Pyongyang cuts off Red Cross hotline to Seoul

posted at 9:21 am on March 11, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

As Allahpundit and I often write, announcements and threats from North Korea get greeted with a large, and earned, amount of cynicism.  The saber-rattling usually means (a) shoring up support in a domestic power struggle, (b) attempting to increase leverage for aid demands, or (c) both.  Still, the rapid deterioration of diplomatic connections continued today, and this time aid itself has been impacted:

North Korea has cut off a Red Cross hotline with South Korea as it escalates its war of words against Seoul and Washington in response to a military drill in the South and U.N. sanctions imposed for its recent nuclear test.

The North had threatened to cut off the hotline on March 11 if the United States and South Korea did not abandon their joint military exercise.

The Red Cross hotline is used to communicate between Seoul and Pyongyang which do not have diplomatic relations.

“We called at 9 a.m. and there was no response,” a government official from South Korea said. The line is tested each day.

If they want more aid, cutting off the Red Cross hotline — even though it’s apparently used primarily for security purposes rather than aid — seems like a counter-intuitive move. The next step would be a significant escalation:

Pyongyang has also threatened to cut off a hotline with U.N. forces in South Korea, at the border “truce village” of Panmunjom.

That could have some real-world consequences.  At least in theory, the active hotline allows for quick resolutions of errors and misunderstandings that might rapidly deteriorate into open fighting and a restart of the Korean War.  By cutting this off, Kim Jong-un makes war by misstep a lot more likely, which is again a counter-intuitive move if the aim is to shore up political support short of starting a war.

So what’s actually going on? Perhaps the new sanctions might have the military and/or Kim regime worried about a total destabilization that risks their grip on power, and war might be a rational option to a coup or a “people’s revolution” that will see most of those in power now lined up against the wall.   It’s still possible that the regime thinks that increased saber-rattling will increase their leverage to win concessions, but they’re getting close to an all-in bet on that approach and eliminating the safety valves that will keep the guns mainly silent.  At some point, China may end up taking matters into their own hands to prevent Kim and his regime from creating a massive refugee crisis on their doorstep, and their recent endorsement of sanctions seems to be sending Pyongyang a message that they’re not receiving.


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At some point, China may end up taking matters into their own hands to prevent Kim and his regime

The possibility certainly exists that it is China who is making all this bluster from Kim possible. He’s confident, so to speak, “saber-rattling,” because the Big Panda has his back.

Could be…

It could also be why China hasn’t by now pulled Kim and former up by their pants.

Lourdes on March 11, 2013 at 9:27 AM

Reaching Wasserman/Shakowski levels of crazy…

MarkT on March 11, 2013 at 9:27 AM

Another tantrum from the pipsqueak leader of a nothing country.

There is an industrial complex on the border, built with South Korean money, that employs workers from both countries. The Norks allowed the ‘enemy’ workers in today to their jobs, so it seems Kimmy isn’t going to push too far. The complex employs mostly North Koreans, and slowing production or shutting it down might hurt what little economy Pyongyang has going for itself.

Kimmy seems to be giving the cold-shoulder routine like an offended mother-in-law. I hope everyone just ignores him.

Liam on March 11, 2013 at 9:28 AM

My theory is that when a country threatens to destroy you…you take it seriously, you tell them you are not going to wait for them to make the first move.

Than you prepare, and when the right time comes, you strike the first debilitating blow…you don’t wait to be taken out, you don’t wait for your people to be killed.

You take the countries words, their countless, relenting words, as truth…you hold them accountable.

You let the world know, it’s not a long drawn out war of words…it will be a short, concise, overwhelming attack, with little risk of losing lives on our side…now sit down and talk like an adult, or risk the chance of losing your country.

right2bright on March 11, 2013 at 9:30 AM

Of course, recognizing the risk, Beijing will immediately condemn this action. Not.

MTF on March 11, 2013 at 9:30 AM

The Korean Michael Moore won’t be missing any meals because of this “crisis”, that’s for certain; the pudgy oaf is wobbling about 3 chins there.

Bishop on March 11, 2013 at 9:30 AM

So what’s actually going on?

One child leader is toying with another child leader. Neither one should be anywhere close to the position of power they both hold.

fogw on March 11, 2013 at 9:31 AM

Send in the Drones.

bgibbs1000 on March 11, 2013 at 9:31 AM

His palace will be easy to find at night. It’s the only electric building in the nation.

JellyToast on March 11, 2013 at 9:32 AM

Kimmy seems to be giving the cold-shoulder routine like an offended mother-in-law. I hope everyone just ignores him.

Liam on March 11, 2013 at 9:28 AM

I get it, but it sets the tone for the rest of the world, and they see us as weak and allowing the rhetoric, which stirs other factions in the world to actually take action…I am tired of the blustering, that eventually turns to us losing thousands of lives, ambassadors, bombed embassy’s, ships being attacked, it all starts with countries allowing to be the faux bullies…we are not talking about political speech, we are talking about a countries actual policy.

right2bright on March 11, 2013 at 9:34 AM

BTW, Reagan knew how to stop Kadafi…a “cowboy” wild west image isn’t a bad image…Carter had hostages for 400+ days, Reagan, they were released as soon as they knew he was going to take action…

right2bright on March 11, 2013 at 9:36 AM

Our horse-faced traitor of a SecState is remarkably absent from any part of this issue.

Happy Nomad on March 11, 2013 at 9:36 AM

right2bright on March 11, 2013 at 9:34 AM

Oh, I didn’t mean to keep the status quo from our end. If we’re sending aid, we should just tell Kimmy ant parts of the supply line we provide are cut like the phone lines. Problem is, Obama and Kerry would never do that.

Liam on March 11, 2013 at 9:37 AM

Un must think this is a good time to try taking over the South. We’re bogged down in Afghan, our military has been hurt by the sequester, and the govt has seized all the personal weapon of it’s citizens. These people aren’t very well informed and have no idea what goes on beyond their borders. Remember when our dear leader called Iran and Venezuela a tiny country? Ignorance is their enabler.

Kissmygrits on March 11, 2013 at 9:37 AM

Perhaps the new sanctions might have the military and/or Kim regime worried about a total destabilization that risks their grip on power, and war might be a rational option to a coup or a “people’s revolution” that will see most of those in power now lined up against the wall.

That was my initial thought yesterday. Un most certainly would treat his high-level groupies to everything they want…the spoils of dedication. As the third leader, the son of the son of the “Great Leader” who started it all won’t go down without a whole lot of “fireworks” so to speak.

JetBoy on March 11, 2013 at 9:38 AM

By cutting this off, Kim Jong-un makes war by misstep a lot more likely, which is again a counter-intuitive move if the aim is to shore up political support short of starting a war.

The problem for North Korea is that their rheotoric is so hysterical and extreme they have to constantly ramp it up to get people to take them seriously. Kim screaming that “we will destroy America!” is pretty much the international equivalent of a five year old throwing a temper tantrum. They have to do things like this to actually get the West to take notice of them.

I am tired of the blustering, that eventually turns to us losing thousands of lives, ambassadors, bombed embassy’s, ships being attacked, it all starts with countries allowing to be the faux bullies…we are not talking about political speech, we are talking about a countries actual policy.

right2bright on March 11, 2013 at 9:34 AM

If we bomb North Korea we run the high risk of mass casualties in Seoul. This isn’t like bombing Libya or Syria or some other Middle Eastern country which has no real way to retaliate against us. The best response to this situation is to ignore Kim and let him look weak and impotent when he’s unable to follow through on his threats.

If by some chance he is actually dumb enough to follow through then we have carte blanche to wipe him off the map.

Doomberg on March 11, 2013 at 9:39 AM

By cutting this off, Kim Jong-un makes war by misstep a lot more likely, which is again a counter-intuitive move if the aim is to shore up political support short of starting a war.

We have no less an authority than Dennis Rodman telling us that Kim Jong-un doesn’t want to make war. Both he and our rat-eared dictator both love basketball.

Happy Nomad on March 11, 2013 at 9:39 AM

…where is our emissary Dennis Rodman?

KOOLAID2 on March 11, 2013 at 9:39 AM

So if North Korea were an American citizen sitting in a Starbucks drinking coffee, would this constitute a “combat situation” and could Obama legally drop hell fire missile on its lap?

dirtseller on March 11, 2013 at 9:40 AM

– Little men as dictators can evolve into scary events.
– China won’t do anything – China has reach a level of exercising it’s power.
– The USA will wait for a crisis to look back and decide what it should have done.

jake-the-goose on March 11, 2013 at 9:41 AM

…where is our emissary Dennis Rodman?

KOOLAID2 on March 11, 2013 at 9:39 AM

Take heart: THE ROCK, Dwayne Johnson landed just a day or so ago in South Korea.

He’s a Republican, ‘case anyone wonders, and a good and intelligent guy.

Lourdes on March 11, 2013 at 9:44 AM

Kim Jong-Un has a credibility gap with his military. Jong-Il was at least groomed to be the heir, Un was educated out of country and was a last second substitute to be the leader. Saber rattling is his way of appearing to be tough, but the military knows it will not survive a war. Best thing to do is ignore him. And let the entire world know we will nuke North Korea. China doesn’t want a refugee problem any more than South Korea does.

rbj on March 11, 2013 at 9:46 AM

I blame google for going in to noko and adding to the little dictators ego.

portlandon on March 11, 2013 at 9:46 AM

Eagle landed – South Korea. Kickin’ off this global beast of a press tour. #Seoul #BringIt #GIJoe twitter.com/TheRock/status…— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) March 10, 2013

Lourdes on March 11, 2013 at 9:47 AM

So if North Korea were an American citizen sitting in a Starbucks drinking coffee, would this constitute a “combat situation” and could Obama legally drop hell fire missile on its lap?

dirtseller on March 11, 2013 at 9:40 AM

Isn’t that a scene in Team America?

Happy Nomad on March 11, 2013 at 9:47 AM

Forget the NorkNuke. Just their 10,000 152mm Ruskie artillery raining down on Seoul for an hour would do more damage. The only solution to this is starve the regime, and that isn’t going to happen without China and China has no intention of letting their barking dog starve. All we can do is prepare for the worst and hope China doesn’t let the dog off the chain.

Limerick on March 11, 2013 at 9:48 AM

Best thing to do is ignore him. And let the entire world know we will nuke North Korea. China doesn’t want a refugee problem any more than South Korea does.

rbj on March 11, 2013 at 9:46 AM

Use of nukes by the rat-eared wonder? Yeah, that’ll happen. /

Happy Nomad on March 11, 2013 at 9:48 AM

Crying wolf again

Philly on March 11, 2013 at 9:49 AM

Maybe Young’un realizes they’ve royally screwed up the country, but want to save face.

Re-start the war, lose as quickly as possible so that they can re-unite with the South and stop starving.

Not likely, though.

Dexter_Alarius on March 11, 2013 at 9:51 AM

Excellent analysis. It has only one flaw. Young’un, unlike his people, isn’t starving.

bgibbs1000 on March 11, 2013 at 9:55 AM

[T]heir [China's] recent endorsement of sanctions seems to be sending Pyongyang a message that they’re not receiving. E.M.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

G.B.Shaw

Barnestormer on March 11, 2013 at 9:55 AM

Are they that ticked off about Rodman? Maybe they fear we will send him back.

tdarrington on March 11, 2013 at 9:58 AM

The hyenas are nipping at the lion’s heels.

tdarrington on March 11, 2013 at 10:00 AM

The hyenas are nipping at the lion’s heels.

tdarrington on March 11, 2013 at 10:00 AM

That’s not good! A pack of hyenas can bring a lion to its knees.

OldEnglish on March 11, 2013 at 10:13 AM

Send in the Drones.

bgibbs1000 on March 11, 2013 at 9:31 AM

♪ Send in the drones. Don’t bother, they’re here.♫

Throat Wobbler Mangrove on March 11, 2013 at 10:15 AM

If only we had some kind of intelligence-gathering organization in the United States, a department or agency solely dedicated to finding out, say, the intentions and motivations of hostile foreign leaders, an agency free of political partisianship and capable of providing our government with reasonably timely and accurate information. With such an agency, we could conceivably have been able to foretell, for example, the collapse of the Soviet Union and would possibly have known with some certainty the type, kind, and quantity of Saddam Hussein’s WMD program or, more currently, have an approximation of Iran’s nuclear status.

One can dream.

troyriser_gopftw on March 11, 2013 at 10:16 AM

troyriser_gopftw on March 11, 2013 at 10:16 AM

You used to have such an agency – it was called OSS.

OldEnglish on March 11, 2013 at 10:17 AM

Eagle landed – South Korea. Kickin’ off this global beast of a press tour. #Seoul #BringIt #GIJoe twitter.com/TheRock/status…— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) March 10, 2013

Lourdes on March 11, 2013 at 9:47 AM

I can see the Administration’s next moves:

Dennis Rodman gets the Congressional Medal of Freedom, while the Rock gets sent to prison for Logan Act violations.

blammm on March 11, 2013 at 10:20 AM

I am not sure how the North Koreans would have enough resources to supply and re-supply their armed forces for any long term engagement. So Kim is either deranged or he is pretty sure the Chinese will aid him substantially. I hope the Obama administration is communicating with China regarding their intentions with this loon who is running NK. I am guessing the Chinese are not crazy enough to sanction Kim initiating a conflict with a nuclear weapon or initiating ground action for the purpose of following up with a bomb.

DaveDief on March 11, 2013 at 10:32 AM

When they roll out there next missile destroy it with a cruise missile …………………… in other words, it is time to act.

SC.Charlie on March 11, 2013 at 10:33 AM

The fact that Seoul has not built a system of bomb shelters to counter the possibility of an artillery attack is plain stupidity on their part. They can use their subway system. But, I don’t know who deep the subway station has been constructed.

SC.Charlie on March 11, 2013 at 10:38 AM

A blockade of North Korea if supported by China would be enough to bring down the North Korean regime.

SC.Charlie on March 11, 2013 at 10:40 AM

Oh, I didn’t mean to keep the status quo from our end. If we’re sending aid, we should just tell Kimmy ant parts of the supply line we provide are cut like the phone lines. Problem is, Obama and Kerry would never do that.

Liam on March 11, 2013 at 9:37 AM

Got it…and yes, it’s just not possible with this administration…so more men will die because of inaction.

right2bright on March 11, 2013 at 10:45 AM

A blockade of North Korea if supported by China would be enough to bring down the North Korean regime.

SC.Charlie on March 11, 2013 at 10:40 AM

You’re assuming rational actors acting rationally. A reasonably sane government, no matter how bloodthirsty or authoritarian, would seek a way out that did not involve national suicide. However, totalitarian societies drive people insane, both oppressors and oppressed. A blockade would result in a nuclear response in tandem with a ground invasion of the south. In fact, the only way the Norks could prevent immediate destruction of their army would be by closing with South Korean and American armies as quickly as they could. However, I doubt nuclear catastrophe is Kim Jong Un’s intent.

Kim Jong Un is new to command. He needs to prove himself to his generals. I’m sure he loves living as much as he loves basketball but he won’t be alive for long if he doesn’t have the support of his military. Thus, he goes all in with bellicose provocations. The idea, I guess, is to bring tensions high enough to force some kind of concessions from South Korea’s new president, who happens to be a woman.

The US and S. Korea could temporarily suspend joint military exercises. That’s the quick and easy way out. It would give the Norks the concession they’re after, one they can trumpet as a great victory, which would then cement military loyalty to Kim Jong Un.

If, however, Kim Jong Un can’t spin a victory out of this mess by squeezing some kind of concession from the US or S. Korea, he’ll have to escalate hostilities until he does force concessions. He absolutely cannot afford to lose face, especially not to a woman.

troyriser_gopftw on March 11, 2013 at 11:03 AM

troyriser_gopftw on March 11, 2013 at 11:03 AM

Currently the North Koreans don’t have a means of delivering a nuclear device. And, personally I don’t expect for the regime to become anymore sane in the near future. Should we wait until they have the means to deliver a nuclear device and sell such devices to Iran and other rogue anti-western regimes?

SC.Charlie on March 11, 2013 at 11:19 AM

Not to mention the NorKs currently receive most of their food from the ROK. The ROK could bring them to their knees by shutting off the pipeline, but remember, these are relatives in many cases, and it would be like telling your own grandma to starve, just because of the neighborhood she is in.

That said, everyone seems to be discounting the capabilities of the ROK, and I assure you, the South is NOT a push-over militarily.

PJ Emeritus on March 11, 2013 at 11:35 AM

My local rag is saying that the Norks also have, finally, officially ended the armistice, or they announced that they had. Before they’ve always threatened to do it, but now they have done it.

So I guess we are technically at war?

Vanceone on March 11, 2013 at 11:39 AM

Currently the North Koreans don’t have a means of delivering a nuclear device. And, personally I don’t expect for the regime to become anymore sane in the near future. Should we wait until they have the means to deliver a nuclear device and sell such devices to Iran and other rogue anti-western regimes?

SC.Charlie on March 11, 2013 at 11:19 AM

The North Koreans have the means to deliver a nuclear device, the latest iteration of the Nodong-1 which, as you may know, is the progenitor of the Shahab-3 missile, built by Iran with love. The latest version of the Nodong missile system is perfectly capable of hitting Seoul and possibly even Tokyo or even–somewhat remotely–San Francisco. However, if push came to shove, a few very dedicated North Korean soldiers and technicians could use a truck and just take a one-way trip to Seoul. Although not exactly porous, the border between North and South Korea is comparatively long, and no national border is airtight. Regarding your second point, there has been some conjecture that North Korea has already sold a nuclear device to Iran. Their latest nuclear test involved two bombs. One of those two could have been proof of product for Iran. Who knows? The Iranians aren’t talking, that’s for sure.

People put too much emphasis on Chinese influence with North Korea. The North Korean military no doubt noted with interest China’s failed attempt to invade an independent-minded client state, Vietnam, in 1979, and learned a few lessons from it. Comes to that, I’m guessing the Chinese are as uncertain as everyone else what the latest North Korean mad dictator may or may not do. I’m guessing the Chinese are attempting to find out right about now what concessions Kim Jong Un is after. Once they find out, they’ll do all they can to persuade us to give it to him. If a shooting war starts, China could go either way. China has generals of its own to mollify, after all.

troyriser_gopftw on March 11, 2013 at 11:42 AM

That said, everyone seems to be discounting the capabilities of the ROK, and I assure you, the South is NOT a push-over militarily.

PJ Emeritus on March 11, 2013 at 11:35 AM

I cross-trained with ROKs many years ago. You’re right: they’re tough and capable. Their leadership would also be a targeting priority for one of the estimated five or six nuclear bombs in North Korea’s arsenal.

That said, it simply doesn’t matter that North Korea would lose any conflict with South Korea and the United States in any given scenario, even if China militarily intercedes on North Korea’s behalf as it did in the first Korean War. North Korea’s leadership does not perceive the world in terms normal human beings would understand. They draw on a frame of reference antithetical to reality. The North Korean military will swarm that border on command and move forward irrespective of losses and keep going until they are all dead.

MAD worked with the Russians because the Soviet Politboro, as a whole, were rational men, comfortable with their dachas in the country on the weekends and the other perks that went with Inner Party membership. They weren’t exactly intent on going out in a blaze of revolutionary glory. Not so North Korea.

troyriser_gopftw on March 11, 2013 at 12:03 PM

That said, everyone seems to be discounting the capabilities of the ROK, and I assure you, the South is NOT a push-over militarily.

PJ Emeritus on March 11, 2013 at 11:35 AM

This is all opinion and conjecture based on my military experience with the South Korean military and our U.S. presence there. Much of it is outdated so any mistakes I make are my own and any corrections gratefully solicited.

All available evidence from a few years ago was that the North had the wherewithal to physically push to Seoul and, depending on grabbing a bridge (they are all rumored to be rigged with explosives, I know they were in the 70’s) across the Han river they might get a few miles further south before their steam and logistics ran out.

It would be a very violent and bloody war and almost certainly our president will be faced with the possible first nuclear strike. That’s always been a kind of ‘open secret” that there is very little else we can do to protect our citizens.

Since my military days we’ve (finally!) moved the Americans off the DMZ but have actually put them, our fighters, SOUTH of many of their own families in Seoul.

The NKs could possible trap upwards of a quarter million American civilians and REMFs in Seoul. I believe the NKs plan has always been to bombard Seoul into rubble with their horrifically accurate large rocket artillery.

Any American president, R or D is going to be hard pressed not to go nuclear rather early. He or She would really have no other option. We often forget that one of the early attractions of nuclear weapons was their affordability. We used to plan on putting nukes where we couldn’t afford to put 500,000 troops. That was the strategy in Korea in the 50s and even though that’s no longer the conventional thinking we’ve done nothing else to replace those nukes.

I can’t see how we can’t use them when tens of thousands American women and children are in danger.

My bottom line: In any scenario the NKs lose; decisively.

But not without a butcher’s bill of casualties including American and SK civilians and probably a nuclear exchange.

E9RET on March 11, 2013 at 12:54 PM

For those of you worried about the thousands of artillery tubes aimed at Seoul, just wait until those artillery shells are nuclear.

Steve Eggleston on March 11, 2013 at 1:03 PM

It would be nice if North Korea had some sane military men that would just bring this insanity to any end. How about a coup.

SC.Charlie on March 11, 2013 at 2:01 PM

Perhaps this is all a distraction or a covering bluster for some other shenanigans. Perhaps we should be paying more attention to small fishing boats or clapped-out tramp freighters leaving NK and travelling vaguely in the direction of Iran, the middle east or Pakistan. The fanatical rhetoric might just be an attempt to dissuade any foreign navies from inspecting suspicious vessels.

YiZhangZhe on March 11, 2013 at 4:32 PM

Calling Dennis Rodman! Calling Dennis Rodman!

ultracon on March 11, 2013 at 5:49 PM

Kerry’s on it.

johnnyU on March 11, 2013 at 11:33 PM