meeting of the North’s ruling Workers Party Central Committee where leader Kim Jong-un rejected the notion that Pyongyang was going to use its nuclear arms development as a bargaining chip.

“The nuclear weapons of Songun Korea are not goods for getting U.S. dollars and they are … (not) to be put on the table of negotiations aimed at forcing the (North) to disarm itself,” KCNA news agency quoted him as saying.

At the meeting, Kim appointed a handful of personal confidants to the party’s politburo, further consolidating his grip on power in the second full year of his reign.

Pyongyang took part in nuclear disarmament talks for five years aimed at paying it off in return for abandoning its atomic weapons programme. Those talks fell apart in 2008. Some experts say the talks gave the North grounds to pursue a highly enriched uranium programme that took it closer to owning a working arsenal.

Songun is the Korean word for the “Military First” policy preached by Kim’s father who used it to justify the use of the impoverished state’s scare resources to build a 1.2-million strong army and a weapons of mass destruction programme.

CALLS FOR RESTRAINT

White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said North Korea’s announcement that it was in a state of war followed a “familiar pattern” of rhetoric.

China has repeatedly called for restraint on the peninsula.

However, many in South Korea have regarded the North’s willingness to keep open the Kaesong industrial zone, located just a few miles (km) north of the heavily-militarised border and operated jointly by both sides, as a sign that Pyongyang will not risk losing a lucrative source of foreign currency by mounting a real act of aggression.

The Kaesong zone is a vital source of hard currency for the North and hundreds of South Korean workers and vehicles enter daily after crossing the armed border. It was still open on Monday despite threats by Pyongyang to shut it down. Closure could also trap hundreds of South Korean workers and managers of the more than 100 firms that have factories there.

The North has previously suspended operations at the factory zone at the height of political tensions with the South, only to let it resume operations later.

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What should the world do about North Korea? Share your thoughts on CNN iReport.

(CNN) — North Korea’s threatening rhetoric has reached a fevered pitch, but the Pentagon and the South Korean government have said it’s nothing new.

“We have no indications at this point that it’s anything more than warmongering rhetoric,” a senior Washington defense official said late Saturday.

The official was not authorized to speak to the media and asked not to be named.

The National Security Council, which advises the U.S. president on matters of war, struck a similar cord. Washington finds North Korea’s statements “unconstructive,” and it does take the threats seriously.

“But, we would also note that North Korea has a long history of bellicose rhetoric and threats and today’s announcement follows that familiar pattern,” said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for NSC.

The United States will continue to update its capabilities against any military threat from the north, which includes plans to deploy missile defense systems.

North Korea’s rhetoric

North Korea declared it had entered a “state of war” with neighboring South Korea, according to a report Saturday from the state-run Korean Central News Agency. It included a threat to “dissolve” the U.S. mainland.

“The condition, which was neither war nor peace, has ended, North Korea’s government said in a special statement carried by KCNA.”

North Korea and South Korea technically remain at war since their conflict between 1950 and 1953 ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty. On March 11, the North Korean army declared the armistice agreement invalid.

Saturday’s report included a direct threat to the United States, while also asserting any conflict “will not be limited to a local war, but develop into an all-out war, a nuclear war.”

The statement made the prospect of war contingent upon “a military provocation … against the DPRK” in sensitive areas on the border between North and South.

The South: It’s not new

In a statement later Saturday, South Korea did not treat their neighbor’s latest threat as imminent danger.

Seoul noted scores of its personnel had entered the Kaesong Industrial complex — a joint economic cooperation zone between the two Koreas situated on the North’s side of the border — on Saturday morning with hundreds more set to join them later in the day, seemingly suggesting they were going about business as usual.

“The announcement made by North Korea is not a new threat, but part of follow-up measures after North Korea’s supreme command’s statement that it will enter the highest military alert” on Tuesday, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said in a statement.

Map appears to show U.S. targets

A day earlier, the same official North Korean news agency reported its leader Kim Jong Un had approved a plan to prepare standby rockets to hit U.S. targets.

In a meeting with military leaders early Friday, Kim “said he has judged the time has come to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists in view of the prevailing situation,” KCNA reported.

The rockets are aimed at U.S. targets, including military bases in the Pacific and in South Korea, it said.

“If they make a reckless provocation with huge strategic forces, (we) should mercilessly strike the U.S. mainland, their stronghold, their military bases in the operational theaters in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea,” the report said.

Behind North Korea’s heated words about missile strikes, one analyst said, there might not be much mettle.

“Unless there has been a miraculous turnaround among North Korea’s strategic forces, there is little to no chance that it could successfully land a missile on Guam, Hawaii or anywhere else outside the Korean Peninsula that U.S. forces may be stationed,” James Hardy, Asia-Pacific editor of IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly,wrote in an opinion column published Thursday on CNN.com.

Analysis: Just what is Kim Jong Un up to?

U.S. official: We’re ‘committed … to peace

U.S. defense officials said Friday that the North’s bantering is destructive.

“This is troubling rhetoric that disrupts the prospects for peace on the Peninsula,” the senior official said.

Some observers have suggested that Washington is adding to tensions in the region by drawing attention to its displays of military strength on North Korea’s doorstep, such as the flights by the B-2 stealth bombers.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel argued against that assertion Thursday.

Threats of annihilation normal for South Koreans

“We, the United States and South Korea, have not been involved in provocating anything,” he said. “We, over the years, have been engaged with South Korea on joint exercises. The B-2 flight was part of that.”

Washington and its allies “are committed to a pathway to peace,” Hagel said. “And the North Koreans seem to be headed in a different direction here.”

Opinion: Why North Korea regime is scary

Amid the uneasy situation, China, a key North Korean ally that expressed frustration about Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test, also called for calm.

“We hope relevant parties can work together to turn around the tense situation in the region,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said Friday, describing peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula as “a joint responsibility.”

North Korea’s threat: Five things to know

Tensions have been rising for months

Tensions escalated on the Korean Peninsula after the North carried out a long-range rocket launch in December and an underground nuclear test last month, prompting the U.N. Security Council to step up sanctions on the secretive government.

U.S. officials concerned about North Korea’s ‘ratcheting up of rhetoric’

Pyongyang has expressed fury about the sanctions and the annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises, due to continue until the end of April.

The deteriorating relations have killed hopes of reviving multilateral talks over North Korea’s nuclear program for the foreseeable future. Indeed, Pyongyang has declared that the subject is no longer up for discussion.

Korean nightmare: Experts ponder potential conflict

(Reuters) – House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Friday condemned a reference to migrant workers made by fellow Republican Representative Don Young, calling the comments “offensive and beneath the dignity of the office.”

House Speaker John Boehner holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington March 21, 2013.Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

House Speaker John Boehner holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington March 21, 2013.

Young referred to migrant workers as “wetbacks” in a radio interview aired in his home state of Alaska on Thursday, but issued an apology late in the day after criticism. The term is considered a slur against illegal immigrants who crossed into the United States from Mexico.

“My father had a ranch. We used to hire 50-60 wetbacks … to pick tomatoes … it takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It is all done by machine,” Young said in the interview.

The lawmaker was speaking about the economy and technology. He later said he did not realize the term was considered offensive.

“I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California,” Young said in a statement. “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.”

Boehner issued a statement on Friday saying there was “no excuse,” for the comments.

“Congressman Young’s remarks were offensive and beneath the dignity of the office he holds. I don’t care why he said it – there’s no excuse,” Boehner said in a statement issued on Friday.

Collected from-http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/29/us-usa-congress-young-idUSBRE92S0C120130329

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