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4 Apr, 2013 09:40

Seoul says N. Korea missiles don’t target US as Washington shows military build-up

Seoul says N. Korea missiles don’t target US as Washington shows military build-up

South Korea’s defense minister announced that North Korean ballistic missiles are not targeting mainland US territory as the American showcase of power in the South provokes Pyongyang to resort to a last-ditch nuclear argument.

The South’s Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin refuted media reports that Pyongyang has moved its intermediate-range missiles to its east coast to strike the US mainland, Yonhap news agency reported Thursday.

The minister believes that the KN-08 missiles with claimed range of 10,000km might be getting ready for a military drill, but are not targeting the US.

Once the news about Pyongyang moving its missiles became public, the US announced strengthening of missile defenses of its military bases in the region, including its stronghold on the Island of Guam in the Pacific Ocean. Also, the US deployed F-22 stealth fighter jets to its air force base in South Korea.

The exchange of threats between two antagonists on the Korean Peninsula continues, yet the essence of intimidation differs strikingly.

Pyongyang makes one formidable gesture after another, threatening a full diplomatic rupture with the South, a ‘final’ war with Seoul and even a nuclear strike on US military bases in the region.

But North Korea’s capabilities and reserves are limited and the US know them all too well, keeping a satellite eye on any suspicious activities daily.

North Korean Navy female soldiers march at the Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang for the military parade (AFP Photo/KCNA via Korean News Service)

Seoul-based correspondent Joseph Kim says the US pursues its own interests when getting more involved in the conflict. It“continuously monitors and gains more influence in the region.”

“They are technically trying to get back to East Asia to be able to counter China and its growing power in terms of the economy. And why not use North Korea?” Kim told RT.

Officially, Pyongyang has only China as its principle ally. Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui has expressed “serious concern” with the crisis between the two Koreas.

"In the present situation, China believes all sides must remain calm and exercise restraint and not take actions which are mutually provocative and must certainly not take actions which will worsen the situation," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters in Beijing.

This statement confirms that today is not 1950 and Chinese troops are not likely to interfere in case a conflict on the Korean Peninsula becomes truly hot. Which could mean that North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-un have only themselves to rely on.

Though the Chinese army has been reported to be moving tanks and military equipment to the border with North Korea, in the wake of North Korea’s statement to respond to provocations according to the "laws of war", Washington Times reports citing unnamed US intelligence. 

The troops’ activity on the border areas of China began in mid-March and the process is currently ongoing according to sources cited by the Washington Times. The reports highlight the movement of army units and heavy artillery, including the 190th motorized infantry brigade, observed in the province of Liaoning. A large number of fighters were reported in the skies over the border cities -  Fuchen, Hebei Province, Zhangye and Changchun, Liaoning Province.

Conversely, Seoul has the US as mighty ally which keeps thousands of its troops and modern weapons in South Korea. And America does not hesitate to beef up its military presence in the region.

Investigative journalist Tim Shorrock believes North Korea’s actions are being misconstrued and the American response to them is unbalanced and achieves the opposite result.

“North Korea does not want to commit suicide. I believe [it] is doing all this so it can get to a point where it can negotiate some kind of peace agreement with the United States,” he said.

“They look up and they see these B-2 bombers and that’s an absolute reminder of danger of war with the United States, but it also gives the monolithic authoritarian state the [opportunity] to show to the North Korean people that indeed there is a threat. So, by escalating it to this point, the United States is playing right into Kim Jong-un’s hands.”

B-2 bombers and F-22 stealth fighter jets, American battleships near North Korean shores and joint war games near North Korean borders. The US has enough military power to enhance its military presence on the Korean Peninsula to practically any limit imaginable – which it actually is doing.

South Korean soldiers march during a rehearsal for a parade (AFP Photo)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned on March 29 that the confrontation between two Koreas might “get out of control and spiral down into a vicious circle.”

With the given conditions, it may be that Pyongyang is intentionally being cornered to get it to show its teeth – and it really is showing them, as if following a plan designed by somebody else.

Eric Sirotkin, co-founder of the campaign to end the Korean War who personally visited North Korea told RT that, “The problem is when you put tens of thousands of the US and South Korean troops off the shores of North Korea, surrounding it in the water, running military exercises, shooting live ammunition, engaging in this kind of conflict – you have the North upset and talking nuclear weapons. You have a volatile situation and anything could go wrong.”

Pyongyang has expressed a desire to “start communication” with Washington, Joseph Kim told RT, but

“Washington’s presence in South Korea is growing larger.” Anti-war activist Eugene Puryear from the ANSWER coalition believes that a peaceful solution to the crisis is possible but blames the United States for hampering it.

“What people need to understand is that the North Korean government - the DPRK - has consistently put forward four basic principles to the United States in negotiations. One is to sign a peace treaty to end the Korean War - most people don’t realize this, at least in the United States, after the war ended in 1953 the United States has refused to sign any sort of peace treaty, they’ve only signed an armistice,” he explained to RT.

“North Korea has consistently asked for a peace treaty, with the de-militarization of the peninsula, and bilateral talks with the United States to reduce tensions. So I think if the United States would put down their weapons, sign a peace treaty, and let North Korea know that they were not aiming to overthrow their regime, as they have consistently hinted towards, then they would be able to back out of this crisis in a very peaceful way.”

As for the means the US chooses to achieve its ends, there are questions remaining as to the efficacy. 

Gregory Elich, a member of think tank for the advisory board at the Korea Policy Institute, told RT the United States is interested in the collapse of the North, as the US “can establish their military bases right on the border with China, meaning an encirclement of that nation.” He added that America never “never tolerated a country that won’t put its economy at the service of foreign corporations.”