North Korea’s choice to threaten South Korea with “final destruction” during a UN meeting yesterday has caused consternation among experts in Seoul, with some seeing it as the dawn of a new level of threat against South Korea, while others dismiss it as more of the same from a predictable enemy.
The controversy was sparked by the words of North Korean diplomat Jon Yong Ryong, who told the UN Conference on Disarmament, "As the saying goes, a new-born puppy knows no fear of a tiger. South Korea's erratic behavior would only herald its final destruction.”
Representing those who believe North Korea is now showing a greater degree of assertiveness in light of its asymmetrical military superiority, Park Young Ho, a senior researcher with the Korea Institute for National Unification, warned, “We have to regard this as North Korea employing an active strategy of using nuclear weapons to turn South Korea into a military hostage.”
“North Korea believes it has overwhelming military power over South Korea, if it excludes the U.S. nuclear umbrella and conventional forces,” he went on, adding, “The nuclear threat to South Korea is greater than the past threat from conventional weaponry. With the success of its ICBMs and the nuclear test, they will now start actively threatening South Korea.”
However, other experts don’t believe that the situation is that grave. Kim Tae Woo, a former chairman of KINU, dismissed it as a weatherworn effort to tame a new South Korean government.
Kim stated, “It is not at all surprising; it is North Korea’s normal way of threatening South Korea. The remarks were made on the UN stage, meaning that it was a warning to the Park administration not to partake of sanctions.”
He added, “North Korean has threatened South Korea a number of times in the past by saying that Seoul will be turned into a sea of fire. This is just a change of wording that does not mean anything special.”