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Contentions

“Debris”

Yesterday, Pyongyang threatened South Korea because activists there have been sending helium balloons carrying propaganda messages over North Korea. According to a statement issued by the official Korean Central News Agency, the country’s military said the following: “The puppet authorities had better bear in mind that the advanced preemptive strike of our own style will reduce everything . . . to debris, not just setting them on fire.”

“Debris”? That’s an interesting choice of words from an army with a nuclear arsenal. The Kim regime, of course, is famous for issuing blustery statements and promising Armageddon.

This time, we should pay attention. The North has decreased contact with South Korea since this February, when the conservative Lee Myung-bak took office as president. In times of increased tension, any little incident can trigger conflict on the Korean peninsula. Says Koh Yu-hwan of Dongguk University in Seoul, “North Korea could seize on a small accident or unintended intrusion on land or at sea and escalate it into a localized military clash.”

Or the North can provoke an incident-as it has often done throughout its history. Today, Pyongyang disputes its western sea boundary with South Korea, and in recent years there have been periodic skirmishes in the Yellow Sea along the Northern Limit Line. And we have to remember that the Korean War did not start out of the blue. It was preceded by skirmishes between the two Koreas in the months leading up to Kim Il Sung’s June 1950 invasion.

So it is about time for the United States to make some declarations of its own. Perhaps we should remind Pyongyang that we defend South Korea every minute of every day with our nuclear arsenal-and that we have enough warheads to turn Kim Jong Il’s mountainous country into a parking lot, literally at the push of several buttons and the turns of several keys.



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