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Calling the shots in North Korea

15 APRIL 2013: In the midst of the North Korean nuclear brinkmanship, second guessing young leader Kim Jong-Un – as he attempts to forge a new alliance with his people, and eliminate rivals, by using the threat of war as a powerful rallying cry – is an art that few have mastered. By mid-April in the wake of US Secretary of State John Kerry's trip to China the two countries had, according to the New York Times, "endorsed the principle of ridding the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons, though China did not state publicly what steps it might take."

Taking a middle line on the war of words, Paul Watson of The Guardian, writes the idea of a “good South Korea and a bad North Korea” is rather immature. “The lack of western sources in North Korea has allowed the media to conjure up fantastic stories that enthrall readers but aren't grounded in hard fact."

Korea Herald believes that North Korea would much rather attack Japan rather than South Korea simply because “striking so close to home with a nuclear weapon would blanket a good part of its own population with the fallout.”

According to Choe Sang-hun from the New York Times, South Korea believes that ultimately it is on its own. “In South Korea, where people remember their recent history of war and foreign occupation, popular support has often surged for arming the country with nuclear weapons — especially when people doubt the American commitment to defend their country or when the North’s threats intensify.”

North Korea’s call for international embassies to clear out seems to have gone unheeded by many. In an interview with Global Times, Professor Zhang Liangui insists this should not be the case. “North Korea has grown more confident after its third nuclear test because its government believes that they are more than capable of fighting a war with South Korea and the US,” he says, adding that China too needs to start prepping for a potential retaliation from the rest of the world if it does not take a firm stand.

The pro-communist party China Daily echoed rumblings from China's ruling elite of growing distaste for "troublemaking" on its "doorstep" and, as China tour groups to North Korea were halted, president Xi Jinping told a business forum that no country "should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain." In a terse comment, China Daily spelled it out: "Pyongyang may have sufficient reasons to demonstrate its security concerns, and, as a sovereign state, it is entitled to enhance its national defense and to develop its science and technology. But it has no excuse for defying the UNSC resolutions that require it to drop its nuclear program and suspend any launches using anti-ballistic missile technology."

Korea JoongAng Daily reports that South Korea's President Park Geun-hye is keen to "calm the escalating military tensions through dialogue." Park believes that the US and new Secretary of State John Kerry support her "trustpolitik" approach. Kerry and China have publicly expressed keenness to negotiate while North Korea denounced these moves as “cunning”.

Japan Times meanwhile broadened the discussion with its observation that "North Korea and Iran could be the forerunners of a much wider spread of nuclear arms in Asia and the Middle East, as other countries in these regions try to protect themselves by also acquiring nuclear and missile capabilities." – Roshni Mulchandani