Wednesday, May 26, 2010

N. Korea Makes New Threats As Border Tensions Rise

Published: 26 May 2010 10:32
SEOUL - North Korea threatened May 26 to shut a border crossing and open fire on loudspeakers if South Korea makes good on its vow to blare out propaganda across the frontier in revenge for the sinking of a warship.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Seoul to show Washington's "rock-solid" support for its ally amid the rising tensions, and said the world had a duty to respond to the North's torpedo attack.

After a weeks-long multinational probe into the sinking of a South Korean corvette on March 26, investigators said they found overwhelming evidence that a North Korean submarine was to blame.

The findings into the attack that killed 46 young sailors sparked strong international condemnation of the hard-line communist state.

The South on May 24 announced a package of reprisals, including a halt to most trade and a resumption of the loudspeaker broadcasts suspended six years ago.

It is also mounting a diplomatic drive to punish the North through the U.N. Security Council, although veto-wielding member China, the North's sole major ally, is reluctant to sign up.

The North says the South faked evidence of its involvement in the sinking in an attempt to fuel confrontation for domestic political reasons. It threatens "all-out war" against any punitive moves.

The regime announced late May 25 it was breaking all links in protest at Seoul's "smear campaign" and would ban South Korean ships and planes from its territorial waters and airspace.

It said relations would remain severed while conservative President Lee Myung-Bak remains in power in Seoul.

The South's decision to wage "psychological warfare" appears to have sparked particular fury.

It has begun installing loudspeakers along the frontier, and has also resumed FM radio broadcasts to the North. In addition, it plans to scatter propaganda leaflets across the border.

The campaign aims to "push the daily aggravating inter-Korean relations to the brink of war," the North's military said May 26, repeating an earlier threat to open fire.

"If the south side sets up even loudspeakers in the frontline area to resume the broadcasting...the KPA (North Korean army) will take military steps to blow up one by one the moment they appear by firing sighting shots."

The North also threatened to ban South Korean personnel and vehicles from a railway and road leading to the Kaesong jointly-run industrial estate just north of the border - a move that would effectively shut it down.

It ordered eight Seoul government officials on May 26 to leave the estate and switched off two cross-border communications line, Seoul's unification ministry said.

Clinton warned the North to halt its "provocations and policy of threats and belligerence" against neighbors and backed Seoul's moves to take the attack to the Security Council.

"This was an unacceptable provocation by North Korea and the international community has a responsibility and a duty to respond," she told a news conference.

The chief U.S. diplomat said Washington, which stations 28,500 troops in the South, would consider enhancing its defense posture to deter future attacks.

The Pentagon is already planning joint anti-submarine and other naval exercises with South Korea.

"The United States is also reviewing additional options and authorities to hold North Korea and its leaders accountable," Clinton said without elaborating.

The U.S. is considering its own sanctions that would hit the North's finances and money flow, a South Korean official told Yonhap news agency on the condition of anonymity.

Clinton arrived in Seoul from two days of talks in Beijing, where she pressed China to take a tougher line with the North. So far it has merely urged restraint on all parties.

Clinton gave no indication China was ready to accept Security Council action, but said she expected it to listen to U.S. and South Korean concerns.

"We expect to be working with China as we move forward in fashioning a response to this provocation by North Korea."

X-52 test successful!

By Graham Warwick

First flight of the Boeing X-51A Waverider hypersonic demonstrator is being hailed as a success, although the scramjet-powered vehicle did not achieve the planned flight duration.

The X-51A was released from its B-52 mothership over the Pacific off the California coast on May 25. The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory told AVIATION WEEK the booster-and-cruiser “stack” separated from the B-52 and the booster ignited. Subsequently the booster separated, the scramjet engine ignited and the cruiser accelerated.

The Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne hydrocarbon-fuelled, fuel-cooled scramjet engine was planned to run for 300 seconds, accelerating the X-51A from about Mach 4.5 to beyond Mach 6. The actual duration of the flight and maximum Mach number achieved have not yet been released. The vehicle splashed down in the Pacific.

The first flight was “a solid B”, says an AFRL spokesman. “We’ll get an A next time.”

Three more flights are planned, the next in 2011.

Credit: USAF

War drums are beating ...

US demands world response over Korea warship sinking
Page last updated at 15:20 GMT, Wednesday, 26 May 2010 16:20 UK

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the international community must respond in the growing crisis over the sinking of a South Korean warship.

She said there was "overwhelming" evidence that North Korea was to blame, and urged Pyongyang to halt its "policy of belligerence".

Mrs Clinton was speaking in South Korea at the end of an Asian tour.

North Korea denies it was responsible, and has warned of retaliation if action is taken against it.

After an international investigation produced proof that the ship, the Cheonan, was hit by a North Korean torpedo, South Korea announced a package of measures, including a halt to most trade. It is also seeking action via the United Nations Security Council.

The North then announced, late on Tuesday, that it was cutting all ties with the South. It has also banned South Korean ships and planes from its territory.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan told a joint news conference he and Mrs Clinton had agreed that North Korea should take responsibility for the sinking of the Cheonan, torpedoed on 26 March with the loss of 46 lives.

"This was an unacceptable provocation by North Korea and the international community has a responsibility and a duty to respond," Mrs Clinton said.

North Korea has a record in calculated risk. This crisis might be another example of that

The incident required "a strong but measured response," she said.

Before going to Seoul, Mrs Clinton had two days of discussions in Beijing with her Chinese counterparts.

She has been pressing China to join the international condemnation but Beijing is taking a cautious line, calling for restraint.

"I believe that the Chinese understand the seriousness of this issue and are willing to listen to the concerns expressed by both South Korea and the United States," Mrs Clinton said on Wednesday.

"We expect to be working with China as we move forward in fashioning a response."

Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun earlier said his country was still evaluating information on the sinking of the Cheonan.

"We have always believed that dialogue is better than confrontation," he added.

Tank exercises
With tensions rising rapidly, the North has reacted angrily to trade and shipping sanctions announced by the South.


March 26: Explosion hits naval corvette near disputed maritime border, killing 46 on board
May 20: Independent investigators produce proof North Korean torpedo struck vessel
May 24: South Korea declares trade with North frozen, demands apology
May 25: North Korea announces it is severing all ties with South
Korean propaganda fight

"If South Korea takes any provocative actions against us in terms of political, economic and military measures, backed by the United States, we will respond with war for justice," said the state-run KRT television channel.

"We will remove all the human trash from the Korean peninsula and build up a united Korea."

Pyongyang said on Wednesday it would cut off a road link across the heavily defended border if Seoul resumed propaganda broadcasts, halted six years ago.

Earlier, the North said it would match Southern sanctions with its own, and sever the few remaining lines of communication between the two governments.

South Korean ships and planes would be banned from Northern territorial waters and airspace.

All South Korean workers in the jointly-run Kaesong industrial park north of the border were expected to be expelled although they were allowed to enter on Wednesday, Reuters news agency reports.

Apart from Kaesong, there is little economic relationship left between the two states, their ties almost frozen since Lee Myung-bak took office in 2008, the agency notes.

"North Korea is not closing up Kaesong immediately because it is saving the cards it needs in order to play the game," said Jang Cheol-hyeon, a researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy.

The two states are technically still at war after the Korean conflict ended without a peace treaty in 1953.

South Korean K1 tanks could be seen on Tuesday conducting an exercise to prepare for a possible surprise attack by North Korea.


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