March 13, 2013 – North Korea Issues New Threats against the West: North Korea declared the Korean War Truce Invalid and claims an end to 1953 Armistice. The United States added new sanctions against the secretive nuclear regime. In retaliation, North Korea threatened to launch nuclear missile attacks against United States cities. Pictured above, South Korean soldiers carried out exercises on Monday near the border village of Panmunjom in P’aju.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland described Pyongyang’s recent actions, including previous threats to launch strikes against the U.S., as “bellicose rhetoric,” saying it wasn’t clear what legal authority Pyongyang has to unilaterally abrogate the 1953 armistice pact.
The U.S. Treasury Department said it had put sanctions on North Korea’s primary foreign-exchange bank in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear test last month. The department also sanctioned Paek Se-Bong, chairman of North Korea’s Second Economic Committee and a senior member of government. The committee oversees production of ballistic missiles and supervises North Korea’s main conduit for arms dealings.
The State Department placed additional sanctions on three individuals linked to North Korea’s weapons program: Pak To-Chun, the head of the Munitions Industry Department managing weapons production and export; Chu Kyu-Chang, who directs the Munitions Industry Department and formerly headed ballistic-missile research; and O Kuk-Ryul, the vice chairman of the National Defense Commission.
Pyongyang routinely portrays the annual military drills in the South as a prelude to an invasion of the North, and declares that it will retaliate for any violation of its territory. But this latest round of threats is higher pitched, reflecting Pyongyang’s anger over United Nations sanctions in response to the Feb. 12 nuclear test. Pictured above, North Korean soldiers trained in an undisclosed location in this image released by Pyongyang on Monday.
Following a week of aggressive rhetoric from North Korea, the government’s main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, reported Monday that the armistice suspending the Korean War had been “declared invalid.”
South Korean and U.S. officials say the armistice can’t legally be canceled by any one party to it, but Seoul is concerned that the North is clearing a path for an attack or other provocation.
Seoul said the North was conducting its own military drills, but the activity didn’t suggest an imminent threat. “There has been no unusual movement spotted in North Korea,” a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff said late afternoon. “It has been quiet so far.”
Also Monday, South Korean President Park Geun-hye held her first cabinet meeting since being sworn in last month. The main opposition party in the National Assembly has held up confirmation of many of Ms. Park’s cabinet choices—including her defense minister nominee, frustrating her efforts to coordinate policy toward the North.
For the first time, the Key Resolve winter drills are being led by South Korean commanders, part of the process of transferring wartime control of South Korean forces by the end of 2015. The current arrangement gives the U.S. operational control of all forces in the South during combat.
The drills involve 10,000 Korean forces and more than 3,000 U.S. personnel responding to computer-driven conflict scenarios. North Korea was informed on Feb. 21 of the drills, which run through March 21. The two countries also are running separate Foal Eagle drills in South Korea through April 30.
Meanwhile, South Korea said the North appeared to have cut the inter-Korean phone link at the border village of Panmunjom, through which the two sides communicate on issues along the border. A call from the Southern side around 9 a.m. failed, the South Korea’s Unification Ministry said. North Korea has cut the line temporarily in the past.
Still, South Korean managers were able to travel to Kaesong Industrial Complex, a shared industrial park inside North Korea where more than 100 South Korean businesses employ North Korean workers. Operations at the complex, which has remained open through previous periods of heightened tensions between the two Koreas, appeared unaffected by this latest strain.
Washington’s moves came just days after the U.S. announced sanctions against representatives of the Korean Mining Development Corp. and its financial arm, which the Treasury says is North Korea’s “premier arms dealer.” The Foreign Trade Bank facilitated millions of dollars in transactions for the mining company, the Treasury said.
“North Korea uses FTB to facilitate transactions on behalf of actors linked to its proliferation network,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. “The United States will take strong measures to protect its financial system from this kind of illicit activity, and we urge financial institutions around the world to be particularly wary of the risks of doing business with FTB,” he said. Click the link below for the complete story:
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