North Korea's threats over US-South Korea war games: Another bluff?
US-South Korea war games got under way in the Sea of Japan today as a flotilla of 20 US and South Korean ships conducted the first of four days of military exercises as North Korea threatened nuclear deterrence.
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After the war games are done on Wednesday, all sides are expected to turn to the possibility of negotiations on North Korea’s nuclear program.Skip to next paragraph
“[The North Koreans] are very distressed by these exercises,” says Mr. Choi, “but they’ve already said they’re going to resume six-party talks [with US, China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea]. That’s what they want. They do not want war.”
But the North Koreans have made clear that they are not going to go along with demands to get rid of their nuclear program even if they return to the table. North Korea has called for “denuclearization” of the entire Korean peninsula – a term that is likely to include banning all nuclear arms from US ships in the Pacific and even banning nuclear-powered vessels such as the George Washington.
And no one rules out the possibility of more North Korean missile and nuclear tests.
North Korea has conducted two underground explosions of nuclear devices, in October 2006 and again in May of last year, and also has tested a long-range missile capable theoretically of carrying warheads as far as Alaska, Hawaii, or even the west coast of the US.
Choi predicts “they will try to conduct a nuclear test or a missile test” but notes the North faces severe internal problems. North Korea's reclusive leader Kim Jong-il, suffering from a variety of illnesses, is attempting to put on an appearance of strength while preparing for his third son, Kim Jong-eun, to take over when he leaves the scene.
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