Monday, June 06, 2011

North Korea turning the tables

It did seem like a fun idea at the time. Why not hoist huge photos of Kim Jong-il and son and heir Kim Jong-eun and have young South Korean army soldiers fire away at them for target practice? … It just didn't strike the North Koreans as funny. No sooner did they get word about it than they were off on a rhetorical bender, promising the same "retaliatory military strikes" that they have said they will deploy against those so bold as to launch the dreaded balloons.

The North Korean language in the case of the use of images of the Dear Leader and son was particularly harsh. The Korean People's Army and the Worker Peasant Red Guards "will launch practical and overall retaliatory military actions to wipe out the group of traitors at a stroke," said a military spokesman. On top of that, the spokesman called on "South Korean puppet authorities" to apologize "for the hideous provocation" and to "guarantee" it would never happen again.

The bottom line is the North now has another avenue that it's pursuing in search of aid and empathy. This one, it seems, is far more promising for Pyongyang and infuriating to Seoul than the revelation that Lee would like to follow the footsteps to Pyongyang of the two previous presidents whose soft-line "Sunshine" policy he has gone to great lengths to reverse.

North Korea's ace is the relationship that its skilled negotiators appear to have struck up with the US envoy on human rights to North Korea, Robert King. His quick trip there, on a "fact-finding" mission about the North's need for food and other forms of aid, was only the beginning. A North Korean official, King said, specifically invited him back to talk about "human rights," and he's "looking forward to the opportunity". In other words, while spurning President Lee's hesitant overtures in no uncertain terms, North Korea is happy to chat it up with a representative of the regime that's seen as pulling the strings on the South Korean marionette. 

--Donald Kirk writing in Asia Times

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