Last week, we wondered how newly-installed Dear Leader Kim Jong-un would deal with the embarrassing spectacle of the disintegration of their ICBM after just 90 seconds in flight. The answer? Threaten to reduce the government in Seoul to “ashes” in less than four minutes — by “unprecedented peculiar means“:
North Korea regularly criticizes Seoul and just last week renewed its promise to wage a “sacred war,” saying South Korean PresidentLee Myung-bak had insulted the North’s April 15 celebrations of the birth centennial of national founder Kim Il Sung.
But Monday’s military statement, which vowed actions of “unprecedented peculiar means,” was unusual in promising something soon and describing a specific length of time.
The threat follows U.N. condemnation of North Korea’s launch of a long-range rocket that exploded shortly after liftoff April 13. Washington, Seoul and others called the launch a cover for testing long-range missile technology. Pyongyang said the launch was meant to put a satellite into orbit.
The North’s special actions “will reduce all the rat-like groups and the bases for provocations to ashes in three or four minutes, (or) in much shorter time, by unprecedented peculiar means and methods of our own style,” according to the statement by the special operation action group of the Korean People’s Army’s Supreme Command.
Clearly, Pyongyang is looking to distract its subjects from the military failure earlier this month. However, this threat goes beyond their normal bluster, as the AP notes above. Threats from the DPRK usually use more general terminology, and especially timeframes, as the Kim regimes attempt to force some concessions from their opponents in the rational world.
In this case, I’d guess that the issue is starvation. Lee Myung-bak cut off food aid from the South in 2008 that didn’t get tied to concessions from Pyongyang, and now the latest missile test has ended the food shipments from the US as well. The military needs that food aid to keep the rank and file from rebelling, let alone the unfortunate people of the DPRK. Kim can’t afford to let the army starve, and he can’t domestically produce the food necessary to keep it from happening. He needs that food aid to resume in order to keep his new position as hereditary dictator.
If the DPRK seriously tries terrorist attacks in Seoul, however, starvation will be the least of their concerns. This could become a shooting war again, and it will take a mighty careful balance to keep it from expanding to China, Japan, and Russia all over again. Right now it looks like bluster, especially since Pyongyang hasn’t moved any troops to the border after their announcement, but the threat of terrorist attacks won’t be taken lightly by Seoul or the US.