Call this The Kimmityville Horror, where the message from the big evil House of Kim is — get out! North Korea warned today that nuclear war is coming to the peninsula, and foreigners and their businesses should leave South Korea or find good fallout shelters immediately. Because, #caring:
North Korea is urging all foreign companies and tourists in South Korea to evacuate or find out where they can take shelter because it says the rival Koreas are on the eve of a nuclear war.
Analysts see a direct attack on Seoul as extremely unlikely. The warning Tuesday from the North’s Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee is similar to past threats that analysts call an attempt to raise anxiety in foreign capitals.
The warning from KCNA stressed Pyongyang’s concern for the well-being of foreigners below the 38th Parallel. “We do not wish to see foreigners in S. Korea to be harmed,” the official statement read. Immediate measures should be taken in the South, they declared, to protect the “safety of foreigners … and tourists[.]” The announcement specifically mentions Seoul.
The US isn’t terribly impressed:
The U.S. embassy in Seoul tells CBS News its security status is unchanged, despite Tuesday’s warning. It says it’s not telling Americans to evacuate, and Secretary of State John Kerry is still scheduled to visit Friday.
CNN’s Jim Clancy also has trouble taking this latest declaration seriously:
In one sense, we’re back on somewhat familiar ground. North Korea wants to undermine the economy of the South by scaring off its tourists and investors. The heightened tensions might erode the confidence of investors if this goes on for a long time, but ham-fisted threats veiled in laughably insincere claims of concern aren’t going to impress anyone, show just how badly Pyongyang misunderstands the enemies it insists on making. If this is their last card to play, the South has little to fear — but that’s a mighty big if.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler takes a day off from fact-checking duties to remind us of our own illusions about leverage in this situation. The US hopes that China will rethink its alliance with the Kim regime in the light of trade and simple sanity, but we’ve had that fantasy for quite a long time — as long as a decade — and China’s perceptions of its interests in North Korea remain as inscrutable as ever:
Perhaps the stars have finally aligned with a new Chinese president and young and untested North Korean leader. But recent history suggests that, once again, any Chinese movement will be frustratingly too incremental for U.S. officials — even though, in theory, China should have important leverage as North Korea’s biggest trading partner.
An interesting analysis by the Congressional Research Service shows that trade between China and North Korea almost doubled in the years immediately after its first nuclear test in 2006.
The Fact Checker closely covered diplomacy with North Korea during the Bush administration and the early days of the Obama administration. U.S. officials often expressed the hope that, this time, China would begin to take action against North Korea. But after a brief glimmer of success, the Chinese reverted to a favorite script — urging the United States to show “more flexibility” in negotiations.
As the Times article referenced above noted, “China has a history of frustrating the United States in its dealings with North Korea.”
Be sure to read it all, and reset your expectations accordingly.