North Korea is no longer talking about the South. Experts say it could try to create a crisis

North Korea is no longer talking about the South. Experts say it could try to create a crisis

North Korean state media said they would shut down several telephone lines, including a military-to-military telephone line and another line intended to directly connect Kim Jong Un’s leader and South Korean President Moon Jae-in immediately. These lines were considered important because they could help prevent an accidental military confrontation caused by misinterpretation or miscalculation of the action or intent of the other side.

Choi Hyun-soo, a spokesman for South Korea’s defense ministry, said North Korea had not responded to phone calls on a military line on Tuesday morning for the first time since it was established in 2018. A call to the public’s common telephone line A link, which North Korea said closed Friday, also went unanswered.

“Inter-Korean lines of communication must be maintained in accordance with the agreement, because they are the fundamental means of communication,” the Ministry of Unification, South Korea’s governing body dealing with all matters, said in a statement.

“The government will continue to work for the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula, following the inter-Korean agreement.”

Pyongyang has said it is giving Seoul a cold shoulder because North Korean dissidents in South Korea have thrown balloons at their old home with leaflets and SD cards, possibly with information about the outside world. It is illegal for North Koreans to consume information that has not been approved by the country’s powerful propaganda machine, and this can have dire consequences.

Experts believe it is possible that Kim’s regime is using the issue of leaflets to create a crisis – a tactic in North Korea’s international playbook that is often used to create a sense of urgency in conversations.

Pyongyang has claimed that the balloons, sent by a private group, violated an agreement reached at the April 2018 summit, in which both sides agreed to “stop all hostilities” and eliminate their means, including transmission through loudspeakers and leaflet distribution “common outline. Several of the lines of communication that were closed on Tuesday were created or restored as part of the same agreement.

“We will never exchange the dignity of our top leadership for anything, but we will defend it at the cost of our lives,” a statement released Tuesday by North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency said. “There is no reason for us to sit face to face with the South Korean authorities and there is no question of discussing them, as they have disappointed us.”

The statement also said Tuesday’s move was “the first step in resolving all disputes with South Korea and getting rid of unnecessary things.”

Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister and one of the country’s most powerful officials, appears to have played a key role in North Korea’s decision to cut ties with the South.

She and Kim Yong Chol, who served as Mike Pompeo’s secretary of state in talks with the United States, both mentioned their names in Tuesday’s announcement. KCNA also quoted a piece by Kim Yo Jong on Friday as referring to the apostates as “mongrel dogs” and threatening South Korea, suggesting that “it’s time to blame their owners.”

Fighters for a free North Korea, the non-governmental organization that claimed to have sent the balloons, said it had sent 500,000 leaflets, $ 2,000 1 bills and 1,000 SD cards across the border. The team did not say what was on the memory cards, but in the past they included movies and TV shows from South Korea and the West.

The team posted a picture on its website showing various balloons, including one bearing a poster with a caricature of Kim Jong Un and the words: “While people are starving, what good is a nuclear missile, chemical biological weapons and political camps?” prisoners? Let’s end Kim Jong Un’s hereditary dictatorship! “

The leader of the Fighters for a Free North Korea group, Park Sang-hak, is a well-known apostate. In 2012, North Korean agents tried to assassinate him with a poison-shaped needle-shaped pen.

A political ploy

The Kim family is treated with the utmost respect in the North Korean state media, and insulting any of them can be severely punished. But the decision to escalate hostilities could be a political ploy to start intra-Korean talks, which have essentially remained neutral for months.

“Korean communications have essentially been dead and malfunctioning anyway, but Pyongyang is trying to remove the lines much larger than they really are,” said Duyon Kim, a senior adviser to the International Crisis Group specializing in North East Asian affairs. policy.

The first intra-Korean telephone line was established in 1971, according to the Ministry of Unification. Since then, North Korea has cut off communications at least five times.

“This situation is not ideal, but the two Koreas are accustomed to periods of segregated dialogue channels,” Dujon Kim said.

Talks on achieving many of the main goals set at the April 2018 summit, including ending the Korean War and restoring intra-Korean economic projects, have so far failed to move forward.

A key point is the sanctions imposed on North Korea by the United Nations Security Council and the United States. Pyongyang desperately needs hard currency, but sanctions are preventing the country from selling more valuables or participating in profitable joint ventures with the South.

Andrei Lankov, a North Korean affairs expert at Kookmin University in Seoul, said Moon was unlikely to do anything to punish sanctions for fear of alienating the United States, an ally of the South Korean Treaty, or President Donald Trump. It is clear that he does not want to pay for long-term alliances at the same price as his predecessors.

North Korea is now trying to put South Korea in a corner, while keeping the United States at bay, in the hope that a sense of urgency in Seoul will push the Moon to work on Kim Jong Un’s terms.

North Koreans “do not want the Moon Jae-in government to feel comfortable. They want to create a measured crisis, a controlled crisis,” Lankov said. “North Korea needs a crisis in its relations with South Korea, but a type that will not directly affect the United States.

The problem, however, is that Moon rose to a political high after doing better than expected in the legislative elections earlier this year. And its voters aren’t particularly interested in the escalation cycle with North Korea – it’s something South Koreans are used to. Discontinuation of communication is unlikely to be a major issue in South Korea, where the economy and the new corona pandemic are the most pressing concerns of the day.

Lankov said North Korea’s efforts to create a sense of crisis in South Korea were “extremely successful”.

“However, it is not necessarily a good sign,” he said. “The lack of response means that North Korea is starting to increase its volume, increasing the intensity of the challenge.”

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