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article imageNorth Korea Ratchets Up Tensions while Preparing for Talks

By W.V. Fitzgerald     Feb 12, 2009 in World
North Korea has recently disregarded all peace agreements with the South, appears to be preparing a long range missile test, reassigned their top military leaders but appeared to be preparing for talks when visited by American experts on North Korea.
Kim Jong-il will celebrate his 67th birthday this Sunday and is suspected of timing a test of the Taepodong-2 missile around that date, as well as possible test of short-range missiles. In the past North Korea has used such accessions to praise Kim's "military-first policy".
The launches are intended to show the people of North Korea that they are strong enough to stand up to the U.S. and South Korea. It is believed that the possible upcoming test are intended to get the attention of President Obama as well as to put pressure on President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea. Shortly after taking office Myung-bak cut off what was described as a free flow of unconditional aid to the North. Since then Kim Jong-il has threatened to reduce South Korea to rubble and said that he would have no more dealings with them.
Recently North Korea said that they had aborted all peace agreements with South Korea, they have also reassigned senior military leaders, this is not uncommon and is usually done on April 15 or April 25th but it is uncommon to reassign top leaders at a time when the threat of military conflict is increasing.
"It's unusual for North Korea to reshuffle key military leaders in a situation where it is increasing the threat of armed conflict by showing signs of preparing for a long-range missile test. We're carefully analyzing why North Korea has replaced the key officials.” says a South Korean Intelligence officer.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters "North Korea has to understand that all of the countries in East Asia have made it clear that its behavior is viewed as unacceptable."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. could shoot down any ballistic missile that was being tested with the continental U.S. as a potential target but he went on to say "Since the first time that they launched the missile (in 2006) it flew for a few minutes before crashing, the range of the Taepodong-2 remains to be seen. So far, it's very short."
The recent disappearance of Chinese fishing vessels from North Korean Waters in the West Sea is believed by some to be a sign of pending military action by the North. Although the number of ships began to decrease over a month ago on February 4, 50 vessels suddenly left the area. The South Korean Defense Ministry said that this is has nothing to do with possible military actions and is based on false information from two previous navel skirmishes. . "Claims that Chinese fishing boats moved out of the sea near the NLL prior to the two previous inter-Korean naval skirmishes has been proven groundless," said ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae.
Former U.S. ambassador to Seoul Stephen Bosworth, along with several others, recently met with Officials in North Korea and afterwards he said, "They said we should all wait and see, There were no threats, no indication that they were concerned. They treated the missile issue as just a normal run-of-the-mill issue." he went on to say that he believes the north is preparing for six-party talks and bilateral talks talks with the U.S.
More about North korea, South Korea, Kim jong-il
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