Battleland

War Drums Along the 38th Parallel

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David Guttenfelder / AP

A North Korean teacher holds open a children's pop-up book, which depicts a U.S. soldier killing a Korean woman with a hatchet, in a library room at Kaeson Kindergarten in central Pyongyang, March 9, 2013.

From the Pentagon to Panmunjom, U.S. defense officials conceded on Monday they are perplexed, and pondering, what Pyongyang will do next. American and South Korean defense officials are used to strange words and deeds from North Korea, but over the past week the Hermit Kingdom’s actions have reached unprecedented levels.

On Monday, North Korea carried through with its threat to declare the 1953 armistice ending the Korean War null, just as the South Korean and U.S. forces began an annual military exercise. “The U.S. has reduced the armistice agreement,” North Korea’s state-run media reported, “to a dead paper.” (See more North Korean war rhetoric.)

As a diplomatic exclamation point, the North cut off a Red Cross hotline linking the two Koreas. U.S. officials suggest the North Korean delegation at the truce village of Panmunjom may soon withdraw.

(MORE: North Korea Under Kim Jong Un: Old Threats, New Worries)

Last Thursday, the North Korean foreign military declared, through the Korean Central News Agency, that “the Supreme Command of the Korean People’s Army declared that it would totally nullify the Korean Armistice Agreement from March 11 when the U.S. nuclear-war rehearsal gets into full swing.”

On Friday, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said:

[North Korean] Colonel General Kang Pyo-yong said soldiers are already positioned to launch a war of reunification if the order is given by its leaders. The paper said the general made clear at a speech given at a rally in Pyongyang that intercontinental ballistic missiles and other rockets capable of attacking preset targets have been armed with various types of atomic warheads.

Some of the fireworks are due to the recent rise to power of Kim Jong Un, whose father and grandfather ran North Korea before him as a military dictatorship. The new leader, either 29 or 30 years old and in office for a year, has to prove himself worthy with the hard-line North Korean military. Korea experts in the U.S. believe that accounts for some, if not all, of his nation’s recent bellicosity, which has been broadcast across North Korea.

Warns John McCreary, a longtime Defense Intelligence Agency analyst who now publishes the private NightWatch blog:

The intensive indoctrination of the North Korean public is more worrisome than specific announcements or actions. Through public statements, speeches and official news reports about actions at Panmunjom, North Korean leaders are generating a national perception that North Korea is under threat and that war is coming.

SKOREA-US-NKOREA-MILITARY-PROTEST

JUNG YEON-JE / AFP / Getty Images

Antiwar activists hold placards showing the Korean Peninsula during a protest against a joint military exercise between South Korea and the U.S. in Seoul on March 11, 2013

Key Resolve 2013, slated to last 10 days, involves 3,000 U.S. and 10,000 South Korean troops in a regular exercise designed to protect South Korea from an invasion from the North — the same way the Korean War began on June 25, 1950. Army General James Thurman, the top U.S. commander in South Korea, called the war game “a critical exercise in strengthening the readiness of combined Republic of Korea and U.S. forces.”

Thurman and the U.S. government played down North Korea’s declaration that the armistice, signed on July 27, 1953, was no longer in force. “It concerns me when any signatory to a mutual agreement makes a public statement contrary to that agreement,” he said. “The success of the armistice has enabled the Republic of Korea to become a vibrant democracy, and we remain ready to defend the Republic of Korea.”

The U.S. government also imposed new sanctions on the North Korean Foreign Trade Bank on Monday, saying it helps fund the North’s missile and nuclear ambitions. Following the imposition of a new round of U.N. sanctions in the wake of a third nuclear-weapons test by the North last month, Pyongyang suggested it could attack Seoul and Washington with nuclear weapons, although U.S. officials think there is little to no chance on its threat to reach the U.S. capital.

(MORE: Inside North Korea: 10 Revealing New Satellite Snapshots from Google Maps)

“The United States will not accept North Korea as a nuclear state, nor will we stand by while it seeks to develop a nuclear-armed missile that can target the United States,” Tom Donilon, President Obama’s National Security Adviser, told the Asia Society in New York on Monday. “The international community has made clear that there will be consequences to North Korea’s flagrant violation of its international obligations, as the Security Council did again unanimously just last week in approving new sanctions in response to the North’s provocative nuclear test.”

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Army

Captain Emil Kapaun

There was a bittersweet symmetry to Monday’s stepped-up tensions on the Korean Peninsula: the North Koreans declared the armistice null shortly before the White House announced that Obama would award the Medal of Honor to U.S. Army Captain Emil Kapaun, a military chaplain who served in the Korean War. Kapaun was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, during combat operations in early November 1950. When Chinese communist forces attacked U.S. positions, Kapaun calmly walked through enemy fire to provide comfort to his comrades. U.S. commanders ordered their able-bodied troops to withdraw, but Kapaun elected to stay with the wounded and make rounds amid hand-to-hand combat. He approached a wounded Chinese officer and got him to agree to the safe surrender of U.S. troops. Kapaun, a Roman Catholic priest, died in a North Korean prison camp on May 23, 1951.

Despite the current histrionics, the border between the two Koreas along the 38th parallel — the so-called demilitarized zone — has remained calm. Nonetheless, U.S. military officials expressed concern that the North might seize upon the U.S.–South Korean military drills — and the stepped-up sanctions — as a pretext for action.

“Expect a North Korean provocation in the coming weeks,” Korea experts Victor Cha and Ellen Kim say in an intelligence assessment, issued by the independent Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). “Our research at CSIS shows that the North does a military provocation of some form within weeks of every South Korean presidential inauguration dating back to 1992 [South Korean President Park Geun-hye was inaugurated into office on Feb. 25]. Not a good prospect at all.”

But U.S. military officials are betting that any North Korea–launched strike would be small, to avoid triggering a massive counteroffensive that could lead to a war that would likely mark the end of the North Korean government.

In 2010, a North Korean artillery barrage killed four South Koreans, and a suspected North Korean torpedo sank the 1,200-ton South Korean corvette ROKS Cheonan, killing 46 sailors. The North purportedly launched both military strikes and didn’t pay a heavy price for doing so. Its leaders may be betting that they can do it yet again.

But one thing has changed. Despite diplomatic happy talk from General Thurman, the North has renounced the armistice. Legal niceties aside, that means — if South Korea and its U.S. ally are provoked for a third time — they may be less reluctant to fire back.

VIDEO: New North Korea Internet Video Shows Obama, U.S. Troops Up in Flames

22 comments
Gcracker3000
Gcracker3000

Silly North Koreans. We won't kill them with hatchets. It'll be 5.56s.

TrueBeliever
TrueBeliever

You know nothing of my work.  I have written 27 books about the stalemate between North and South Korea.  NK is a rogue state -- hard wired for self destruction.  At a time when War has become obsolete among the "haves" it remains a fools option for the "have nots."  NK is a have not.  My father received 12 Purple Hearts, 13 bronze stars with platinum filligrees on purple silk.  You are a dangerous lunatic.

TrueBeliever
TrueBeliever

These military leaders have brass balls.  We need to counter them just to show them that we can match their resolve.  If we fail to stand up to these cretins, then they will assume that we are weak and they have more leeway to threaten us.  If they do attack and kill South Koreans, then they must suffer blood pound for pound.

bigdowner
bigdowner

2 weeks ago Kim Jong Un received Dennis Rodman and his entourage of Americans openly, gave them the VIP treatment as his guests,

did not exploit the visit, did not disparage the USA, and sent a message to President Obama to "call him." Seems quite normal to me. Then media and Washington then proceed to mock, lambaste and dismiss the entire visit. And now the Pentagon and White House is worried. 

 Well, no kidding. North Korea has only been alerting us for months now, and it's been a big joke to those covering it. The USA has underestimated North Korea, which has tactical nuclear ordnance and the 4th largest military in the world. Anyone who thinks there

can be a limited nuclear conflict knows nothing about the subject. One detonation and the trade winds, jet stream, ocean currents and weather patterns will carry radioactive fallout all over the Western Hemisphere and create an unprecedented environmental disaster followed by economic chaos. Obama is too proud to make a $100.00 phone call - but it's ok to spend billions on war games or even actual armed conflict.

Idiots.

GeorgiaMarsh13
GeorgiaMarsh13

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MartinScreeton
MartinScreeton

Looks like a picture of US Defense Industry payoff recipients to me. :)  Missile production, I suspect, has been going downhill for a number of months since we pulled out of Iraq. Land, Air, and Sea get rich on this one and the US Economy goes into boom mode again. 

BobJan
BobJan

Line up our 535 Congress people, put them in a military uniform, arm them and send them over there to fight. If not, they need to shut up. Pull our forces out of South Korea.

Don_Bacon
Don_Bacon

The United Nations and North Korea are still in a state of war. The 1953 Armistice Agreement was supposed to presage a peaceful settlement and the withdrawal of all foreign troops.

agreement extracts:
 ** with the objective of establishing an armistice which will insure a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved,**

** within three (3) months after the Armistice Agreement is signed and becomes effective, a political conference of a higher level of both sides be held by representatives appointed respectively to settle through negotiation the questions of the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Korea, the peaceful settlement of the Korean question, etc.**
http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=85&page=transcript

This armistice is being violated by the US and South Korea . . .
* acts of armed force
* no conference
* no withdrawal of foreign troops (US)

. . .so scrapping it is no big deal.

What has transpired? No peaceful settlement, no withdrawal of foreign troops (US) and repeated US/ROK "war games."
And so these are provocations by DPRK? No.
The reason is that Korea is the gift that keeps on giving to the MIC, facilitating the stationing of 28,000 US troops one air-hour from Shanghai and Beijing.

Regarding diplomacy, there hasn't been any since the closing days of the Clinton administration, and that progress was scrapped by Bush.  That's what is needed is diplomacy, not war games and bluster. If Dennis Rodman can talk to DPRK then why can't Obama? After all, in his presidential campaign he promised to talk to DPRK and Iran and he has done neither. Instead it's all options on the table and war games, which accomplish nothing positive.

MrObvious
MrObvious

Pictures, the dear leader pointing at something. The truth is the guy have not a single clue what he's doing, pointing at or what's going on.


forgottenlord
forgottenlord

Part of the problem is nobody can figure out a path to even a moral victory.  Kim Jong-un steps up rhetoric and if he wants to save face, he has to get something out of it.  At the same time, I don't think anyone believes that NK actually thinks they can win an open war against the US/SK.  So what's their endgame?  What's their next step?  Because nobody thinks they're dumb enough to invade, the world will mostly ignore their declaration of the armistice being null, and there's nothing North Korea hates more than being ignored so they have to do something else.  The only middle point is claiming some grounds to killing South Korean soldiers but they were mostly ignored last time that happened so I just don't see the point.

johneurope
johneurope

"South Korea is rich and developed so this is not going to be pretty, but it's time to finally rip the bandage off." You may be right now or later with them  having nukes would not be pretty, would not be pretty anyway but , Nukes is another thing entirley. So do it before they get them,  Same for Iran do it now...

timevicente
timevicente

I believe the feared confrontation between North Korea and its southern neighbor will not materialize. Being a year in office as the new North Korean leader, Kim Jung-un, like Khrushchev of old, has to impress his generals and the NK people with a bellicose stance, effectively diverting  any budding attempt to unseat him.  Still, East Asia stands to face grim results if the provocation leads to war, so the name of the game is to defuse the tension. Additionally, we ask why the US is delaying a move to pacify North Korea the way Nixon's visit did to Mao's China. Perhaps the US Secretary of Defense should initiate a conciliatory visit with his NK counterpart.

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

This is rather alarming.... No clue as to what this could mean and it could mean the worst.

North Korea threatens to nuke us and there are retards trying to defend North Korea and their stupid statements and actions... Often claiming that the statements are in fact a lie, when in reality such fiction would be very damaging to US credability.... Dont ya tards think the north would be eager to call us out if we made a false statement?

The jerks defending North Korea on this site should be tarred and feathered.

meddevguy
meddevguy

Maybe it's time. For 60 years we have put up with an "armistice" that just set up a family as monarchs over a country of serfs. The dramatic technological and economic success of the South Koreans shows genetically the people of the North are the equal of any on earth.

The trick is getting Kim Jong Un-believable out while letting China save face. The great people of Korea and of China need a chance to be rid of this destructive jerk so they (and we) can all get back to progressing. I'd vote for a great apartment in Paris and a big bank account, but it's up to the dictator, and they all think they are immortal.

South Korea is rich and developed so this is not going to be pretty, but it's time to finally rip the bandage off.

MartinScreeton
MartinScreeton

@bigdowner The 25th Infantry does an exercise there every year and this "war game" is normal business by the military there at least annually. I spend almost four years in  S. Korea in the 80's.     

TrueBeliever
TrueBeliever

@MartinScreeton Your cowardly comments are not appreciated.  Maybe you would like to wake up in a NK prison camp?  That can be arranged for cretins like you.

confettifoot
confettifoot

@forgottenlord  Not stupid, maybe, but genuinely, deeply, dangerously batshit crazy. The envisioned endgame is all tangled up in confused delusions of semi-cosmic glory. Makes me nervous - given his bizarre upbringing the new kid could be anything.

UMMLocal12
UMMLocal12

Nobody on this site has defended NK.

MartinScreeton
MartinScreeton

@TrueBeliever @MartinScreeton Not appreciated by whom ?, I guess just by you since your the only one who replied. I've come to realize that our military, much like our police forces, work primarily for multinational corporation interests. That's not honorable, nor truthful, nor anything about freedom. My dad was a Marine purple heart recipient in the Korean War and I spent almost 4 years in S. Korea in the Army. We are there not so much to keep the North out of the South as we are to keep the South from invading the North. The Truth now, however unfortunate, is however the corporations want to spin it. 

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

@confettifoot

I think he's got more in common with the chess newbie who wants the grand masters to take him seriously.  He wants to be taken seriously so he uses the tactics his daddy came up with and then tries to be creative by taking them to the next level - but he's never thinking about what's going to happen after that.

I don't think he's crazy.  He's not bloodthirsty like Saddam Hussein and his lack of real interest in the military makes me think he doesn't have delusions of grandeur like Hitler.  I think he can reliably be assumed to be someone who has a cozy lifestyle and wants to maintain it more than anything else and is willing to do anything and everything to maintain it.  This includes trying to play as if he's strong even when he knows he's weak but it's an immature, transparent and short-sighted play that fails to recognize the longer game.  I don't think he wants war, but I do fear he might be too stupid to avoid one.