North Korea Abandons Truce and Threatens to Attack the South

Daily News Article   —   Posted on May 28, 2009

Note:  This article is from the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

(by Malcolm Moore in Seoul, Peter Foster in Beijing & Alex Spillius in Washington, Telegraph.co.uk) — North Korea has declared it is abandoning the truce that ended the Korean war and warned that it could launch a military attack against the South.

Pyongyang said that South Korea’s decision to start intercepting ships that are suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction was tantamount to “a declaration of war against us”.

The statement follows a number of missile tests and an underground nuclear test by the North in the last two days.

The statement, through North Korea’s state newswire, warned Seoul that North Korea “will no longer be bound by the armistice accord” and that the “Korean peninsula will go back to a state of war”.

Pyongyang had previously warned Seoul that joining the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) would have fearful consequences.

No formal peace treaty has ever been signed between the two countries, but an armistice in 1953 and a Mutual Defense treaty between the U.S. and South Korea effectively ended the Korean war.

In October 2007, Kim Jong-il and Roh Moo-hyun, the former president of South Korea…, signed a pact declaring “permanent peace” between the two sides.

The North Korean statement added that its troops will take “corresponding military action”, without giving any details. “Those who have provoked us will face unimaginable merciless punishment”. A possible first target may be five South Korean islands near the border between the two countries in the Yellow Sea, after Pyongyang refused to “guarantee the legal status” of the territories.

The PSI is largely symbolic, and does not permit South Korean forces to search ships or ground planes outside of its sovereign territory. President Lee Myung-bak had dithered over whether to join the project for over a month, but took the plunge on Tuesday after North Korea detonated a nuclear bomb in an undergound bunker on its north eastern coast.

Residents in North Korea’s capital were reported by the state media to have held a mass rally on Wednesday at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium to celebrate the country’s second nuclear test, perhaps confirming that the purpose of the bomb test was to shore up domestic support for Kim Jong-il’s leadership.

Choe Thae-Bok, a senior official of North Korea’s Communist party, said military threats and economic sanctions had prompted the North to conduct the second test. “It was a grand undertaking to protect the supreme interests of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” he said, accusing the US of planning a “preemptive nuclear attack and sanctions and pressure” on North Korea.

Meanwhile, North Korea has launched a further missile, bringing the total number of short-range missiles fired in the past three days to six.

A South Korean official told Yonhap, the news agency, that a night-time missile launch had been carried out on Tuesday and that there are signs of imminent further launches along the rogue state’s West coast. The North has warned that it may continue to launch missiles until Saturday.

“The North appears to have launched a ground-to-ship missile into the East Sea shortly after 9pm Tuesday,” said the unnamed Defence official. Pyongyang had already launched two missiles from its east coast earlier on Tuesday, after firing three on Monday.

It is unclear whether the missiles are test-launches, or whether North Korea is seeking to dissuade South Korean and US spy planes from hovering over its military installations in order to verify its claim of a nuclear test.

According to the Chosun Ilbo newspaper, spy planes have detected steam coming from the nuclear reprocessing facility at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear plant, suggesting that North Korea has once again begun to extract plutonium for its weapons program.

The North has already warned that it intended to begn turning its spent nuclear fuel rods into plutonium in protest at the international criticism of its rocket test on April 5. Yongbyon is thought to be capable of processing 200 to 250 tons of spent fuel each year and harvesting around 100kg of plutonium. In the past, the US has warned that reprocessing fuel is an action that could lead to a military strike on the country.

Pyongyang triggered global condemnation on Monday after detonating a nuclear bomb in a bunker six-miles underground, in the country’s north east. Experts are now scaling down their estimates of the size of the nuclear device, and a precise analysis will take days or weeks. However a senior White House official said yesterday the explosion was “several kilotons”, a major advance on the North’s test in 2006.

The United Nations Security Council met on Tuesday to begin work on a response to North Korea’s actions, and Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN said a new resolution “will indeed take some time”. Mrs. Rice said the US wanted “a strong resolution with teeth. Those teeth could take various different forms. They are economic levers, they are other levers that we might pursue.”

The Security Council is expected to produce its plan in the next fortnight, although it is likely to face opposition from China on any major sanctions, especially since only China has any major economic ties with [North Korea].

The Chinese government said that it was “resolutely opposed” to the nuclear test, but weakened the tone of its statement from the strong words it issued in response to North Korea’s first nuclear test in October 2006. It also called for a “calm response” to the crisis and expressed hope that the issue would be resolved through dialogue. China is North Korea’s biggest source of food and fuel, but receives access to North Korean minerals in return.

With tensions on the Korean peninsula high, South Korea said it would join a U.S.-led initiative to intercept ships suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction, a move that Pyongyang has previously warned it would consider “an act of war”.

Information appearing on telegraph.co.uk is the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium without licence. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from the Telegraph. Visit the website at telegraph.co.uk.

Questions

1. Name the capitals and leaders of North and South Korea.

2. How did North Korea react to South Korea’s decision to join the U.S.-led PSI (Proliferation Security Initiative)?
b) What probably caused President Lee to join the U.S.-led PSI?

3. What caused North Korea to conduct a nuclear test this week, according to a North Korean official, Choe Thea-Bok?

4. How many missiles has North Korea launched this week?

5. The UN has imposed various economic sanctions on North Korea over the past several years in an effort to end their nuclear weapons program. The U.S. and other countries have conducted negotiations with North Korea (see “Background” below for explanation). New sanctions now proposed include bans on personal loans to North Korean individuals and companies; expansion of an arms export embargo to all weapons, and increased inspections of cargo going into and out of North Korea. Do you think the UN will be effective in ending North Korea’s nuclear program? Explain your answer.

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Background

NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY:
Under the United Nation’s NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty), countries are not allowed to make nuclear weapons (except for the 5 that had nuclear weapons prior to the treaty – the U.S., Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom).  Safeguards are used to verify compliance with the Treaty through inspections conducted by the UN’s IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). 

NORTH KOREA’S NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM and THE SIX-PARTY TALKS: (portions of this informaiton are from wikipedia.org.)

  • The six-party talks are a series of meetings with six participating states – the U.S., Japan, China, South Korea, North Korea and Russia.
  • These talks were a result of North Korea withdrawing from the U.N.’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2003. North Korea is led by dictator Kim Jong-Il, who has starved and imprisoned millions of his own people.
  • The aim of the talks is to find a peaceful resolution to the security concerns raised by the North Korean nuclear weapons program. 
  • After five rounds of talks from 2003 to 2007, little progress was made. 
  • In September 2005, as a result of illegal acts committed by the North Korean government, including the counterfeiting of U.S. money, the U.S. froze North Korea’s overseas bank accounts.  The North Korean government then refused to participate in further six-party talks. 
  • April 2006, North Korea said they would resume talks only with the U.S. (not six-party), if the U.S. released recently frozen North Korean financial assets held in a bank in Macau.  The U.S. did not comply with the request.
  • October 2006 North Korea conducted a test of a nuclear weapon.
  • A week later (Oct. 2006), the U.N. passed a resolution demanding that Pyongyang abandon its nuclear-weapons programs. The resolution also ordered all countries to prevent North Korea from importing or exporting any material for weapons of mass destruction or ballistic missiles.
  • In December 2006 North Korea returned to negotiations through the six-party talks.
  • In February 2007, North Korea agreed to shut down its nuclear facilities in exchange for fuel aid and steps towards the normalization of relations with the U.S. and Japan.  Negotiations then stalled through July.
  • In October 2007 an agreement was made among the six countries negotiating the end of the North’s nuclear program. Under the agreement, North Korea would start getting energy and other economic assistance from the U.S. and others, as well as begin normalizing relations with the United States and Japan. In exchange for this, by Dec. 31, 2007 North Korea was supposed to provide a written declaration disclosing all of its nuclear materials and capabilities as well as disable its main reactor at Yongbyon. North Korea did not fulfill their part of the agreement.
  • In June 2008, the U.S. reached a deal with North Korea to provide 500,000 metric tons of food aid but insisted on supervision, fearing that much of it was going to the elite.
  • In March 2009 in advance of its missile launch, North Korea announced it was refusing to take any more food aid from the U.S.

Also, go to wsj.com for a graph detailing negotiations with North Korea.

ON THE NORTH KOREAN GOVERNMENT: (from the CIA World FactBook)

  • An independent kingdom for much of its long history, Korea was occupied by Japan in 1905 following the Russo-Japanese War. Five years later, Japan formally annexed the entire peninsula. Following World War II, Korea was split with the northern half coming under Soviet-sponsored Communist domination.
  • After failing in the Korean War (1950-53) to conquer the US-backed South Korea (Republic of Korea – ROK) by force, North Korea (DPRK), under its founder President Kim Il Sung, adopted a policy of ostensible diplomatic and economic “self-reliance” as a check against excessive Soviet or Communist Chinese influence.
  • North Korea demonized the US as the ultimate threat to its social system through state-funded propaganda, and molded political, economic, and military policies around the core ideological objective of eventual unification of Korea under Pyongyang’s control.
  • Kim’s son, the current ruler Kim Jong Il, was officially designated as his father’s successor in 1980, assuming a growing political and managerial role until the elder Kim’s death in 1994.
  • After decades of economic mismanagement and resource misallocation, North Korea since the mid-1990s has relied heavily on international aid to feed its population while continuing to expend resources to maintain an army of approximately 1 million.
  • North Korea’s history of regional military provocations, proliferation of military-related items, and long-range missile development – as well as its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs and massive conventional armed forces – are of major concern to the international community. [Kim Jong-il is an oppressive dictator who makes his people call him “Dear Leader”]

Resources

Go to worldatlas.com for a map of Asia.

Read more about North Korea and South Korea at CIA World FactBook. (NOTE: Both countries are listed under Korea.)

For a clear explanation of the history of North Korea’s nuclear program, read John Podhoretz’s commentary at NYPost.com.

For a timeline of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, go to online.wsj.com/article/SB124322074782250897.html#articleTabs_interactive%26articleTabs%3Dinteractive.

How should the U.S. react to North Korea’s latest nuclear test?  Read an analysis at cfr.org/publication/19480/nuclear_test_for_obama_administration.html?breadcrumb=%2F.