from Asia Unbound

What Is North Korea’s Next Threat Likely to Be?

April 04, 2013

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North Korea

South Korea

Diplomacy and International Institutions

United States

Given the threat-a-day nature of North Korean actions in recent weeks, I have noticed that many of the media headlines on North Korea are including the word “again.”  I can almost imagine North Korea’s repetition of threats turning into a college drinking game.

Despite the fact that the North has already promised more threatening action, I had thought last week that the U.S. show of force might introduce an element of sobriety into North Korea’s responses. However, this proved not to be the case.  So it is worth looking forward to see what the North Koreans have already pledged will come next.

Following the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2087 in January condemning North Korea’s December satellite launch, the DPRK foreign ministry issued a statement on January 23 that 1) rejected “the unjust acts of the UNSC aimed at wantonly violating the sovereignty of the DPRK,” 2) pledged to “continue to exercise its independent and legitimate right to launch satellites for peaceful purposes,” 3) drew a final conclusion that “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is impossible unless the denuclearization of the world is realized,” and 4) declared it would “take steps for physical counteraction to bolster the military capabilities for self-defense including the nuclear deterrence both qualitatively and quantitatively.”

The DPRK National Defense Commission issued a more concrete statement on January 24 that stated: “We do not hide that a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched by the DPRK one after another and a nuclear test of higher level which will be carried out by it in the upcoming all-out action, a new phase of the anti-U.S. struggle that has lasted century after century, will target against the U.S., the sworn enemy of the Korean people.”

The U.S decision to deploy sea-based X-band radars and destroyers near North Korea anticipates a new missile launch, possibly including types that would require much less warning to test than has been the case with North Korea’s prior launches.  North Korea’s continued threats and brinkmanship always raise questions about the internal stability of its leadership, but this focus distracts from the clear evidence that South Korea and the United States are increasingly intolerant of North Korea’s threats, especially as the North broadens the spectrum of potential attacks from low-end, limited border skirmishes to high-end apocalyptic threats of nuclear attack. North Korean leadership’s miscalculation may come as a result of its failure to recognize this fact.

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