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May 26, 2009

North Korea Says It No Longer Considers Itself Bound By Terms Of Armistice

Can things get worse in Korea? Yes, yes they can.

North Korea's military says it considers South Korea's participation in a U.S.-led program to intercept ships suspected of spreading weapons of mass destruction tantamount to a declaration of war against the North.

The communist North's military said in a statement Wednesday that it will respond with "immediate, strong military measures" if the South actually stops and searches any North Korean ships under the Proliferation Security Initiative.

This follows other North Korean provocations in the wake of response to their nuke test.

North Korea, facing international sanction for its nuclear test this week, has restarted a plant that makes bomb-grade plutonium, a South Korean newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Pyongyang also appeared to have fired off a third short-range missile late on Tuesday after it added to tensions with a launch of two others earlier in the day, the South's Yonhap news agency quoted a unnamed government source as saying.

The immediate cause of the North's threats is the South's decision to join the US founded Proliferation Security Initiative.

South Korea had long resisted U.S. pressure to join the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which was created in 2003 by President George W. Bush and includes more than 90 countries that have agreed to stop and inspect suspicious cargo on sea and land.

Seoul was reluctant to rile North Korea, but North Korea's second nuclear test nudged Seoul Korea to change its policy.

..."Inter-Korean relations have hit rock bottom," said Yun Duk-min, professor of international politics at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, a government think tank in Seoul. "So it is the right thing to join PSI, even if North Korea reacts with resistance."

Who is going to blink?

When a Crazy Man With A Gun Tells You He's Going to Shoot You, The Smart Move is to Act as Though He Really Will Do it [Gabe]:

Look, if we had taken Hitler at his word in the early 1930s, WWII and the Holocaust would never have happened. But instead of acting as though he really meant what he said, the European Powers claimed that he was really just being belligerent to score political points.

This holds true for North Korea today. "Oh," they scoff, "Kim is just trying to score more loot from China and lower sanctions from the U.N. He's not really a threat to anyone; half his country is starving. Besides, North Korea makes threats all the time."

Only, the half of his country that isn't starving is the military. And he has used his loot to build devastating weapons. And he doesn't have anyone left to score political points off of. Kim is not running for reelection. He doesn't have to find seats in a parliament or consolidate power. He's got nowhere to go but out and down the peninsula. With all the demonstrations over the past few days he's expending his military resources faster than anything we've ever seen.

Would he really do it? Kim may well believe that with a nuclear deterrent he can force South Korea to integrate on his terms. Those missiles can't reach the U.S., but they can reach Japan. He obviously thinks that there is something to be gained from all this. Declaring the Armistice over with a phone call rather than a missile is a good sign. But there's a reason he's doing this now and not six months ago.

President Obama is going to issue a statement in the morning with vague reassurance about how seriously he takes the situation and then he's going to defer to the UNSC's bland statement of condemnation. Kim knows this. In fact, it's the reason he's doing this now. Obama's going to vote "present" on this one.

If we give in, it means the end of sanctions. If we give in, it means the end of the nuclear talks (which, frankly, wouldn't be much of a loss). But we have to consider the likelihood that he's not just doing this to get better terms and that he might actually intend to go to war. Do we take him at his word? And if we do, does that mean we back down while he develops more nuclear weapons and sells the technology to our enemies?


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posted by DrewM. at 11:47 PM

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