North Korea Hydrogen Bomb sets off border tensions

January 10, 2016 7:35 am

 

North Korean military personnel clap on their nation had conducted a hydrogen bomb test. Photo / AP

trumpets a hydrogen bomb test. South Korea responds
by cranking up blasts of harsh propaganda from giant green speakers
aimed across the world’s most dangerous border. Now Pyongyang warns of
war.
As the world looked yesterday for ways to punish the North
over a nuclear test that pushes Pyongyang closer to its goal of a
nuclear armed missile that can reach the US mainland, the two Koreas
have quickly slid into the kind of Cold War-era standoff that has
defined their relationship over the past seven decades.
A top
North Korean ruling party official’s warning that the South’s broadcasts
have pushed the Korean Peninsula “towards the brink of war” is typical
of Pyongyang’s over-top-rhetoric. But it is also indicative of the real
fury that the broadcasts, which criticise the country’s revered
dictatorship, cause in the North.
Seoul resumed the cross-border
broadcasts Friday for the first time in the nearly five months. When
South Korea briefly resumed propaganda broadcasts in August after an
11-year break, Seoul says the two Koreas exchanged artillery fire.

Besides the “brink of war” comment, Workers’ Party
secretary Kim Ki Nam said on state TV on Friday that Pyongyang’s rivals
are “jealous” of the North’s successful hydrogen bomb test. Many outside
governments and experts question whether the blast was a hydrogen test.
South
Korean troops, near about 10 sites where loudspeakers started blaring
propaganda, were on the highest alert, but have not detected any unusual
movement along the border, said an official from Seoul’s Defence
Ministry.
The South’s Yonhap news agency said Seoul had deployed
missiles, artillery and other weapons systems near the border to deal
with possible North Korean provocation. The ministry did not confirm the
report.
Officials say broadcasts from the South’s loudspeakers
can travel about 10km during the day and 24km at night. That reaches
many of the huge force of North Korean soldiers stationed near the
border and also residents in border towns such as Kaesong, where the
Koreas jointly operate an industrial park that has been a valuable cash
source for the impoverished North.
Seoul also planned to use
mobile speakers to broadcast from a small South Korean island just a few
kilometres from North Korean shores.
The South’s broadcasts
include news and pop music, but much of the programming challenges North
Korea’s Government more directly.

People dance near the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium in Pyongyang after the government said it had conducted a hydrogen bomb test two days earlier. Photo / AP
People dance near the Pyongyang
Indoor Stadium in Pyongyang after the government said it had conducted a
hydrogen bomb test two days earlier. Photo / AP
Marathon talks in August stopped the broadcasts,
which Seoul started after blaming North Korean land mines for maiming
two soldiers. It might be more difficult to do so now.
Seoul
can’t stand down easily, some analysts say, and it’s highly unlikely
that the North will express regret for its nuclear test, which is a
source of intense national pride.
US Secretary of State John Kerry urged China, the North’s biggest aid provider, to end “business as usual” with North Korea.
Diplomats
at a UN Security Council emergency session pledged to swiftly pursue
new sanctions. For current sanctions and any new penalties to work,
better co-operation and stronger implementation from China is seen as
key.
South Korean and US militaries also discussed the deployment
of US “strategic assets”, Seoul’s Defence Ministry said. Officials
refused to elaborate, but the assets will likely include B-52 bombers,
F-22 stealth fighters and nuclear-powered submarines.
After North
Korea’s third nuclear test in 2013, the US sent its most powerful
warplanes to drills with South Korea in a show of force. B-2 and B-52
bombers are capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
It may take
weeks or longer to confirm or refute the North’s claim that it
successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, which would mark a major advance
for its still-limited nuclear arsenal.
Outside experts are
sceptical the blast was a hydrogen bomb, but even a test of an atomic
bomb would push North Korea closer to building a nuclear warhead small
enough to place on a long-range missile.
The Korea Institute of
Nuclear Safety said a small amount of radioactive elements was found in
air samples collected from the peninsula’s eastern seas after the blast,
but was too small to determine whether the North had really detonated a
nuclear device.

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