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Published:May 27th, 2009 15:33 EST
mushroom cloud and explosion resulting from atomic weapon

North Korean Threat Follows Test Launch

By Christopher HIllenbrand

Confronted with international opposition to its nuclear bomb tests underground on Monday and its missile launches on Tuesday, North Korea warned governments on Wednesday that it would attack South Korea after the nation joined the Proliferation Security Initiative, a cooperative of 94 other nations with the objective of seizing ships carrying materials used in the preparation and/or construction of weapons of mass destruction.

North Korea

The North also said they would be compelled to use military force against American and South Korean battleships that stray beyond Koreas` disputed maritime border into North Korea`s waters.

Also, the Communist regime, under Kim Jong Il, has now disavowed any responsibility regarding the safety of U.S. and South Korean ships sailing close to its western maritime border.

North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Il

"They should bear in mind that the (North) has tremendous military muscle and its own method of strike able to conquer any targets in its vicinity at one stroke or hit the U.S. on the raw, if necessary," the regime`s statement read.

Processional of North Korean soldiers

South Korea`s Yonhap news agency has reported that Pyongyang had recommissioned a plant in the country to resume making plutonium: a key element in nuclear weapons.

North Korea`s declaration came after the South signed on to the initiative, which was incepted during the Bush administration as a program within the United States` "war on terror." Spokespeople for Pyongyang have called the act tantamount to a declaration of war.

South Korea had refrained from joining the initiative and deferred rather to peacefully negotiating terms with Pyongyang, until the North conducted the series of tests on Monday and Tuesday which was interpreted as an indicator toward the country`s goal of nuclear war.

"Any hostile act against our peaceful vessels including search and seizure will be considered an unpardonable infringement on our sovereignty and we will immediately respond with a powerful military strike," a North Korean military spokeman said to sources within the Korean Central News Agency.

He restated the fact that North Korea is no longer bound to the armistice signed by both the North and South at the close of the 1950-1953 Korean War since Washington has disobeyed the facet not allowing the U.S. to induct Seoul into an anti-proliferation plan.

The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said: "Now that the South Korean puppets were so ridiculous as to join in the said racket and dare declare a war against compatriots," Pyongyang is now "compelled to take a decisive measure."

Addressing the South Korean government`s action at such a critical point in Pan-Korean relations, the committee`s statement continued to read: "the state of military confrontation is growing acute and there is constant danger of military conflict."

Following the news of the North`s belligerence toward the newly-signed pact, South Korea`s military said they would "respond sternly" to any North Korean assault.

Russia has announced that it is now implementing precautionary security measures over the burgeoning conflict between the North and South that may lead to a full-scale war.

Interfax news agency reported an unidentified Russian security source said that a clash provoked by Pyongyang`s nuclear test might cross over into Russia`s easternmost region that straddles North Korea`s borders.

"We are not talking about stepping up military efforts but rather about measures in case a military conflict, perhaps with the use of nuclear weapons, flares up on the Korean Peninsula," the official said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev vowed to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak that his country would help Seoul in reworking an updated U.N. Security Council resolution and to restart global discussions on the nuclear crisis in North Korea.

U.N. ambassadors from the five permanent veto-wielding council members: Russia, China, France, Britain and the United States, are working with representatives from South Korea and Japan in forming a new U.N. resolution pertaining trade restrictions and security sanctions which should be passed against North Korea in the immediate future.

But the decision mainly hinges on how China, one of North Korea`s few allies, rules in favor of any new sanctions the U.N. may put into place.

Meanwhile the tensions between both Koreas remains at a boil, as they have in the past.

Since the United Nations redrew the maritime border differentiating Northern and Southern waters once the Korean War ended in 1953, the North has debated that the line should extend further south, and the dispute over the border has been a rife factor in both the 1999 and the 2002 naval conflicts between the neighboring countries.

But the ceasefire signed in 1953, including the diplomatic treaties disallowing military action between the Koreas signed by both nations since, don`t address the maritime borders that have become a highly controversial issue in the ongoing feud between the North and South.

On Wednesday, Pyongyang swore "unimaginable and merciless punishment" for militaries unfazed by their promise in patrolling the disputed waters for vessels carrying weapon materials.

The Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that U.S. reconnaissance satellites found traces of steam coming from North Korea`s Yongbyon nuclear complex, attesting to the argument saying North Korea is reprocessing nuclear fuel again. An anonymous government official said that the report has not yet been confirmed however.

Should the allegations hold true, that would become a crucial setback to the cause for stopping the country`s nuclear proliferation.

Pyongyang had complied with international wishes when they halted the reprocessing of fuel rods, and in 2007, they agreed to disengage the Yongbyon reactor for economic relief funds and leveled a cooling tower at the complex as a part of the exchange.

Analysts believe that the North has close to 8,000 spent energy rods that, if they were to be reprocessed, would yield about 13 to 18 pounds of plutonium: an amount needed to make at least one nuclear weapon.

North Korea has tested five short-range missiles in the past two days, adding to the world`s apprehension over the militant potency of the regime.

Russia`s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that world powers must have resolve when dealing with North Korea, but in a delicate manner which will not instigate any further backlash from the country.

The most powerful countries "must not rush to punish North Korea just for punishment`s sake," he added, while reiterating Russia`s plan in working toward facilitating a Security Council resolution within the stagnant six-nation talks over dismantling Pyongyang`s atomic programs.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak told officials to "remain calm" amid the threats they`re facing with the North.

North Korea`s regime published an editorial in the North Korean newspaper Minju Joson detailing its opinion on how effective measures levied in the past have been on the behavior of the government.

"It is a laughable delusion for the United States to think that it can get us to kneel with sanctions," it stated. "We`ve been living under U.S. sanctions for decades, but have firmly safeguarded our ideology and system while moving our achievements forward. The U.S. sanctions policy toward North Korea is like striking a rock with a rotten egg."

The Causes

The day following North Korea`s experimental testing of a nuclear bomb underground, Pyongyang disobeyed U.N. sanctions once more by test launching two more short-range missiles on Tuesday. With the Communist nation`s recent infractions against the global community, the U.N. has beared down on its slant in handling North Korea`s refusal in abiding by international mandate. As North Korea`s regime continues to proceed in carrying out nuclear testing, the U.N., including the United States, believes the country is striving toward becoming a potential nuclear power in an already shaky political climate between Pyongyang and sister nations within the U.N.

Earlier on Tuesday, two missiles with a maximum range of 80 miles from the firing points: one of which was a ground-to-ship, while the other was a ground-to-air, were test-launched from an east coast missile installation, according to South Korea`s Yonhap news agency who had received the information from an anonymous government official.

South Korea has reported that the North may be planning for more missile firings in the future since Pyongyang announced this week that all foreign ships must stay out of the waters along its western coast.

In reaction to their neighbor`s flouting of U.N. law, South Korea announced it would be joining a maritime coalition of over 90 countries that intercept vessels allegedly carrying weapons of mass destruction. North Korea has deemed that any such participation by the South would be construed as an act of war.

Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, proposed that Pyongyang`s intention behind the test-firing of nuclear arms is merely to terrorize the rest of the world with the very serious threat of that country`s capability to harness nuclear technologies for military purposes.

She reported that the nation is "trying to test whether they can intimidate the international community" with the enmity of nuclear arms.

"But we are united, North Korea is isolated and pressure on North Korea will increase," she assured.

Rice`s opinion was shared by President Barack Obama, who eschewed the regime`s flagnantly "reckless" actions by saying its transgressions imperil the Far East. North Korea has alleged that the U.S. is responding to the test-firings, which the North has asserted concern a defensive edge, with hostility.

Following the news emerging from North Korea, investors on Wall Street remained wary on early tradings for the day, but later resumed business as stocks climbed due to positive eonomic news.

Whether or not North Korea`s story holds up to their true nuclear directive, the testing showed an example of how powerful their atomic program is. Pyongyang conducted the underground nuclear test on Monday, thereby infringing on a 2006 resolution passed by the U.N. Security Council preventing the country from building nuclear arsenals.

The United States and Japan urged the U.N. to enforce stricter sanctions on the country after Russian authorities confirmed that North Korea`s nuclear missiles resemble the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II in terms of power and devastating aftereffects.

France affirmed that better ordinances should be enacted, while China claimed it "resolutely opposed" Pyongyang`s actions and said North Korea should rejoin the table on finding a reasonable solution to ending their development of nuclear bombs.

Even Russia, which was once a heavy supporter of the regime, disapproved of the launch and echoed the world powers` sentiments on formulating new policies regarding sanctions aimed at curbing nuclear development in North Korea. U.N. Ambassador to Moscow Vitaly Churkin, the sitting Security Council president, pressed the 15-member panel would deliberate "quickly" on devising an improved resolution to North Korea`s reluctance in following the U.N.`s guidelines.

Experts wonder how the U.N. and allied nations will pursue disciplining a country that is already a subject of several sanctions and has demonstrated its intent on acting against current disarmament measures.

John Sawers, Britain`s ambassador to the U.N., voiced of an impasse related to negotiating with South Korea.

"I agree that the North Koreans are recalcitrant and very difficult to hold to any agreement that they sign up to," Sawers said to the B.B.C. "But there is a limited range of options here."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon repeated the ambassador`s opinion, citing a deadlock in talks with the isolated nation may further kindle an international fervor due to the North`s growing ability to wield nuclear weapons. Ki-moon had been a U.N. Council member that had arbitrated over discontinuing North Korea`s nuclear activity in the past.

He said that he was "frustrated by the lack of progress in the denuclearization process". Addressing the issue concerning tighter sanctions on the North`s regime, he deferred to the U.N. panelists saying: "I leave it to the Security Council members what measures they should take."

Since the Communists began allocating state funds into a nuclear program, leading officials around the world were rightfully scared over North Korea`s agenda for asserting itself aggressively. With the world economy still barely treading water, and the impoverished nature of North Korea`s economy, many analysts think Pyongyang may even coordinate its nuclear goals with other hostile nations, or worse, help finance its own program by aiding terrorist organizations in acquiring or building nuclear arms.

North Korea`s atomic program first came to the attention of the U.N. when the Communists test-fired a long-range missile in July 2006, and later when they launched the first nuclear missile on October the same year. In response, the U.N. Security Council enacted stringent sanctions, including warnings to halt all ballistic missile development and to desist in atomic weapons construction.

Yonhap claimed the North was readying a third missile for launch from the west coast location, based again on the testimony of an anonymous government official. They also said three missiles in total were fired on Monday:the last date marked by North Korean nuclear activity.

South Korean intelligence official Won Sei-hoon briefed legislators that a missile firing from the North was highly probable earlier on Tuesday, an unidentified person reported inside the office of Park Young-sun, a lawmaker who was in attendance during the closed-door conference.

Tensions between North Korea and the U.N. Security Council heightened as Pyongyang revealed that it would follow through on nuclear missile launches at an unspecified time the past several weeks if the council refused to apologize for rebuking the country`s surprise April 5th launch which put many nations on alert, some of whom were the United States, Britain and Japan. Though the United Nations and countries represented in the world organization deemed the April launch as a clear indication of North Korea`s long-range missile capabilities, Pyongyang denied the allegations and remained firm in saying that launch placed a satellite in orbit in conjunction with its non-military space program.

Pyongyang`s nuclear experimental run did not catch the world powers off guard as previously thought, since Won released the information concerning a possible launch to Beijing and Washington about 20-25 minutes prior to when the firing actually occurred, according to Park`s aide Choi Kyu-ha.

Won divulged that North Korea warned ahead of time it would carry out the bomb`s testing if the leading member of the Security Council did not send an immediate apology. Sources in Russia said the test happened at 9:54 a.m. local time, while South Korea`s intelligence chief verified two short-range missile firings from a site on the country`s east coast occurred after the initial test.

As a result of the launch kept secretive to most governments, the launch startled even some of North Korea`s closest allies who then joined the opposition to such an unacceptable act from the Communist regime.

Obama spoke with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak via the telephone and both "agreed that the test was a reckless violation of international law that compels action in response," the White House announced in a public statement on Tuesday. The White House also said both presidents have sworn to "seek and support a strong United Nations Security Council resolution with concrete measures to curtail North Korea`s nuclear and missile activities."

President Obama also talked to Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso about arranging a stiffer relationship with the likes of China, South Korea and Russia to support denuclearizing North Korea. The president restated his promise to defend Japan and South Korea against any attacks tbat may come from their quarrelsome neighbor.

After hearing of the cooperation, North Korea condemned the U.S. for what it referred to as hostility, and went as far as to say the nation`s soldiers and citizens were ready to ward off an American invasion should they be attacked by the U.S.

"The current U.S. administration is following in the footsteps of the previous Bush administration`s reckless policy of militantly stifling North Korea," the Rodung Sinmun newspaper said by way of the nation`s government-led Korean Central News Agency.

Japan`s lower house in parliament swiftly agreed on an unanimous resolution censuring the test launches and commanded North Korea to cease in any and all nuclear activity.

The resolution described: "This reckless act, along with the previous missile launch, threatened peace and stability in the region, including Japan. North Korea`s repeated nuclear tests posed a grave challenge to international nuclear nonproliferation. Japan, the only nation to suffer atomic attacks, cannot tolerate this."

Japan also said it was weighing the option of passing further sanctions on the country as well.

Russia has stated the recent malfeasance is "a serious blow" to the goal of stopping nuclear proliferation, and responded by allaying a Russia-North Korean intergovernmental trade agreement and economic commission. This slight punishment is seen as a sign of Moscow`s disapproval of their neighbor.

South Korea, reacting to the atomic missile test, decided to subscribe to the U.S.-directed Proliferation Security Initiative: a joint operation consisting of 94 other countries that intercepts ships allegedly carrying any cargo affiliated with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

North Korea has insisted that any such alliance would effectively end any truce with the South for years. Last week, North Korea`s Rodung Sinmun said South Korea`s signature on the initiative amounts to "nothing but a gambit to conceal their belligerence and justify a new northward invasion scheme." The newspaper later affirmed that their participation would lead to Seoul`s "self-destruction."

On Tuesday, a security meeting was held in Beijing between the defense chiefs for China and South Korea, in the aim of assenting over a mutually beneficial way to react to the nuclear testing.