North Korean state media has begun to really ramp up the name-calling at South Korea again. In response to South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s complaint that the ROK was not consulted about the recent North Korean time zone change, and, more significantly, for bringing back the loudspeakers in retaliation for the North Korean landmines, the DPRK has started using President Park’s photograph for Army machine gun target practice and calling her some rather nasty names (‘pro-Japanese traitor,’ among others). If anyone in Beijing or Seoul had hopes that Kim Jong-un might turn up at Xi Jinping’s huge 3 September parade, one of various invitations he’s turned down, they seem primed to be disappointed.
Some of the more overtly aggressive rhetoric we’ve seen of late is plainly aimed at keeping North Korean military preparedness taut in the seven weeks leading up to the 10 October Party anniversary: There was a recent visit of KPA to Panmunjom, the DMZ mine incident is clearly being played up domestically as further ‘proof’ of South Korean perfidy and hostility (along the lines of the ‘Cheonan’ sinking response in 2010 and beyond), and the balloons full of anti-Kim propaganda going over the DMZ again will add fuel to this particular flame.
General threats against the US have been around since the Korean War, but with the growth of the county’s ballistic missile program there has been a bump, certainly, in rhetoric about taking the fight to the US homeland. I don’t think that Kim Jong-un is too concerned at this point about which Republican gets the nomination for the Presidential run, but if the men who manage North Korea’s foreign affairs manage to vault themselves up near the top of a rather full US foreign policy agenda as a perceived problem, there may be still some minor benefits to be accrued from negotiating with Obama administration even as it moves into late second term mode, which is historically when US-DPRK relations have made strides.
This analysis was originally sent as an e-mail communication to the Washington Post, and was quoted in: Adam Taylor, ‘North Korea has threatened a U.S. attack for years,’ Washington Post, Worldviews blog, 17 August 2015.
Image credit: Rodong Sinmun, ‘Kim Jong Un visits Fatherland Liberation War Memorial Cemetery,’ 28 July 2015.