World on Edge over North Korea

USS Fitzgerald shifted to waters off the Korean peninsula.

North Korea is relentlessly continuing its provocative rhetoric and actions in the wake of its ballistic missile and nuclear arms tests, which had prompted more stringent sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council earlier this year. North Korea's young dictator, Kim Jong-un, led the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party plenary meeting Sunday in declaring that North Korea's continued build up of its nuclear arms stockpile was not negotiable. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) of North Korea quoted from the meeting as follows:

The nuclear weapons of Songun Korea are not goods for getting U.S. dollars and they are neither a political bargaining chip nor a thing for economic dealings to be presented to the place of dialogue or be put on the table of negotiations aimed at forcing the DPRK to disarm itself... The DPRK's nuclear armed forces represent the nation's life which can never be abandoned as long as the imperialists and nuclear threats exist on earth.

Only when the nuclear shield for self-defence is held fast, will it be possible to shatter the U.S. imperialists' ambition for annexing the Korean Peninsula by force and making the Korean people modern slaves, firmly defend our ideology, social system and all other socialist treasures won at the cost of blood and safeguard the nation's right to existence and its time-honored history and brilliant culture.

KCNA also reported that during an Easter service "the participants renewed the firm resolution to put the warmongers [the US and South Korea] into the red hot iron-pot of hell as early as possible."

The plenary ruling party meeting was reportedly the first of its kind in twenty years, underlining Kim Jong-un's determination to get the attention he craves on the world stage, shore up his credentials with his military and consolidate his power by mobilizing his people to be prepared for war. The party meeting came just days after Kim Jong-un put the military's rocket forces on standby to strike the U.S. mainland, American bases in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and U.S. bases in South Korea. The dictator had also issued a challenge that “the time has come to settle scores with the U.S. imperialists.” This in turn followed North Korea's decision to declare the 1953 armistice with South Korea null and void and to cut off its military communications hot lines with South Korea. The only remaining shred of inter-Korean cooperation is the joint industrial park at the border town of Kaesong, which North Korea has threatened to shut down.

South Korea, needless to say, is on high alert and taking no chances, but not panicking. Seoul, South Korea's capital, is reported to be calm at this point. South Korea's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Kim Sook was quoted by Inner City Press as saying on Monday that he hoped North Korea is “a barking dog, not a biting dog,” but that South Korea “would retaliate.” South Korean President Park Geun-hye appeared to signal that she would leave the matter of any military response to an "abrupt and surprise provocations by North Korea" to her military's judgment.

The Obama administration is also taking North Korea's threats seriously, but not overreacting. It has been taking measured steps to demonstrate its resolve to defend South Korea if North Korea decides to launch an attack.  For example, NBC News reports that the U.S. Navy is shifting a guided-missile destroyer in the Pacific to waters off the Korean peninsula. The destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, can intercept and destroy a missile, which would provide further deterrence to any decision by North Korea to launch a missile attack.

A group of U.S. F-22 stealth fighter jets were flown Sunday from an air base in Japan to one located south of Seoul, to join the current joint military exercises in South Korea. Last Thursday, a pair of U.S. Air Force nuclear-capable B-2 bombers were sent from a base in the United States for a flight over South Korea. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the stealth bomber flights were intended to demonstrate to our allies in the region “that they can count on us to be prepared and to help them deter conflict.”

President Obama's top national security adviser, Tom Donilon, said last month that "North Korea's claims may be hyperbolic, but as to the policy of the United States, there should be no doubt: we will draw upon the full range of our capabilities to protect against, and to respond to, the threat posed to us and to our allies by North Korea."

Donilon also warned North Korea not to count on its threats to bring the United States and its allies back to the negotiating table to offer another economic lifeline in return for North Korea's meaningless promise to scale back its nuclear activities.  "The United States refuses to reward bad North Korean behavior," Donilon said. "The United States will not play the game of accepting empty promises or yielding to threats. As former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates has said, we won't buy the same horse twice. We have made clear our openness to authentic negotiations with North Korea. In return, however, we've only seen provocations and extreme rhetoric."

While most analysts consider North Korea's bellicose threats to strike the U.S. mainland directly a bluff that the regime is incapable of carrying out at its present technological level, South Korea and Japan are within easy target range. And miscalculations can quickly mushroom out of control.

Moreover, North Korea's continued buildup of nuclear arms and long range missile capacities, in concert with its ally Iran's own buildup which North Korea is helping, does not give us much breathing room. It is only a matter of time before the United States is at serious risk of being vulnerable to attack by the megalomaniacs running these two surviving members of what President George W. Bush correctly called the "axis of evil."

According to Reza Kahlili, who served in CIA Directorate of Operations, as a spy in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and still has highly placed sources in the Iranian regime, North Korea is helping Iranian scientists to develop new ways to miniaturize and make more powerful nuclear bombs, as well as neutron warheads that can be used to launch crippling electromagnetic pulse attacks.

All that we can do at this point is contain the North Korean nuclear threat and use military force to destroy their nuclear facilities and infrastructure as a last resort. However, the alliance between North Korea and Iran makes it more imperative than ever for the Obama administration to prevent Iran, by whatever means necessary, from ever reaching the critical point of no return in developing nuclear bombs and moving towards achieving its objective of a deployed force of nuclear weapons on intermediate and inter-continental missiles.

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