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NUKEWARS
US strategy takes Korean crisis into new territory
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) March 31, 2013


Timeline of escalating threats on Korean peninsula
Seoul (AFP) March 30, 2013 - North Korea's announcement Saturday that it had entered a "state of war" with South Korea was the latest in a long line of escalating threats and postures adopted by all sides in the current crisis on the Korean peninsula.

Below is a timeline of key threats and actions dating from the North's long-range rocket launch in December 2012.

2012

Dec 12: North Korea successfully launches three-stage rocket and places satellite in orbit. Seoul, Washington and UN condemn launch as a covert ballistic missile test.

2013

Jan 22: UN Security Council passes a resolution condemning North Korea's rocket launch and tightens existing sanctions.

Jan 24: North Korea's National Defense Commission says it will proceed with a "high-level nuclear test."

Jan 25: North Korea threatens "physical counter-measures" against rival South Korea.

Feb 12: North Korea conducts a third nuclear test.

Feb 26: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un oversees a live-fire artillery drill aimed at simulating an "actual war".

March 1: South Korea and US launch annual "Foal Eagle" joint military exercise.

March 5: North Korea says it will scrap armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

March 7: North Korea threatens a "pre-emptive" nuclear strike against the United States and South Korea.

Also March 7: The United Nations adopts tougher sanctions on Pyongyang over its nuclear test.

March 8: North Korea announces the voiding of non-aggression pacts with South Korea and severs a government hotline with Seoul. Kim Jong-Un tours frontline island units and vows "all-out war".

March 11: South Korea and US launch annual "Key Resolve" joint military exercise.

March 12: Kim Jong-Un threatens to "wipe out" South Korean island of Baengnyeong.

March 15: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announces plans to bolster US mainland defenses against a possible North Korean missile strike.

March 18: US Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter promises to provide South Korea with every military resource under the US nuclear umbrella.

March 19: US publicises flights by nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over South Korea as part of "Foal Eagle" exercise.

March 21: North Korean army threatens strikes against US military bases in Japan and Guam in response to B-52 flights.

March 22: South Korea and US sign new pact providing for a joint military response even to low-level provocation by North Korea.

March 26: South Korean President Park Geun-Hye warns North Korea its only "path to survival" lies in abandoning nuclear and missile programmes.

Also March 26 : North Korea's military puts its "strategic" rocket units on a war footing, with fresh threat to strike targets on the US mainland, Hawaii and Guam and South Korea.

March 27: North Korea cuts last remaining military hotline with South Korea.

March 28: The United States deploys two nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers on "deterrence" missions over South Korea. Hagel says US ready for "any eventuality."

March 29: Kim Jong-Un, vowing to "settle accounts," orders missile units to prepare to strike US mainland and military bases in the Pacific.

March 30: North Korea declares it had entered into a "state of war" with South Korea.

Soaring tensions on the Korean peninsula have seen dire North Korean threats met with an unusually assertive US response that analysts warn could take a familiar game into dangerous territory.

By publicly highlighting its recent deployment of nuclear-capable B-52 and stealth bombers over South Korea, Washington has, at times, almost appeared to be purposefully goading an already apoplectic Pyongyang.

"There certainly seems to be an element of 'let's show we're taking the gloves off this time' about the US stance," said Paul Carroll, program director at the Ploughshares Fund, a US-based security policy think-tank.

And the North has responded in kind, declaring on Saturday that it was now in a "state of war" with South Korea.

Security crises on the Korean peninsula have come and gone over the decades and have tended to follow a similar pattern of white-knuckle brinkmanship that threatens but finally pulls back from catastrophic conflict.

North Korea's founding leader Kim Il-Sung and his son and successor Kim Jong-Il were both considered skilled practitioners of this high-stakes game of who-blinks-first diplomacy.

And they ensured Pyongyang had enough form to lend its threats credibility, having engineered provocations that ranged from blowing up a South Korean civilian airliner in 1987 to shelling a South Korean island in 2010.

The current crisis, with Pyongyang lashing out at a combination of UN sanctions and South Korea-US military exercises, diverges from precedent in terms of the context and the main characters involved.

It follows the two landmark events that triggered the UN sanctions and re-drew the strategic balance on the peninsula: The North's successful long-range rocket launch in December and its third -- and largest -- nuclear test in February.

Both may have emboldened North Korea to overplay its hand, while at the same time prompting Washington to decide there was already too much at stake to consider folding.

"Rhetorical salvoes are one thing, while rocket launches and nuclear tests are quite another," said Carroll.

In addition, both North and South Korea have new, untested leaders with a strong domestic motivation to prove their mettle in any showdown.

Bruce Klingner, a Korea expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, believes the danger of "miscalculation" is especially high from North Korea's young supremo Kim Jong-Un.

Kim was not only emboldened by the successful rocket and nuclear tests, but "also by the knowledge that Seoul and Washington have never struck back in any significant way after previous deadly attacks".

This time around, however, South Korea has signalled it would respond with interest, and the message sent by the B-52 and stealth bomber flights is that it has the US firmly in its corner.

Peter Hayes, who heads the Nautilus Institute, an Asia-focused think tank, points out that the B-52 deployment carried a particular -- and potentially dangerous -- resonance.

After a bloody border incident in 1976 left two American soldiers dead, the United States spent weeks sending flights of B-52 bombers up the Korean peninsula, veering off just before they entered the North's air space.

Then US secretary of state Henry Kissinger commented that he had "never seen the North Koreans so scared".

Hayes warned that replaying the B-52 threat could prove to be "strategically stupid" by reviving the North's historic and deep-rooted fear of a US nuclear strike.

"The B-52 deployment also declares loudly and clearly that they have forced the US to play the game of nuclear war with North Korea," Hayes said.

"It tells them it has reached the hallowed status of a nuclear-armed state that matters enough to force a simulated nuclear-military response," he added.

The possible end-game scenarios to the current crisis are numerous, but none point to an obvious path for defusing the situation peacefully.

Most analysts rule out the prospect of a full-scale war on the grounds that North Korea knows it would lose, just as it knows that launching any sort of nuclear strike would be suicidal.

But after threatening everything from an artillery assault to nuclear armageddon, there is also a sense that Kim Jong-Un has pushed himself into a corner and must do something to avoid a damaging loss of face and credibility.

A provocative missile test fired into the sea over Japan is one option with a relatively low risk of further escalation.

Several analysts had originally predicted a limited artillery strike similar to the 2010 shelling of Yeonpyeong island, but the US and South Korean vows of a tough response have called into question just how "limited" such a move would prove to be.

Scott Snyder, a senior fellow for Korea studies with the Council on Foreign Relations, suggested that the United States, having delivered its message loud and clear, should now provide Kim with a way out.

"There is a need for the United States and South Korea to offer some clear diplomatic gestures of reassurance toward the North that can help the North Koreans climb down, calm down, and change course," Snyder said.

.


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NUKEWARS
N. Korea declares 'state of war' with South
Seoul (AFP) March 30, 2013
North Korea on Saturday declared it was in a "state of war" with South Korea and warned Seoul and Washington that any provocation would swiftly escalate into an all-out nuclear conflict. The United States said it took the announcement "seriously", but noted it followed a familiar pattern, while South Korea largely dismissed it as an old threat dressed in new clothing. It was the latest i ... read more


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