North Korea’s warning of a “Sacred War of Retaliation” in a January 15th statement released by North Korea’s National Defense Commission, and news that Kim Jong Il observed recent armed forces training exercises, represents just another one of North Korea’s regular threats aimed at maintaining its system and confusing the South Korean public.
North Korea has often been guilty of confusing South Korea by warning of impending Armageddon while accepting South Korean aid. In this case, it happened not even a day after the North accepted South Korea’s offer of 10,000 tons of corn and proposed negotiations on resuming tours of Mt. Geumgang.
This time, the statement seems to have been made as a stern rebuke to South Korean military planners, who released a contingency plan covering possible North Korean collapse last week.
Notably, the National Defense Commission’s threat to “blow the stronghold of South Korean officials who have initiated and supported the plan, including the Blue House,” mirrors past threats to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire.”
Kim Jong Il was also quoted as describing the military training he witnessed as a source of relief and an assurance of “instantaneous victory under the explosions and roaring of cannon fire, shaking the world like an eruption of pent-up resentment.”
South Korean government officials believe that, by employing these twin tactics of negotiation and threat during a single week, North Korea hopes to maintain the initiative in Inter-Korean relations. It should be noted that what North Korea is not doing is sincerely maintaining the positive attitude that it showed in requesting the resumption of Mt. Geumgang tours and accepting aid and aid projects in recent days.
Experts generally agree with the government. Song Young Dae, Chief of the Institute for Peace Affairs, explained the North Korean statement as “an indication that they will not underestimate South Korea’s announcement of a contingency plan which includes the collapse of North Korea’s system. It is a twin strategic movement to maintain the system and to obtain economic benefit.”
In other words, threats of war emanating from Pyongyang aren’t things to be overemphasized, since North Korea regularly uses both carrot and stick to maintain its system. As expected, no military movements coincided with the threats.