NPR : News

Filed Under:

North Korea's Brinksmanship: Same As Before, More Dangerous Or Both?

Play associated audio

Wednesday's news from the Korean peninsula, where tensions seem to rise each day:

"North Korea ... barred South Korean workers from entering a jointly run factory park just over the heavily armed border in the North, officials in Seoul said."

On Morning Edition, NPR's Louisa Lim told host Steve Inskeep that this has happened before. In 2009, she said, North Korea cut off access to the industrial area three times to protest joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises that were then underway. So it's very possible this "could be a short-term move, not an irreversible step," Louisa added.

But Louisa also said that while North Korea's regime is skilled at "this sort of cycle of threats" — particularly at times, such as now, when the U.S. and South Korea are holding joint military exercises — "the context [this time] is slightly different."

The closing of the border to the factory workers, for instance, "comes against the backdrop of other North Korean moves" — including a recent nuclear test and the launching of a long range rocket. The North has also cut a hotline to the South, warned of a "simmering nuclear war" on the peninsula and has threatened the U.S.

Also different this time: Kim Jong Un, North Korea's leader, is "young, relatively new ... and inexperienced at brinksmanship," Louisa said.

So there is a case to be made that while North Korea's rhetoric and some of its actions are familiar, the chances of a misstep are higher.

As The Associated Press says of North Korea's move to keep South Korean workers from getting to the jointly run factory, "it's [just] the latest sign of deepening tensions on the Korean Peninsula."

Hopefully, AP adds, "the rising tide of threats in recent weeks" won't be followed up with action, but are "efforts by the North to force new policies in Seoul, diplomatic talks with Washington and to increase domestic loyalty to young North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by portraying him as a powerful military commander."

The industrial park inside North Korea where the joint work has been done is about six miles inside the communist state. About 800 South Koreans were already there when the North moved to block others from entering. Those inside will be allowed to leave — though Louisa tells our Newscast Desk that only 36 had chosen to do so as of early Wednesday (ET).

Among our previous posts about North Korea and its rhetoric: Scott Neuman's look at: "How Credible Are North Korea's Threats?"

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Star Wars' Editors Defy Hollywood Conventions

In a film industry often dominated by men, there's at least one exception: Many editors are women. Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey speak about their work on the new Star Wars.
NPR

Florida Says Its Fruits, Vegetables Are Safe From Invasive Fruit Fly

Since September, Florida has been fighting an infestation of the Oriental fruit fly, an invasive pest that threatened more than 400 crops. The state declared the insect eradicated as of Saturday.
NPR

The Senate Battle That Looms For Scalia's Replacement

NPR's Domenico Montanaro discusses the upcoming battle on Capitol Hill on replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.
NPR

Colonialism Comment Puts Facebook Under Scrutiny

A Facebook board member lambasted a decision by regulators in India, the social network's second-largest market. He thereby sparked new scrutiny of Facebook's intentions in that country.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.