Within hours of Thursday's announcement of UN Security Council imposed economic sanctions on North Korea, Pyongyang announced it had voided all non-aggression pacts with South Korea, severed the crisis hotline to Seoul established in 1971 and withdrew all personnel from its side of the shared border point established by the 1953 armistice.
One day earlier Pyongyang threatened a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States citing the Mar. 11 commencement of annual U.S. and South Korean military exercises as the point at which North Korea would be entitled to take military action. North Korea is also conducting parallel military exercises on a much larger scale than usual.
Despite all the bluster from Pyongyang it is extremely unlikely that any large conventional attack or nuclear strike will be initiated by North Korea. The brinkmanship being embarked on by Pyongyang while certainly posing dangers is not out of any intention of launching a war but rather the latest in a long pattern of nuclear extortion by Pyongyang.
After the Berlin Wall fell and Soviet power began to wane, North Korea was left hanging in the wind vis-a-vis the United States and South Korea. The seeming future of North Korea at that time was political and economic collapse and eventual reunification with South Korea. Then, a stroke of luck occurred for Pyongyang with the election of Pres. Bill Clinton.
After secretly commencing and then publicly acknowledging a nuclear weapons program in the 1990’s Pyongyang declared intentions to become a major nuclear power and to possibly sharing the fruits of their efforts with any buyers for the right price; including terror groups targeting Israel and the United States.
Pres. Clinton being of the American political Left and a firm proponent of appeasement and compromise where nuclear weapons are concerned eventually agreed to a series of deals whereby North Korea obtained economic and energy aide from the United States including construction in North Korea of a modern nuclear power plant which has since been used for no other purpose than to augment Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program in total violation of the agreements made in exchange for its construction.
Pres. George W. Bush made no changes to this arrangement. The food and energy aide continued in exchange for political ‘placebos’ from Pyongyang in the form of non-aggression pacts which have now been canceled and had been violated multiple times by Pyongyang in any case. The two worst incidents occurring in 2010; the Mar. 26 sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan and the Nov. 23 artillery bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island.
The cancellation of the pacts and the overt threat of a nuclear first strike against the United States are Pyongyang’s direct response to the newly announced economic sanctions which were drafted by the United States and China. While China is North Korea’s only remaining ally and chief trading partner, China and Russia are both more than a little unnerved with Pyongyang’s saber rattling. Neither nation wants a war on their doorstep, particularly one where a nuclear weapons exchange might take place.