TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 1)
N. Korea continues nuclear threats, bashing South Korea-U.S. summit
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Amid signs of heightened nuclear activity, North Korea has resumed threats to carry out another nuclear test. The latest threats have been in protest of remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama during his most recent visit to Seoul. The North also bashed South Korean President Park Geun-hye in explicit and crude terms after her summit with Obama.
The National Defense Commission (NDC), Pyongyang's most powerful body, warned the United States of a possible nuclear test or intercontinental ballistic missile launch, attacking Obama's recent comments about the reclusive country.
"We would like to declare once again that the DPRK's nukes are not to get recognition or permission from someone," said the NDC in a statement on April 28 conveyed by the North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). "It is not a bargaining chip for economic dealings either." DPRK is North Korea's official name.
North Korea had attacked South Korean President Park on April 27 over her summit with Obama, saying she insulted the dignity and regime of the communist nation.
Park and Obama held summit talks in Seoul on April 25 amid indications that North Korea is fully prepared to conduct another nuclear test.
Recently, heightened activity has been detected at North Korea's underground nuclear test site, an indication of possible preparations for another atomic test. The communist nation previously conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013.
In a joint news conference with Obama, Park warned Pyongyang that a new form of provocation would lead to new levels of pressure from the international community. Obama also told Pyongyang that, "Threats will get North Korea nothing, other than greater isolation."
The North's NDC said, however, that "Obama's trip was nothing but an abnormal burlesque staged at the repeated coquetry and request made by his female stooge driven into a tight corner for her 'yusin' fascist rule of modern type and unpopular rule."
According to the NDC statement, Obama called for tougher international sanctions and greater cooperation in the campaign against the North and agreed with his South Korean counterpart on building a missile shield and deferring the transfer of the right to control wartime operations under the pretext of the DPRK's nuclear activities and rocket launches for self-defense.
North Korea's foreign ministry added on April 29 that South Korea would be reduced to ashes if a war broke out on the Korean Peninsula, in the latest verbal attack against President Park for her unification initiative.
Park has called for, among other things, the bolstering of cross-border exchanges as a first step toward building trust between the sides to lay the groundwork for unification of the two Koreas.
She unveiled the proposal, called the Dresden Declaration, during her trip to the former East German city of Dresden in March.
The North has claimed that Park's initiative is designed to hurt its socialist system and to bring about unification under democracy.
The North's foreign ministry also claimed that Obama's tour was a dangerous one as it aimed at creating greater confrontation and a nuclear arms race in Asia.
"After flying into South Korea he agreed to postpone indefinitely the transfer of the right to command wartime operations by the U.S. forces present in South Korea and build a missile shield with the South Korean puppet forces involved," a spokesman for the North's foreign ministry said.
"The DPRK will advance along the road of bolstering up nuclear deterrent, unhindered, now that the U.S. brings the dark clouds of a nuclear war to hang over the DPRK," the spokesman said. "There is no statute of limitations to the DPRK's declaration that it will not rule out a new form of nuclear test clarified by it in the March 30 statement."
Angered by a condemnation by the United Nations Security Council over its ballistic missile tests, North Korea threatened on March 30 to conduct a "new form of nuclear test," apparently referring to a blast involving a nuclear device built with highly enriched uranium, its second source of fissile material used for atomic bombs after plutonium.
On April 27, North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, which handles inter-Korean affairs, bristled at remarks made by President Park at her summit with Obama.
"Park Geun-hye met Obama and wickedly took issue with our nuclear (program), our parallel pursuit (of economic development and nuclear armament), and our dignity and regime, letting out a stream of criticism," a spokesman for the committee said in a statement carried by the KCNA.
Seoul and Washington have warned that the North's dual-track policy is a dead end for the communist country. The North has called its nuclear programs a "treasured sword" against what it describes as Washington's policy of hostility.
The spokesman also claimed that there is no hope for the future of inter-Korean relations as long as Park remains in power, saying her remarks amounted to a declaration of war.
"Obama's visit to South Korea showed that the United States must be confronted not with words but only with power, and that our judgment and determination that there should be a final settlement through an all-out nuclear battle were completely correct," the statement said.
South and North Korea accused each other of violating their February agreement to halt smears against each other.
On April 29, the North's main newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, said that a war could break out if the rival Koreas seek unification without making concessions in their political systems. "A war would reduce South Korea to ashes and return it to the stone age," the newspaper said.
The newspaper published by the North's ruling Workers' Party called Park a "pathetic political prostitute" for inciting confrontation with the North in cahoots with U.S. President Obama.
North Korea has long been accused of grave human rights abuses ranging from holding hundreds of thousands of political prisoners in concentration camps to committing torture and carrying out public executions.
As to the delay of the wartime control, Obama said during a joint news conference with Park after their summit meeting that, "We can reconsider the 2015 timeline for transferring operational control for our alliance" to cope with threats from North Korea,
South Korea handed over control of its forces to the U.S. during the 1950-53 Korean War to defend against invading troops from North Korea. Peacetime control of its forces was returned in 1994, and South Korea is scheduled to get back wartime control in December 2015.
But in 2013, Seoul asked for a delay in the transfer after North Korea conducted its third nuclear test, saying the security situation on the peninsula was markedly different from when the transfer was agreed upon a few years ago.
"The North Korea situation is of direct concern to us not only because it threatens our key allies in the region ... but it also poses direct threat to us," Obama said, adding that Pyongyang's missile and nuclear technologies "poses a threat to the U.S." when they are matched with a "thoroughly irresponsible foreign policy."
Both Park and Obama expressed hope that China will play a greater role in deterring the North. "China is beginning to realize that North Korea is not just a nuisance. This is a significant problem to their own security," Obama said. "We've encouraged them to exert greater influence over North Korea."
Park also urged China to exercise its leadership to rein in North Korea.
After the summit, Park and Obama paid a joint visit to the command center for joint military operations between the two allies on April 26 in a symbolic move underscoring their unity in deterring North Korea.
Before wrapping up his two-day visit, Obama delivered a speech to American service members at Yongsan Garrison, in which he stressed the unwavering U.S. commitment in the region.
"The commitment that the United States of America has made to the security of the Republic of Korea only grows stronger in the face of aggression," Obama said. "Our alliance does not waver with each bout of their attention-seeking. It just gains the support of the rest of the world."
North Korea's continued pursuit of nuclear weapons is a path that leads only to more isolation, Obama said, emphasizing the importance of concerted efforts between the U.S. and South Korea to deter the threat posed by the unpredictable communist regime.
"We don't use our military might to impose these things on others, but we will not hesitate to use our military might to defend our allies and our way of life," Obama said.
Meanwhile, South Korea and China have been discussing holding a summit as early as late May, government sources said on April 28. China's President Xi Jinping had been planning to visit Seoul in mid-2014 for a summit meeting with President Park. The ongoing discussion to advance the talks is seen as being aimed at preventing a possible nuclear test by Pyongyang in the near future.
"(South Korea) is having discussions with the Chinese side with the aim to hold the Seoul-Beijing summit meeting within the first half of this year," a source said.
The sources also said that China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi may visit South Korea ahead of the Chinese president as part of preparation efforts for the summit meeting.
China, a long-time ally and sponsor of North Korea, has recently ratcheted up its pressure on Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons, while also stepping up the country's implementation of the United Nations' punitive sanctions against North Korea's nuclear activities.
In Beijing on April 25, China's official Xinhua news agency said North Korea should abandon its nuclear ambitions and refrain from conducting "nuclear and ballistic-missile tests," shortly after U.S. President Obama warned the North against carrying out its fourth nuclear test.
"For the DPRK, it needs to understand that a nuclear-armed Korean Peninsula serves the fundamental interests of none," Xinhua said in a commentary. "It is imperative that it comply with its due international obligations and refrain from such moves as nuclear and ballistic-missile tests."
It is rare for the Chinese official news agency to speak against North Korea's provocations by mentioning the North by name.
China said April 24 it will not permit chaos on its doorstep, in another thinly veiled warning to its wayward ally North Korea. "Peace and stability is in the immediate interests of China. We will by no means allow war or chaos to occur on our doorstep," China's foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters, when asked about the possibility of a fourth nuclear test by North Korea.
The comments by Qin echo those of Chinese leaders, but were the strongest yet by the Chinese foreign ministry in response to recent reports that North Korea appears to have completed technical preparations for a nuclear test.
"We hope that all other parties concerned can bear in mind the larger interests and make joint efforts with China to realize denuclearization, peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," Qin said.
Asked whether China is making efforts to avert a nuclear test by North Korea, Qin replied, "We are in communication and coordination with all parties concerned. We call on other parties concerned to cooperate with our efforts. We set the platform, and we hope that others will not ruin our efforts."
Meanwhile, Choson Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper published in Japan, argued that Seoul's talk of an imminent nuclear test by it is an attempt to shift public attention away from the deadly sinking of a ferry off South Korea's southwest coast.
"The talk about North Korea's nuclear test is being handed out by the South Korean government over to the media and it's one of the makeshift crisis control tricks aimed at taking people's attention to elsewhere," said the newspaper in a report.
But it was not clear whether the newspaper article indicates North Korea's dismissal of the widespread speculation of a possible additional nuclear test.
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