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North Korea saber-rattling reaches new heights (LIVE BLOG)

As South Korea and the US rally their defenses, North Korea moves missiles and ratchets up its rhetoric with more detailed nuclear threats. Here's GlobalPost's continuous coverage.

GLOBALPOST LIVE BLOG: CONFLICT IN THE KOREAS

UPDATE: 4/5/13 4:12 PM ET

Report: North Korean media broadcasts footage of military drills

Reuters reports that North Korean state media on Friday released video from March of Kim Jong Un inspecting military drills:

UPDATE: 4/5/13 12:02 PM ET

GlobalPost correspondent: All quiet on the northern front

YANGJU, South Korea — Over the years, plenty of Koreans have explained how they feel when the North drums up the militant rhetoric. It's just a part of life, they usually say, and not as big of a deal here as it is in the American press.

Koreans don't see the blunt talk of their northern neighbor as reason to panic, even if some of them are on edge.

It's a sentiment that, among foreign correspondents here, has become popular fodder for jokes:

Read the rest of this report from GlobalPost's Geoffrey Cain.

UPDATE: 4/5/13 10:00 AM ET

Did you see this coming? Fidel Castro steps into the fray, urging calm

AFP — Communist icon Fidel Castro on Friday called on North Korea and the United States to avoid confrontation and reminded both sides of their "duties" towards peace.

"If a war breaks out there, there would be a terrible slaughter of people" in both North and South Korea "with no benefit for either of them," Castro wrote in a front-page article in Granma, the Communist Party's newspaper.

Read the rest of this article from Agence France-Presse.

UPDATE: 4/5/13 9:15 AM ET

Analysts weigh in

As Pyongyang and Washington toy with nuclear war, some question whether the Obama administration pushed the war games too far, writes GlobalPost's David Case.

Meanwhile, Veteran Asia correspondent Bradley K. Martin looks at the question, "What are the chances we’re about to see a Deng Xiaoping-style transformation of the North Korean economy?"

Read his piece here.

UPDATE: 4/5/13 9:13 AM ET

North Korea moves missiles, warns foreign embassies to evacuate

North Korea has warned foreign embassies to consider evacuating their staff from Pyongyang, amid reports that it now has two missiles in place on its east coast.

Seoul has deployed two radar-equipped warships on either side of the peninsula to track any missiles fired, according to officials, and is using its ground-based radar system and early-warning aircraft to watch for tell-tale signs of a launch.

Pyongyang, meanwhile, has advised several foreign embassies to consider clearing out of the capital.

Russian, British and German diplomats confirmed that the North Korean foreign ministry suggested they "examine the question of evacuating employees." The countries said they were evaluating the situation, but had no immediate plans to move staff.

Read more on this story from GlobalPost's Jessica Phelan.

UPDATE: 4/5/13 8:45 AM ET

The Friday morning latest on the Korean peninsula: A loaded calm

GlobalPost correspondent Geoffrey Cain sends this update from his location near the DMZ:

"I'm now in Yangju, a rural town a 30 minute's drive south of the demilitarized zone near the North Korea border. All is calm here, even though some locals are a little on edge.

'Those crazy sons of b*****s. [Communist] bastards,' says Yoon Jeong-hyun, a busboy at a pork barbecue restaurant. 'But what can we do about them? We deal with these threats every year or so. They're still [communists].'"

Follow Cain on Twitter @geoffrey_cain.

UPDATE: 4/4/13 4:45 PM ET

Signs of de-escalation on both sides?

The Wall Street Journal's Korea Realtime blog notes that while North Korea continues to ramp up its threats to the outside world, there are signals within the country that it might be easing off the rhetoric.

Jiro Ishimaru, chief editor of Rimjin-gang, a magazine featuring news from reporters inside North Korea, said Thursday that he recently spoke to a female civil-servant in Ryanggang province, northern North Korea, who said soldiers who have been stationed in underground military tunnels to be “combat-ready” have begun returning to their barracks, starting Monday.

“I’ve also heard that the ‘Jangmadang’ private markets in the region, which have been severely restricted in past months, have now returned to normal operations,” Mr. Ishimaru said, explaining that such easing also coincides with the coming of April, when farmers and civilian militia alike need to get on with spring planting.

On the other side of this game of chicken, Pentagon officials told CNN that they were concerned that American announcements of recent military deployments may have contributed to escalating tensions with the North.

"We accused the North Koreans of amping things up, now we are worried we did the same thing," one Defense Department official told CNN. Speaking anonymously, the official said, "we are trying to turn the volume down" on US rhetoric concerning North Korea.

"We are absolutely trying to ratchet back the rhetoric," said the official. "We become part of the cycle. We allowed that to happen."

Read more here.

UPDATE: 4/4/13 3:25 PM ET

What happens next?

NBC News looked at the likely scenarios if the situation on the Korean Peninsula gets out of control.

They made some educated guesses based on declassified US and UN assessments and the analysis from military scholars:

Because of the North Korean army's considerable size (fourth largest at 1.1 million members, according to intelligence assessments), North Korea would likely begin an attack with a massive ground assault.

South Korea, though it has a smaller army, is equipped with more modern weaponry, and the North would have to bypass around 28,000 US troops stationed along the Demilitarized Zone between the two countries before reaching the South.

Read the full story at NBC News.

UPDATE: 4/4/13 3:16 PM ET

Understanding the conflict in 5 key points

GlobalPost's senior foreign affairs columnist Nick Burns, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a former US diplomat, shares five thoughts on "how we might understand the politics and future trajectory of the latest crisis involving North Korea."

First, Burns writes, "President Obama has handled Kim’s undiplomatic outbursts effectively." But the crisis "also illuminates China’s failed strategy" in dealing with North Korea.

Still, "if China’s failure on North Korea is obvious, so is our own," Burns says.

Read his final two points here.

UPDATE: 4/4/13 2:23 PM ET

At least we can all laugh about it...for now

North Korea's leaders have long been the butt of jokes, ridicule and internet memes. (Everyone remember the classic "Kim Jong Il Looking at Things"?)

As Jeffrey Lewis writes in Foreign Policy, "The North Koreans deserve some of this. North Korea's propaganda is so vitriolic that it can be hard to take seriously," what with their "Map of Death" and bombastic (and badly photoshopped) propaganda videos

And so, GlobalPost presents:

North Korea conflict: A timeline in memes

UPDATE: 4/4/13 1:50 PM ET

Honoring the Great Leader with a ballistic missile?

South Korean media are reporting that Korean and US intelligence satellites have spotted North Korea moving what appears to be medium-range ballistic missiles to its east coast. Meanwhile, the regime said on Thursday that it has the "final approval" to launch "merciless" military assaults against the US, including the use of nuclear weapons.

But a missile attack isn't as likely as you'd think, despite the war rhetoric.

Analysts here in Seoul seem to agree that, if the press reports are true, the pariah state is probably prepping a test of the medium-range BM-25 Musudan missile. The device could, in theory, reach US bases in Japan and Guam.

Or could it be a symbolic commemoration?

GlobalPost's Geoffrey Cain reports from Seoul.

UPDATE: 4/4/13 1:05 PM ET

Everyone is concerned about North Korea

China, Russia and France have all spoken of their concern over the situation in the Korean Peninsula over the last few days.

In the present situation, China believes all sides must remain calm and exercise restraint and not take actions which are mutually provocative and must certainly not take actions which will worsen the situation," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Wednesday.

"Russia has to be worried as we are talking about an explosive situation in the immediate vicinity of our Far East borders," Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov told the Interfax news agency.

Read the full story here.

UPDATE: 4/4/13 12:40 PM ET

Just how oppressive is North Korea?

It doesn't take an expert to know North Korea isn't a haven for freedom and open economy, but just how bad would it be? So bad that the latest economic freedoms index by The Heritage Foundation put North Korea dead last with a total score of only 1.5.

It's also one thing to come in last, but North Korea really came in last: there's a 27 point difference between the Hermit Kingdom and the second-to-last Cuba. No other candidates in the list of 177 ranked countries have such a wide point margin.

Check out this interactive chart:

Read the rest of the story here.

UPDATE: 4/4/13 12:25 PM ET

Ramping up of tensions

The Associated Press reported on the North Korea crisis, including a clip from North Korean TV about the latest threats from Pyongyang and US Ambassador to South Korea Sung Kim's statement.

Watch:

UPDATE: 4/4/13 12:11 PM ET

Kim Jong Un, winning the news

"Kim Jong Un may be a dangerous, totalitarian man-child, but he knows how to work the press," writes Foreign Policy's John Hudson.

According to Google Trends, interest in the search term "North Korea" climbed higher in April than at any other point in the last decade. A LexisNexis search of newspapers showed a 49-percent increase in articles on the isolated country.

"On the surface, Kim is using the same playbook as his late father: Scare the Western world with the threat of nuclear destruction in exchange for a desired outcome. But in his execution, Kim has broken new ground with a calculated slow-drip formula that involves issuing a unique threat each day of the week," writes Hudson.

So are we all just being played by Lil' Kim? Will he run out of threats to issue?

Read the full story here.

UPDATE: 4/4/13 11:31 AM ET

Kim Jong Un and his military photo-ops

http://www.globalpost.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/gp3_slideshow_large/photos/2013-March/kim_un_military_11.jpg

 

What's the message we're supposed to receive from state-snapped photos like these of Kim Jong Un, who has lately been very busy as tensions with South Korea and the US continue to increase?

Well, perhaps that is the message — Kim Jong Un is very busy doing important things, and he's got everything under control.

See the rest of GlobalPost's gallery here.

UPDATE: 4/4/13 11:16 AM ET

Whither China?

As the situation on the Korean peninsula continues to escalate, will China turn its back on "little brother" North Korea, or hold strong in its promised defense of its communist sibling?

North Korean threats to launch a nuclear attack on the United States have left its closest ally, Beijing, in a difficult position.

Under a treaty signed half a century ago, China is obliged to “render military and other assistance by all means at its disposal” in the event North Korea comes under “armed attack by any state.”

GlobalPost's correspondent in Hong Kong predicts that China won't leave its little brother in the lurch. Read why.

UPDATE: 4/4/13 10:40 AM ET

South Korean won slides on continued conflict with the North

South Korea's Kospi index tumbled to a four-month low on Thursday, the sharpest decline since Nov. 15 — an economic malady that can likely be chalked up to continuing tensions with the North.

The South Korean won also tumbled to a half year low, as the threat of a potentially nuclear conflict with North Korea's belligerent regime scared off potential investors.

Read the full story here.

UPDATE: 4/4/13 9:19 AM ET

Hackers hijack pro-North Korea website Uriminzokkiri...again

Pro-North Korea website Uriminzokkiri.com has been hijacked by hackers who accuse Kim Jong Un of "threatening world peace."

Uriminzokkiri's main site was offline Thursday morning, while its Twitter feed, Flickr stream and a number of companion websites had their content replaced with anti-North Korea messages.

Notably, the hackers posted a cartoon wanted poster of Kim Jong Un – "aka Nuke Nuke Mickey Lover" – with a list of his alleged crimes, including "threatening world peace with ICBMs and nuclear weapons," "wasting money while his people starve to death," and "concentration camps and the worst human rights violation in the world."

North Korea's supreme leader was drawn as a pig, with a huge tattoo of Mickey Mouse. Other images showed the Anonymous hacker collective's iconic Guy Fawkes mask covering the North Korean flag.

Read the full story here.

Hackers aren't the only ones who've been calling Kim Jong Un by other names. Comedian Stephen Colbert weighed in on the conflict on Tuesday night:

 

UPDATE: 4/4/13 6:29 AM ET

North Korea moves missile after nuclear threat against US

North Korea has moved a nuclear-capable missile with "considerable range" to its eastern coast, though Seoul downplayed concerns that it could be used in an attack on the US.

The missile isn’t capable of hitting the US mainland, Bloomberg cited South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan Jin as telling lawmakers.

The move is being interpreted as the latest in a string of provocations by Pyongyang.

The Yonhap news agency quoted an unnamed South Korean official who said they were "closely monitoring whether the North moved it with a view to actual launch or just as a show of force against the US."

North Korea on Thursday morning local time issued another threat against US, saying that that its military has been cleared to wage an attack on the US using "smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear" weapons.

Deutsche Welle cited a statement by North Korea's official KCNA news agency on Thursday as saying the general staff of the Korea People's Army had "ratified" a nuclear attack on the US.

In response to that move, US Defense Department spokesperson Lt. Col. Cathy Wilkinson told GlobalPost:

"We've seen today's statement by North Korea, again making unhelpful and unconstructive threats. It is yet another offering in a long line of provocative statements that only serve to further isolate North Korea from the rest of the international community and undermine its goal of economic development. North Korea should stop its provocative threats and instead concentrate on abiding by its international obligations."

The US announced shortly before North Korea's statement that it is moving an advanced missile defense system to Guam, in the Pacific, in the next several weeks — two years ahead of schedule.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has warned that North Korea is a "real and clear danger" to the US and its allies.

Japan's Asahi newspaper, meanwhile, reported that a US intelligence satellite spotted what appeared to be a long-range KN-08 missile being transported on a train in North Korea to the Sea of Japan coast.

The missile being moved was said to be a Musudan-type medium range missile.

The Musudan, also known as the BM-25, is a medium-range ground-launched missile that could be fitted with a nuclear warhead, although analysts doubt the North could do that.

 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/south-korea/130404/north-korea-live-blog-nuclear-threats-strike-us-kim-jong-un