N.Korea Ratchets Up Rhetoric Over Anything But Shipwreck

      April 06, 2010 13:32

      North Korea has made no comment about the sinking of South Korean naval corvette Cheonan 11 days since the day the ship sank but instead continued its rhetorical campaign against Seoul and Washington on other issues.

      A spokesman for the North Korean Army's liaison office at the truce village of  Panmunjom on Monday threatened to end cooperation with the U.S. in retrieving the remains of soldiers who died in the Korean War. "We will no longer be concerned if the bones of thousands of American soldiers remain scattered throughout the land. It will be responsibility of the U.S. if remains of thousands of U.S. soldiers are lost," it said.

      The North, which is becoming increasingly desperate for hard cash from any cooperative projects, proposed holding a meeting about excavating the remains of U.S. soldiers to UN Command in January, but no progress had been made.

      Amid suspicion that the North was behind the sinking of the Cheonan, North Korea's action seems untimely and out of the blue.

      On Sunday, the official Korean Central News Agency claimed tensions escalated at the border "as the South Korean military fired 90 mm recoilless rifles at our guard post in the demilitarized zone." South Korean military authority dismissed the claim as "groundless."

      On March 29, the North Korean representatives at Panmunjom called the South Korean government's permission for field trips and media coverage of the DMZ "psychological warfare." It warned of "unpredictable results including loss of lives" if those "violations" continue. The Rodong Sinmun on March 31 castigated South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises by threatening to "drown the invaders in the sea."

      The rhetoric seems mostly designed for domestic consumption amid growing unrest over a botched currency reform and food shortages.

      Nam Joo-hong, professor at Kyonggi University, said, "It seems that North Korea is trying to downplay the possibility of its involvement" in the sinking of the South Korean ship by bringing up other issues. A security official said, "It seems rather strange that North Korea has been silent for over 10 days."

      During what it billed as a "survey" of South Korean-held real estate at the Mt. Kumgang resort, North Korean officials warned of "extraordinary measures" if lucrative package tours to the mountain do not resume by April 1. The date has passed but North Korea has not so far made any official moves. A source said, "The reason why Kim Jong-il's expected visit to China is being delayed might be North Korea's concern over Kim's security amid escalating tensions in the Korean Peninsula since the sinking of the ship."

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