Pyongyang steps up the war of words
Updated: 2013-04-12 07:11
'Powerful striking means' touted as missile fears continue to grow
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea delivered a fresh round of rhetoric on Thursday with claims it has "powerful striking means" on standby for a launch, as Seoul and Washington speculated the country is preparing to test a medium-range missile during upcoming national celebrations.
On the streets of Pyongyang, meanwhile, residents celebrated the anniversary of leader Kim Jong-un's appointment to the country's top Party post - one in a slew of titles collected a year ago in the months after his father Kim Jong-il's death.
Pyongyang residents dance together in the city on Thursday, to mark the first anniversary of the appointment of the country's top party post to leader Kim Jong-un. David Guttenfelder / Associated Press
The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, a non-military agency that deals with relations with the Republic of Korea, didn't elaborate on its warning of a strike. The statement is the latest in a torrent of warlike threats that pressure Seoul and Washington into changing their policy toward Pyongyang.
Officials in Seoul and Washington say Pyongyang appears to be preparing to test-fire a medium-range missile designed to reach the US territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean.
On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow hopes for positive developments on the Korean peninsula. "We believe the situation is very grave, because nuclear tests and missiles launches are not jokes," he said.
Analysts do not believe Pyongyang will stage an attack similar to the one that started the Korean War in 1950. But there are concerns that the animosity could spark a skirmish that could escalate into a serious conflict.
The Musudan missile has a range of 3,500 km and is designed to reach US military installations in Guam and Japan, experts say.
Bracing for a launch, which officials said could take place at any time, Seoul deployed three naval destroyers, an early-warning surveillance aircraft and a land-based radar system, a Defense Ministry official said in Seoul, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with department rules. Japan deployed PAC-3 missile interceptors around Tokyo.
But officials in Seoul played down security fears, noting that no foreign government has evacuated its citizens from either Pyongyang or Seoul.
The war talk is seen as a way for Pyongyang to draw attention to the precariousness of the security situation on the peninsula and to boost the military credentials of young leader Kim Jong-un.
For weeks, the US and the ROK have been engaged in annual military drills meant to show the allies' military might. Pyongyang condemns the drills as a rehearsal for an invasion.
Citing the tensions, the DPRK on Monday pulled more than 50,000 workers from the Kaesong industrial park. It is the first time that production has stopped at the decade-old factory park, the only remaining symbol of economic cooperation between the two countries.
In Pyongyang, meanwhile, there was no sense of panic. Across the city, workers were preparing for a series of April holidays.
Students donned suits and traditional dresses to celebrate Kim Jong-un's appointment as first secretary of the Workers' Party a year ago.
A flower show and art performances are scheduled over the next few days in the lead-up to the nations' biggest holiday, the April 15 birthday of DPRK founder Kim Il-sung, grandfather of the current leader.
No military parade or mass events are expected over the coming week, but Pyongyang historically uses major holidays to show off its military power, and analysts say it could well mark the occasion with a missile launch in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions barring it from nuclear and missile activity.
"However tense the situation is, we will mark the Day of the Sun in a significant way," Kim Kwang-chon, a Pyongyang citizen, said, referring to the April 15 birthday. "We will celebrate the Day of the Sun even if war breaks out tomorrow."
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