So, if I’d been asleep for the last six months, would I awake to find that the whole world had changed? Or would I roll over to see that the whole world was still snoring right there beside me? Via the AP:
North Korea has threatened to turn South Korea’s presidential palace into a “sea of fire” in response to any provocation, a day after Seoul’s military held a big exercise near the border.
The land, sea and air drill was staged on Wednesday to mark the first anniversary of a deadly North Korean attack on the South’s border island of Yeonpyeong, which sparked outrage among South Koreans and prompted international alarm. Pyongyang has always justified its bombardment on November 23, 2010 as a response to a South Korean artillery drill on Yeonpyeong, which it said dropped shells into the North’s territorial waters.
The North’s military Supreme Command said on Thursday the South should not forget the lesson of the Yeonpyeong attack. It described Wednesday’s anniversary drill as “little short of a new political and military provocation”. If the South dared in future to “fire one bullet or shell” towards the North’s territorial waters, air space and land, a “sea of fire” would engulf Seoul’s presidential palace. The North’s armed forces “are in full readiness to go into a decisive battle to counter any military provocation”, said the Supreme Command statement on Pyongyang’s official news agency.
Also announced by North Korea this week:
North Korea said Wednesday it is making rapid progress on work to enrich uranium and build a light-water nuclear power plant, increasing worries that the country is developing another way to make atomic weapons.
Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry said construction of an experimental light-water reactor and low enriched uranium are “progressing apace.” The statement added that North Korea has a sovereign right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy and that “neither concession nor compromise should be allowed.”
President Bush removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 11, 2008, to reward it for its progress toward complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament. Hey, it was “worth a try.” Discuss among yourselves.
Update: So if you wonder why I question the judgment and competence of a large segment of our foreign policy brain trust, as well as the objectivity of some of the reporters covering this story, let me offer the example of Bruce Bennett of the Rand Corporation, who worries about Lee Myung Bak’s diplomatic “mistake” in stating that North Korea is “one of the world’s most well-armed and most belligerent countries.” Steve Herman of the Voice of America, for God’s sake, offers us Bennett’s perspective — and no others — to support a dubious narrative that Lee is engaging in “harsh rhetoric,” but without bothering to mention that the North Koreans had just threatened to flatten Lee’s residence. Maybe Bennett has adopted the Washingtonian custom of discounting North Korea’s rhetoric and detaching it from any consequence to diplomatic “relations” between North Korea and the world, but then again, it’s not his nation, personal residence, and family we’re talking about here. Nor does it seem wise to me, anyway, to discount the threats of a regime that killed 50 South Koreans last year, and which has recently engaged in a campaign of assassinations against activists in China and on South Korean territory.
Does anyone today really believe that the nuances of a South Korean President’s language, no matter how factual or how mild in their greater context, really have a material effect on Kim Jong Il’s behavior toward the rest of the world? Inexplicable as it may be to some of us uncredentialed observers, the answer is “yes.”