More Screaming From The Korean Peninsula
North Korea draws out the sabers over their neighbors to the south joining the Proliferation Security Initiative.
North Korea threatened Wednesday to launch military strikes against South Korea if any of its ships were stopped or searched as part of an American-led operation to intercept vessels suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction.
South Korea agreed to join the global interdiction program after North Korea tested a nuclear device on Monday — its second nuclear test in three years. The North had earlier warned the South not to participate in the effort, known as the Proliferation Security Initiative.
“We consider this a declaration of war against us,” an unidentified North Korean military spokesman said Wednesday in a statement carried by the North’s official news agency, KCNA. “Any hostile act against our peaceful vessels, including search and seizure, will be considered an unpardonable infringement on our sovereignty and we will immediately respond with a powerful military strike.”
The North Koreans also said in the statement that they “no longer feel bound by the armistice” that ended the fighting in the 1950-53 Korean War. Technically, the two Koreas have remained at war for more than 50 years, because the 1953 armistice never gave way to a final peace treaty. North Korea has previously called the armistice a “useless piece of paper.”
I guess this newfound bluster is a combination of testing a young President and jockeying for power inside North Korea in the event of the death of Dear Leader. Regardless, their threat is ridiculous. The Proliferation Security Initiative, maybe the only half-decent thing John Bolton ever came up with, allows South Korea, in this case, to search ships in their own territorial waters suspected of carrying WMD. North Korea may try to provoke a skirmish at the DMZ, but their true threat is from selling weapons technology to other nations. I believe in a strong nonproliferation effort, no matter how much North Korea screams.
More interesting than North Korea's idle threats is the evolution of China on the matter. Not only have they signed on to the strong statement condemning the nuclear test, but Kevin Drum finds this:
North Korea's latest nuclear test raises the question of just how long the bonds forged between old communist allies will endure....Increasingly, China itself is questioning whether the relationship is worth the effort.
Within the Chinese intelligentsia there is a deep divide over how to handle North Korea. The Global Times, a newspaper with close party ties, Tuesday published a survey of 20 of the country's top foreign policy experts. It found them split down the middle — 10 arguing for tough sanctions against North Korea, 10 opposed.
If China throws down the hammer, North Korea will truly be isolated, far more than they are today. International solidarity is more important than the belligerence of empty threats.