Wednesday, May 27, 2009

DPRK News Update: US Warmongers Accused of Stepping Up Military Moves; North Korea Not Bound by Armstice

U.S. Warmongers Accused of Stepping up Military Moves against the DPRK

Pyongyang, May 26 (KCNA) -- The U.S. warlike forces are now contemplating forward-deploying two squadrons of F-22 in Japan and Guam after winding up the deployment of 30 land-based interceptor missiles targeted against the DPRK. Rodong Sinmun Tuesday observes in a signed commentary in this regard:

These moves lay bare the sinister and dangerous scenario of the U.S. to put the Asia-Pacific region under its military control.

The U.S. remains unchanged in its way of thinking and wild ambition that it can dominate the world only when it puts the above-said region under its control. The aim sought by the U.S. imperialists through the deployment of F-22s is to carry out its blitz strategy based on a surprise pre-emptive attack upon any target.

Recalling that the DPRK is the first target of their attack on the Asia-Pacific region, the commentary notes: The present U.S. administration is talking about what it called a "change" and "bilateral dialogue" but it is, in actuality, pursuing the same reckless policy as followed by the former Bush administration to stifle the DPRK by force of arms.

It goes on:

The DPRK has single-minded unity more powerful than nuclear weapons and invincible military capability unfathomable in its range and depth.

The U.S. moves to mount a pre-emptive attack on the DPRK are as foolish an attempt as taking oil to extinguish the fire.

The army and people of the DPRK are keeping themselves fully combat ready with a high degree of vigilance against the above-mentioned moves of the U.S. imperialists.

The U.S. would be well advised to halt at once its dangerous military moves against the DPRK if it wants to escape the lot of a tiger moth, bearing deep in mind that any attempt to make a pre-emptive attack on the DPRK is little short of inviting a disaster itself.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009
14:29 Mecca time, 11:29 GMT

N Korea 'not bound by armistice'

North Korea has threatened the South with "unimaginable merciless punishment"

North Korea has declared an end to its half-century-old armistice with the South, saying that it sees Seoul's move to join a US-led anti-proliferation initiative as a "declaration of war".

The warning carried on state media on Wednesday comes two days after North Korea conducted a second nuclear test and also follows a series of missile launches.

The announcement also came amid reports in South Korean media that the North had restarted its main plutonium producing nuclear reactor at Yongbyon.

The reactor had previously been mothballed under a six-nation aid for disarmament deal, but in April the North said it had scrapped the agreement and would resume work on building nuclear weapons.

Following the Monday's nuclear test South Korea announced it would become a full member of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a US-led drive to curb trade in weapons of mass destruction.

It said the decision had already been taken following the North's controversial April 2 rocket launch, although the formal announcement was brought forward following the nuclear test.

But the move has provoked an angry reaction from the North which warned on Wednesday that any interception of its ships would constitute an "unpardonable infringement" on its sovereignty which would be met with "merciless punishment".

"Any tiny hostile acts against our republic, including the stopping and searching of our peaceful vessels... will face an immediate and strong military strike in response," it said in a statement by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Saying that the US had drawn South Korea into the PSI, the North Korean statement said it would also "no longer be bound" by the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War.

Without a binding ceasefire "the Korean peninsula will go back to a state of war", a North Korean military representative was quoted as saying, adding that the North's troops would take "corresponding military action".

Icy ties

"The US imperialists and the traitor Lee Myung-Bak's group have driven the situation on the Korean peninsula into a state of war," the statement added.

Cross-border ties have been icy since Lee, the South Korean president, took office in Seoul in February 2008 and declared Seoul would take a tougher stance with the North.

The warning from the North came as South Korea's largest newspaper reported that the North had re-started its nuclear fuel reprocessing plant.

The Chosun Ilbo said US spy satellites had spotted activity at the plant in Yongbyon, indicating that operations to produce weapons-grade plutonium had resumed.

"There are various indications that reprocessing facilities in Yongbyon resumed operation [and] have been detected by US surveillance satellite, and these include steam coming out of the facility," it quoted an unnamed government source as saying.

The North had previously agreed to dismantle Yongbyon under a breakthrough deal in 2007, but the follow-up agreements fell apart and the six-party talks that concluded the agreement have since stalled.

Al Jazeera's Tony Cheng, reporting from Seoul, said the report of fresh activity at Yongbyon was credible given the North's angry threat in April that it would resume work at the plant.

That came after North Korea fired a rocket that it said had placed a satellite into orbit in April, although the US said it believed the launch was a cover for a test of long-range missile technology.


On Tuesday diplomats at the UN Security Council continued talks on possible action in response to the North's latest test but said they would need time to agree on a new resolution for further sanctions.

Susan Rice, the US envoy to the UN, said members wanted a "strong resolution with teeth", and that sanctions "could take very different forms" and might include "economic levers", she told CNN without elaborating.

The international community, including the North's main ally China, has strongly condemned the latest nuclear test but it is unclear how far China and Russia, two of the council's five permanent members, would go.

Both had last month blocked a new resolution to punish the North for its April 5 rocket launch.

Reacting to the council deliberations, North Korea's state media poured scorn on efforts to implement new sanctions.

"It is a ludicrous idea for the US to think that it can defeat us by sanctions," Minju Joson, the North's official cabinet newspaper, said.

"We have been living under US sanctions for decades. The US hostile policy towards us is like beating a rock with a rotten egg."

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Wednesday, May 27, 2009
11:17 Mecca time, 08:17 GMT

North Korea's nuclear trump card

By Joe Havely

When North Korea announced for the first time in February 2005 that it had nuclear weapons, the claim was dismissed by the Bush administration as bluster and "rhetoric".

"North Korea's words and actions will only deepen their international isolation," Scott McClellan, the then White House spokesman, told reporters.

Eighteen months later, on October 6, 2006, the high-stakes poker game reached a critical point as North Korea called Washington's bluff and conducted its first nuclear test.

Whether that test was a success or not remains a matter of debate. Some estimates have put the yield from the 2006 test at less than a kilotonne – a relatively small blast in nuclear terms, leading to speculation that the main component of the device failed to detonate.

Either way, dud or not, the political shockwaves from the underground blast were felt far and wide.

Now, almost a year and a half later, North Korea has conducted a second and reportedly much larger test – a gesture of defiance just two months after it triggered international outrage with its launch of a long-range rocket.

That combination – long-range rockets, plus atomic explosives - has many worried.

But exactly what kind of a threat does North Korea pose?

Ron Huisken, a nuclear non-proliferation expert at the Australian National University, says that the latest test is a signal the North is committed to retaining its nuclear capability. But, he says, it does not in itself prove North Korea is a clear and present nuclear danger.

"North Korea can't actually do anything at this point," he told Al Jazeera.

"To the best of our knowledge, it hasn't actually weaponised its nuclear material. Certainly it hasn't miniaturised it to the point where you can put a bomb on an airplane or – even more technically demanding – on top of a missile."


The Yongbyon reactor is believed to have produced plutonium for about eight bombs
According to US estimates, North Korea has extracted enough plutonium to build six to eight nuclear bombs.

The North itself has repeatedly referred to a nuclear "stockpile" which it says serves as a "deterrent" against what it sees as the imminent threat of US invasion.

Its nuclear plant at Yongbyon, which is believed to have resumed work after the North abandoned six-party disarmament talks in April, is thought to be capable of producing enough plutonium for about one more bomb a year.

That may be the case, but it is important to bear in mind the caveat that much of what is said to be "known" about North Korea's nuclear programme is based on very limited intelligence.

Those limitations were shown most recently by the apparent ease with which the North – one of the world's poorest countries - was able to take the rest of the world by surprise with its latest test.

Weapons development

John Large, a UK-based nuclear analyst and engineer, says a key factor to watch in the coming weeks will be whether the North conducts more nuclear tests, and particularly whether it matches them with further tests of long-range missile technology.

"If now we see a succession of tests, that will suggest that there's a development programme of the weapon itself towards the final production model - and trying to match the weapon to a delivery system," he told Al Jazeera.

"Put those two together and the threat from North Korea becomes very, very real."

For the time being though, estimates on the size of North Korea's nuclear arsenal remain just that – estimates.

No outsider has ever seen a North Korean nuclear device and no photographs have been released.

As a result, few beyond the most senior North Korean officials have any idea what form North Korea's nuclear weapons are in or where they are kept.

Indeed, the issue of what to do with the weapons "stockpile" the North supposedly already has proved so complex and cloaked in secrecy that it was largely sidelined in the six-party disarmament talks.

With the Bush administration desperate to secure a foreign policy success in its final months, US negotiators repeatedly scaled back on what aspects of its weapons programme North Korea was expected to declare.

Now, with Pyongyang apparently having turned its back on the six-nation talks, the condition, location and usability of its alleged arsenal is even more confused and uncertain.

Warhead design

In addition, while North Korea may not itself have mastered the processes of weaponising its nuclear devices, questions remain over whether it might have acquired that technology from elsewhere - perhaps using its own proven missile technology as a bargaining chip.

Western intelligence officials have focused attention on alleged co-operation between North Korea and Pakistan, with suggestions that Pakistani scientists may have offered assistance in warhead design in return for North Korean missile know-how.

Then there is the question of how secure North Korea's alleged nuclear "stockpile" actually is.

That raises the possibility of what counter-proliferation experts call the "loose nukes" scenario – the prospect that a cash-strapped North Korea, or a North Korean official, might secretly sell one or more of its bombs to anyone willing to pay.

'Arms race'

Beyond that, there is the broader perception factor, and how North Korea's apparent determination to retain and expand its nuclear arsenal will be seen and interpreted by its neighbours.

John Large, the UK-based nuclear analyst, says North Korea's latest steps - particularly if it is followed by further nuclear tests - could trigger a regional nuclear arms race.

"The problem is that you have two powers in particular that are not yet nuclear powers but could very easily be – Japan and South Korea," he told Al Jazeera.

"And the historic antagonism between Japan and the Korean peninsula is well established."

With Japan already in possession of a sophisticated civilian nuclear programme, Large says the general consensus is that Japan, if it felt sufficiently threatened, could develop its own atomic weapons within a matter of months.

If Japan goes down the nuclear road, others in the region would be under pressure to follow suit, raising the stakes once again for an already deeply paranoid North Korea.


Having isolated itself from the world for more than half a century, North Korea has become a master of secrecy and deception – using unpredictability as its most powerful weapon.

For years it has been widely accepted that what North Korea craves is attention and recognition.

Most importantly, so the thinking goes, it craves recognition from and direct talks with the US.

But that is not all North Korea wants - it also wants to survive.

North Korea's leaders and its most senior military commanders have too much at stake to risk the collapse of the secretive, highly militarised, and deeply paranoid state over which they rule.

North Korea is a country built on illusion, lies, half truths and propaganda - reality comes a long way down the list.

But that does not mean it is not a danger.

The more belligerent it becomes, the more agreements it scraps, the more talks it walks away from, the less likely it is that the process of peaceful disarmament remains an option.

To date, only one country in history has actually given up a weapons programme that had successfully produced atomic weapons.

That country was South Africa, which ran a secret weapons development programme in the 1970s and 80s, the height of the apartheid era, producing six uranium-based weapons.

The programme was admitted to only in 1993, after the bombs had been disassembled and production facilities destroyed; and as South Africa - a relatively prosperous and stable country - made its transition to democratic rule.

For a country as diplomatically isolated and impoverished as North Korea, nuclear weapons are its sole trump card.

Source: Al Jazeera

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