The Korean Peninsula is fraught with tension as its new leaders engage in a battle of words and will — with the North on Monday voiding the cease-fire that halted the Korean War in 1953 and the South placing its troops on high alert.
The tense posturing on the divided peninsula shows no sign of easing soon: North Korea shut down a Red Cross hot-line that it and South Korea have used for general communication, as the South conducted military exercises with the United States on Monday.
North Korea’s increasing belligerence under third-generation dictator Kim Jong-un has been a challenge and a disappointment for the South’s new president, Park Geun-hye, who during her campaign last year offered to send economic aid to the North if Pyongyang moved to denuclearize the peninsula.
“She is no softie when it comes to North Korea, and will respond in kind if the North Koreans do something provocative,” said Victor Cha, senior adviser and Korea chairman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Ms. Park, who was inaugurated Feb. 25, “will always be open to humanitarian assistance to North Korea, but not if the North Koreans are killing South Korean citizens,” Mr. Cha said. “She talked about building trust in the inter-Korean relationship during her campaign, but at the same time she is no pushover.”
Still, hostilities between the two Koreas haven’t been as prominent since 2010, when the North shelled an island occupied by the South and killed two marines and two civilians. Earlier that year, 46 South Korean sailors died when their warship sank after an explosion — which an international probe determined was caused by a North Korean torpedo.
Provocations by the North have bred the latest tension, after it launched a three-stage rocket in December and conducted a nuclear test in February — both in violation of U.N. sanctions. The North also has threatened a nuclear attack on the U.S., but military analysts say the communist regime lacks the know-how to fabricate a missile with an atomic warhead.
In a speech at the Asia Society in New York, Mr. Donilon called on China, North Korea’s ally, to pressure the Kim regime: “We believe that no country, including China, should conduct business as usual with a North Korea that threatens its neighbors.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney said that Pyongyang “will achieve nothing by threats or provocation, which will only further isolate North Korea and undermine international efforts to ensure peace and stability in Northeast Asia.”
“For a leader that is elected and has a term limit, at the start of her presidency, this is a most unwelcome development,” he said. “Could she have thwarted it? I don’t think so because Pyongyang has its own strategy and calculates it to be in its best interest to really paint the South Korean leader and the American leader into a corner at the start of their respective administrations.”
But under its young leader Mr. Kim, the North has received only negative attention: The United Nations in January denounced its rocket launch and, with cooperation from China, the U.N. Security Council issued sanctions on Pyongyang.
On Monday, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions against the Foreign Trade Bank of North Korea for its role in supporting North Korea’s program to produce weapons of mass destruction, and the State Department separately blacklisted three North Korean officials.View Entire Story
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Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.
Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.
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