North Korea: Latest rant could be tied to political transition
North Korea accused the US Monday of aggressive military moves in the zone separating the two Koreas. The North is undergoing a leadership transition.
North Korea’s latest fustigations – on Monday, it accused the US of aggressive military moves in the zone separating the two Koreas – are best heard as the defensive posturing of a regime in political transition, experts on the reclusive state say.Skip to next paragraph
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Before Monday’s declaration, the North Korean regime threatened to ramp up production of nuclear weaponry. This was in response to the Group of Eight leaders’ condemnation this past weekend of the North’s recent sinking of a South Korean warship.
“When any country goes through a leadership transition, but particularly in the case of one-man-rule like North Korea’s, the tendency is to pull back, hunker down, and offer displays of strength,” says Jim Walsh, a North Korea expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Security Studies Program in Cambridge. “They are rallying people around the flag at a delicate moment,” he adds, “and we shouldn’t expect it to stop tomorrow.”
It’s not just that a new generation of young military officers has been pressing for a more aggressive approach to the United States and the rest of the outside world as rumors build of an ailing Mr. Kim. (Some analysts cite the March sinking of South Korea’s Cheonan as just such an act.) As Mr. Walsh notes, the North’s ruling Korean Workers’ Party has announced a major meeting for September – an event that could also cause the regime to offer more chest thumping.
Monday’s warning from Pyongyang over what it claimed was movement by the US of “heavy weapons” into the demilitarized-zone “truce village” of Panmunjom was the kind of “provocation” that CIA Director Leon Panetta said Sunday was par for the course from a “rogue regime.”