Night Watch

North Korea: On 10 May, North Korea warned it will respond mercilessly to all South Korean and U.S. provocations related to its recent artillery and missile firing exercises.

The Rodong Sinmun, the official outlet of the Korea Workers' Party, published an article that argued once again that North Korea's military exercises are legitimate preparations to defend itself from outside aggression.

It said any moves to challenge such rights can only be seen as moves to crush the country. "Any such provocations will be dealt with in a ruthless and strong manner," the paper said. It did not rule out the use of nuclear weapons as part of its retaliatory action.

The paper then said that the concerns expressed by Seoul and Washington about another nuclear test are intended to weaken Pyongyang's sovereignty and right to defend itself.

The Rodong Sinmun then made it clear the country advocates a policy to strike back with whatever is used against it, whether the weapon is a missile or a nuclear weapon, and added it would not be strange if North Korean policymakers took the measures being mentioned by the country's enemies (i.e., conducted a nuclear test).

On 9 May, a Japan-based pro-North Korean paper published a more strident threat. "Unless the U.S.' war agitation is put on hold, the North will conduct a variety of exercises aimed at utilizing diversified nuclear deterrence measures…." The newspaper also referred to the threat last March to conduct an additional nuclear test.

Comment: The North is trying to keep the focus of international attention on itself by continuing its elevated and crude propaganda. In fact both Ukraine and Nigeria have proven more interesting to most media than the typical North Korean rants. As usual, the North has committed to do nothing in both articles. Its threats are conditioned on US behavior.

What appears to be aggravating the North's strategists is that the US is refusing participate in what North Korea is calling the disarmament-for-aid talks. The US insists that before a new round of talks is held, the North must honor its promises from the last round, which included making a start to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. The North insists that it will not be bound by its past promises. A new round of talks starts without prior baggage, which North Korea labels "pre-conditions."

Night Watch

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