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Friday, March 29, 2013
North Korean Threat Considerably Intensifies
North Korea Threats Intensify As Kim Orders Rocket Prep After U.S. B-2 Bomber Drill
By FOSTER KLUG
03/29/13 06:31 AM ET EDT
SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned Friday that his rocket forces were ready "to settle accounts with the U.S.," unleashing a new round of bellicose rhetoric after U.S. nuclear-capable B-2 bombers dropped dummy munitions in joint military drills with South Korea.
Kim's warning, and the litany of threats that have preceded it, don't indicate an imminent war. In fact, they're most likely meant to coerce South Korea into softening its policies, win direct talks and aid from Washington, and strengthen the young leader's credentials and image at home.
But the threats from North Korea and rising animosity from the rivals that have followed U.N. sanctions over Pyongyang's Feb. 12 nuclear test do raise worries of a misjudgment leading to a clash.
Kim "convened an urgent operation meeting" of senior generals just after midnight, signed a rocket preparation plan and ordered his forces on standby to strike the U.S. mainland, South Korea, Guam and Hawaii, state media reported.
Kim said "the time has come to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists in view of the prevailing situation," according to a report by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
Later Friday at the main square in Pyongyang, tens of thousands of North Koreans turned out for a 90-minute mass rally in support of Kim's call to arms. Men and women, many of them in olive drab uniforms, stood in arrow-straight lines, fists raised as they chanted, "Death to the U.S. imperialists." Placards in the plaza bore harsh words for South Korea as well, including, "Let's rip the puppet traitors to death!"
Small North Korean warships, including patrol boats, conducted maritime drills off both coasts of North Korea near the border with South Korea on Thursday, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a briefing Friday. He didn't provide more details.
The spokesman said that South Korea's military was mindful of the possibility that North Korean drills could lead to an actual provocation. He also said that the South Korean and U.S. militaries are watching closely for any signs of missile launch preparations in North Korea. He didn't elaborate.
North Korea, which says it considers the U.S.-South Korean military drills preparations for invasion, has pumped out a string of threats in state media. In the most dramatic case, Pyongyang made the highly improbable vow to nuke the United States.
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N. Korea threats raise concern Kim backing regime into corner
Published March 29, 2013
With the threats billowing out of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un's regime at an unusually rapid clip, concern is mounting that the young leader could be backing himself into a corner -- feeling compelled to do something or lose face.
Shortly after midnight local time, North Korean state television reported that Kim signed orders to put the nation's rockets on combat-ready status. In a photo released on state-run media, a chart titled "U.S. mainland strike plan" could be seen and a map showed missiles arcing into Hawaii, Washington, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas.
The Pentagon is worried Kim may put himself in a position where he feels he has to act on his threats.
The North Koreans, while having made progress in their ballistic missile program, still have not mastered the technology of delivering a nuclear device by a long-range missile. But they are making progress, and that is what has the Pentagon concerned. Plus there is the concern that North Korea could strike at South Korea, a top U.S. ally.
"The North Koreans seem to be headed in a different direction here. So we will unequivocally defend and we are unequivocally committed to that alliance with South Korea, as well as our other allies in that region of the world.
And we will be prepared -- we have to be prepared to deal with any eventuality there," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.
Kim warned Friday he is preparing to "settle accounts with the U.S." after the U.S. deployed B-2 stealth bombers to South Korea to participate in a training exercise Thursday.
The third-generation dictator's comments in a meeting with senior generals are part of a rising tide of threats meant to highlight anger over the drills and recent U.N. sanctions over Pyongyang's nuclear test.
State media says Kim signed a rocket preparation plan and ordered rockets on standby to strike the U.S. mainland, South Korea, Guam and Hawaii.
Later Friday at the main square in Pyongyang, tens of thousands of North Koreans turned out for a 90-minute mass rally in support of Kim's call to arms.
Men and women, many of them in olive drab uniforms, stood in arrow-straight lines, fists raised as they chanted, "Death to the U.S. imperialists." Placards in the plaza bore harsh words for South Korea as well, including, "Let's rip the puppet traitors to death!"
The U.S. military says the two B-2 stealth bombers sent to South Korea were meant to demonstrate the Pentagon's commitment to defend its ally against threats from North Korea.
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