Tuesday, March 09, 2010
North Korea Watch: Parsing Reuters
SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea said on Monday it had put its army on full combat alert, ready to "blow up" South Korea as joint drills between the South and the United States got underway (which they traditionally do, though we will of course neglect to mention that they make this threat every friggin' time there are joint exercises between the two allies, at least until the attention-getting part of the story is past).
The drills, seen by Pyongyang as nuclear war maneuvers (at least according to their Central News Agency, which has been making ridiculous claims about its impending actions as long as any of us can remember), last for about two weeks and are aimed at testing the allies' defense readiness. They draw fiery rhetoric from the North each year (which every single news source dutifully reports regardless of how incredible it is) that fuels tensions on the Korean peninsula, though they have been held for decades without major incident.
"The units of the three services of the KPA (Korean People's Army) should keep themselves fully ready to go into action in order to blow up the citadel (whatever that means) of aggressors once the order is issued," the North's KCNA news agency quoted its military command as saying (though they probably never did).
The comments were made after China, the North's main benefactor, said it wanted stalled nuclear disarmament talks resumed before July. It urged all parties to the six-country forum, including the United States and South Korea, to try harder (although the talks will remain meaningless as long as China, along with Russia, is determined to reward North Korea's behavior with trade and economic aid. Still, we really should "try harder").
The North has come under pressure to return to the disarmament (which won't ever happen) -for-aid nuclear talks because of (pointless) U.N. sanctions imposed after a May 2009 nuclear test.
The North said at the weekend that any talks to denuclearize the Korean peninsula would "naturally come to a standstill" because of the drills. North Korea conducted "live fire" exercises near sea borders with the South earlier this year.
Sanctions have dealt a blow to its wobbly economy (or so we like to tell ourselves), and a botched currency move late last year has sparked inflation and rare civil unrest.
The two Koreas are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty.
The Resolve/Foal Eagle drills involve about 18,000 U.S. troops, U.S. Forces Korea said, with 8,000 coming from abroad and 10,000 already stationed in the South.
The South's Defense Ministry said about 20,000 of its troops would participate.
The United States, which fought on behalf of the South during the war, has about 28,000 troops in the country to support its 670,000 soldiers. The North's deploys most of its 1.2 million troops near the border with the South.
(This is where the story ends, without context or any sense of history. But it sure does have an eye-catching lead that will surely land it at the top of more than a few search engines, guaranteed to make those in Middle America who know none of these things for themselves believe war is a distinct possibility. And to think, some people question our credibility.)
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