Despite a high-profile visit by former NBA bad boy Dennis Rodman, relations between North Korea and the U.S. continue to deteriorate. Latitude News brings you the perspective of the foreign press on the week’s biggest story.
A call to arms
In its typically belligerent style, North Korea threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the U.S. just before the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved new sanctions against the totalitarian government of Kim Jong Un.
“As long as the United States is willing to spark nuclear war our forces will exercise their right to a pre-emptive nuclear strike,” the North Korean foreign ministry said in a statement reported by the BBC.
North Korea added that it would carry out “surgical strikes” on South Korea, which is conducting its annual joint military exercise with the U.S. The foreign ministry also said it planned to cancel the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953. North and South Korea technically remain in a state of war, having never signed a formal peace treaty.
Canada’s Globe and Mail quoted KCNA, the country’s official news-agency, as making similar threats: “This land is neither the Balkans nor Iraq and Libya. The army and people of [North Korea] have everything, including lighter and smaller nukes unlike what they had in the past.”
The Canadian newspaper interviewed several analysts who viewed North Korea’s brinksmanship “as an effort to force direct talks with the United States that would see Washington provide financial aid to the regime in exchange for promises of disarmament.”
Experts do not believe North Korea’s nuclear weapons could reach the U.S., but they certainly could strike our allies Japan and South Korea, potentially sparking a devastating regional war. Kim Jong Un commands a standing army of around 1.2 million soldiers.
“You have to take a government at its word when it makes these kinds of threats,” a State Department spokesperson told Russia’s official news-agency RIA Novosti.
Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) added that any attack on the U.S. by North Korea would be “suicidal.”
Holding the bag
North Korea’s bellicose threats have left its only major ally, China, in a tough spot. China voted for the new UN sanctions against its neighbor and has called for renewing international negotiations. Now it has to control North Korea’s angry government which, even in times of peace, has taken military action against South Korea, like the sinking of a ship in 2010 that killed 46 South Korean sailors.
“China calls on relevant parties to exercise calm and restraint, and avoid actions that might further escalate tensions,” the nation’s foreign ministry said in a statement reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Jung-Hoon Lee, a professor of international relations from South Korea, told ABC that the new sanctions will be a “litmus test” in deciding how serious China is about reining in its ally.
“China has to come on board and join the international community, not only in putting forward these sanctions but actually implementing it, so that North Korea feels the hurt from these new UN sanctions. They’ve got to put their words into action,” Lee said.
If the international community wants to maintain peace in the region, perhaps its best bet is more trips by NBA stars like Rodman. Although it seems strange, North Korea has had a long love affair with American basketball.
On the website North Korea News, the journalist Nate Thayer (whose writing has been the subject of its own controversy this week) writes that “Rodman’s visit is just the latest wacky chapter in a diplomatic story that has seen the hoop dreams of Kim Jong Il become an unlikely pawn in nuclear negotiations with the U.S.” He continues:
A love of the game shared by Kim Jong Il and his successor, current North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, has on occasion put basketball on the same bench as nuclear warfare in top level talks between the U.S. and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Make buckets, not war.