The North-South Korean border skirmish and the issue of North Korea’s nuclear proliferation have been complicated by renewed threats to create a “sea of fire” in Seoul. South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-Jim claims these ramped-up provocations are meant to distract from the North’s domestic woes, while others interpret it as an attempt to secure more favourable terms in upcoming nuclear disarmaments.
Meanwhile, Russia has become the latest party to call for North Korea to halt its uranium enrichment program and allow UN nuclear inspectors in to pave the way for six-party talks.
South Korea Defence Minister Comments
On November 23, 2011, South Korea held a military exercise commemorating the anniversary of the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. North Korea has interpreted the exercise as a threat, and responded with increasingly strong threats. South Korean Defence Minister Kim Kwan-Jin claims that these ramped up provocations are meant to distract attention from domestic issues like North Korea’s economic woes and political instability, which the North Korean government vehemently denies.
Others interpret North Korea’s new movements as an attempt to secure more favourable terms in the upcoming disarmament talks, although South Korea in particular is not likely to back down with regard to both the border skirmishes and the resumption of nuclear disarmament talks.
Russia has released an official statement urging North Korea to halt its uranium enrichment programs and allow United Nations nuclear monitors into the country, and therefore reopen talks about disarmament. The statement places Russia along with the US and South Korea, both of which are looking toward resumption of talks.
The most recent of such talks were held in Geneva in October 2011 between North Korea and the US, following the July 2011 ASEAN Regional Forum where North and South Korea agreed to restart the six-party nuclear disarmament talks that stalled in 2008.
Analysis: KCNA Commentary Terms ‘DPRK’s Economic Meltdown Absurd [NK News, 10 November 2011]
Analysis: South Korea: The Shifting Sands of Security Policy [International Crisis Group, 1 December 2011]
Report: US Strengthens Ties to Asian Regional Grouping [NPR, 24 July 2011]
Report: Russia Urges North Korea to Halt Nuclear Activities [Voice of America, 1 December 2011]
Report: NK resorts to strong-arm tactics over nuke talks [The Korea Times, 1 December 2011]
Report: N. Korea renews ‘sea of fire’ warning against S. Korea [Yonhap News, 30 November 2011]
Report: S. Korean defence chief warns of provocations [AFP, 1 December 2011]