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North Korea's Continued Escalation

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Administrative note: This edition addresses in lengthy detail North Korean actions in the past 48 hours through this Watch. The statements and actions to dismantle the Armistice are unprecedented and historic because they officially restore an active state of war.


NightWatch's review of events since 1 January indicates that the North Koreans have been preparing this breakout since 2 February when Kim Jong Un began a series of meetings, starting with the Military Central Commission.

NightWatch judges the actions are deliberately planned because of their breadth, coherence and consistency. The North's depiction of itself as a victim reacting defensively is part of its deception strategy.

North Korean Actions on 7 March Before the UN Vote: North Korea's Foreign Ministry joined the official chorus with an official statement that stressed three points, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

"First, now that the U.S. is set to light a fuse for a nuclear war, the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK will exercise the right to a preemptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors and to defend the supreme interests of the country."

"The Supreme Command of the Korean People's Army declared that it would totally nullify the Korean Armistice Agreement (AA) from March 11 when the U.S. nuclear war rehearsal gets into full swing. This meant that from that moment the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK will take military actions for self-defence against any target any moment, not restrained by AA."

"Second, the farce for the adoption of "resolution on sanctions" against the DPRK being backed by the U.S. at the UN Security Council will compel the DPRK to take at an earlier date more powerful second and third countermeasures as it had declared.

"Third, given that it has become difficult to avert the second Korean war, the DPRK strongly warns the UN Security Council not to make another big blunder like the one in the past when it earned inveterate grudge of the Korean nation by acting as a war servant for the U.S. in 1950….

"Justice can be defended only when strength is reacted with strength and nuke with nuke." It also called on the UN to disband the UN Command.

Comment: This statement was made in anticipation of the UN Security Council Resolution which had not yet been passed. It completes the set of statements by government and party groups who have responsibilities for maintaining the Armistice. It means that ending the Armistice is a unified party and government operation.


The reference to 1950 is particularly ominous because it betrays an inaccurate view of the situation today. The message is that the UN is acting today as it did in 1950. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

That is what is known as an incongruity, in propaganda analysis.  It means the North Korean leadership is not reading the current situation accurately and that is extremely dangerous.

In Pyongyang, on 7 March, North Korea staged a large rally as a show of support for the 5 March statement by the Supreme Command.

The party daily, Rodong Sinmun published the remarks by Colonel General Kang Pyo Yong who addressed the rally, as reported by South Korea's Yonhap. This statement did not mention the UN sanctions resolution.

"According to Rodong Sinmun, Colonel General Kang said soldiers are already positioned to launch a war of reunification if the order is given by its leaders. The paper said the general made clear at a speech given at a rally in Pyongyang that intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and other rockets capable of attacking pre-set targets have been armed with various types of atomic warheads."

"He claimed that missile warheads have been made lighter and smaller, and can turn Washington and other lairs of forces that collaborate with the U.S. imperialists into a 'sea of fire.'"

"Kang also said that with the Korean War Armistice Agreement having become null and void, the North Korean military can now launch preemptive strikes against the country's enemies without warning or restraint."

In a separate article, the Daily NK reported that the same issue of Rodong Sinmun carried a front page editorial that said "Our battle strategy has already been approved. Our ten million soldiers and citizens are full of the will to destroy the enemy."

The Daily NK reported that the 7 March issue of the party daily contained 15 articles threatening the US and South Korea because of the ongoing allied exercises in the South.

Comment: Colonel General Kang's speech indicates that North Korea is maintaining its missiles in a ready condition with warheads fitted. That is an essential condition for a pre-emptive attack and is believed to have never been stated in public before. Kang also accurately described the implications of no armistice.


The excerpt from the Rodong Sinmun editorial adds the information that the battle strategy has been approved already. North Korean leaders never tell the North Korean public about war plans or strategic weapons... until now.

Based on North Korean propaganda trends in past crises, six articles or broadcasts with variations on a single theme in a single day directed at the North Korean population is the threshold that indicates the North is in crisis mode. Rodong Sinmun published 15 in a single issue.

The intensive indoctrination of the North Korean public is more worrisome than specific announcements or actions. Through public statements, speeches and official news reports about actions at Panmunjom, North Korean leaders are generating a national perception that North Korea is under threat and that war is coming. 

United Nations-North Korea: The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously to punish North Korea for last month's nuclear test with a toughened sanctions regime.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, a former South Korean foreign minister, said the resolution "sent an unequivocal message to that the international community will not tolerate its pursuit of nuclear weapons."

North Korean reaction: The first known North Korean media reaction to the UN vote is a statement in English by the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland and published by the Korean Central News Agency at about 0900 on 8 March.

This statement contains a single paragraph that refers to the UN sanctions vote, which looks like a last minute insertion of a text already prepared for publication. Most of the content repeats the message of the Korean People's Army Supreme Command on 5 March. This statement, however, adds details that are focused on communications and crisis management channels with South Korea.

- "The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) abrogates all agreements on non-aggression reached between the North and the South…"

"The South Korean puppet forces are working with bloodshot eyes to invade the DPRK in collusion with the U.S. This situation reduced to dead papers the north-south agreements on nonaggression which calls for nonuse of force against the other party, prevention of accidental military clashes, peaceful settlement of disputes and the issue of nonaggression demarcation line.


Therefore, the DPRK officially declares that from the moment the Korean Armistice Agreement is made totally invalid on March 11 all the said agreements will be completely nullified. …."

-"Second, the DPRK totally nullifies the joint declaration on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula…."

"The U.S. and the puppet forces' nuclear war moves against the DPRK virtually put an end to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula long ago and rendered the joint declaration on its denuclearization totally meaningless. "

"Hence, the DPRK re-clarifies that the joint declaration on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula has become totally invalid."

"From now on, no one is allowed to utter such words as the DPRK's 'dismantlement of nukes' and 'no-use of nuclear weapons.'"

-"Third, the DPRK will close the Panmunjom liaison channel between the north and the south."

"There is nothing to talk to the puppet group of traitors hell-bent on the moves for a war of aggression against the north, blinded with confrontation and hostility towards compatriots."

"What remains to be done is to settle accounts with them by physical force only. "

"It is a mockery and insult to the noble Red Cross spirit to discuss compatriotism and humanitarian issues with those who consider confrontation with compatriots as a means for their existence."

Comment: What is curious about the above statement is that part of the justification for cutting communications with South Korea is that the US and South Korea are not taking the North's threats seriously. As a result, the Kim leadership group has ordered more actions. Senior military officers appear to be the public face of the leadership.

After the North Koreans complete the actions stated above, they will have cut all direct channels of communications with South Korea as well as the US, including the Red Cross channel. 

Closure of direct communications channels is a classic indicator of general war. If North Korea recalls diplomats, closes the borders and airport and discloses more actions indicating it is in a semi-war state of readiness, the Allies must prepare for a North Korean military incident, if not an attack by fire.

Kim's visit. South Korean and North Korean media reported that Kim Jong Un visited the southwest coastal artillery units that shelled the South Korean offshore islands in November 2010. That shelling, along with the sinking of the patrol ship Cheonan, also is attributed to Kim's military genius.


Comment: A visit by Kim and his entourage always signifies that the host unit is in a high state of readiness. South Korea should have detected a buildup of artillery and supplies, as it did before the shooting in 2010.

Warning: The North's creation of a crisis atmosphere is driven by its decision to terminate the Armistice. This will create a fundamental change in the security situation. The decision to terminate the Armistice probably was made by the leadership in late January and discussed in the extensive and expanded Party and Government leadership meetings in early February.

This decision contains two immediate imperatives. One is offensive and the other is defensive. The offensive imperative is to show the US and South Korea that the Armistice is truly ended and the security situation on the peninsula has changed fundamentally. This creates conditions for negotiations based a very different set of assumptions about security.

The challenge is to do this without starting a general war, which North Korean leaders have long known they cannot survive. That explains Kim's trip to the southwest. In November 2010 North Korea fired on South Korea, ostensibly at Kim's direction, but the situation did not escalate to general war. He might judge that he can repeat that performance and the US and South Korea will understand that he is making a point, not starting a war.

This is an enormous gamble, which brings into focus the defensive imperative. The people must be ready for war in the event the gamble fails. Kim and his advisors exude confidence but they cannot know for sure how the US will react. The absence of an Armistice also means the US and the South can shoot at will.

That explains the intense indoctrination of the civilian population about the threat and the civil defense preparations. They are aimed at preparing the population to expect deprivation and hardship and to make exceptional exertions. An editorial on 7 March was entitled, "DPRK People Determined to Rise up in All-Out Action." In it , a farm leader said the agricultural workers are in full readiness for a sacred war for national reunification. That is not normal.

In the NightWatch experience, the last time North Korean media and behavior were so bellicose was prior to the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. The key language in propaganda at that time, delivered by a Vice Marshal, was a statement, in paraphrase, that the situation is like that prior to the Korean War.


(Note: North Korea had partially mobilized at that time, but apparently was deterred from taking action by the presence of a US battleship task group and an aircraft carrier task group.)

The Foreign Ministry's statement on the 7th was comparable.

The South Korean offshore islands along the Northern Limit Line northwest of Seoul appear to be obvious targets to show that there is no armistice and that a permanent peace is urgently needed.

However, all North Korean forces will be at high readiness, especially along the Demilitarized Zone, to be ready for possible escalation. They can maintain a semi-war state of readiness for at least six months.

At this time, the North's civilian population does not yet appear fully ready for war, but they can be within two weeks.

Egypt: Update.

- Thousands of low-ranking policemen are on strike in multiple Egyptian cities for the fourth day. They refused orders to work and protested what they claim is the politicization of the force in favor of the president's Muslim Brotherhood party. In Cairo, dozens of policemen blocked the entrance to one of the city's main police stations and expressed anger at Mursi's policies. Others held a sit-in outside Mursi's house in his hometown of Zagazig, northeast of the capital. Protests also took place in Assiut and Luxor.

- Egyptian police fired tear gas at protesters as clashes resumed in Port Said. The daily clashes resumed after protesters marched on the police headquarters, which they had already set ablaze on Tuesday, chanting 'the interior ministry are thugs,' an AFP correspondent reported.

- Egypt's electoral commission announced it has suspended parliamentary elections and canceled the dates announced for voting, pursuant to the decision of the Administrative Court.

The country's electoral committee says in a statement issued late Thursday that the timetable set earlier for the parliamentary vote is no longer valid.

Comment: If tradesmen, industrial workers and professionals begin to strike - the key stakeholders in the economy-- the security situation will again be pre-revolutionary in the cities.

Mali: France's defense minister made a surprise visit to Mali on Thursday to visit French troops fighting jihadists in northern Mail. He stopped in Kidal and Gao. He restated France's commitment to stay the course until Mali is secure.


Comment: In the fighting of the past two weeks, the French reported killing 150 jihadists. The Chadians reported killing 100. Earlier fighting reports indicated that possibly up to 100 jihadists had been killed in various small actions.

France has 4,000 soldiers in Mali and Chad has 1,800 to 2,000. A battalion of Nigerians and a contingent of troops from Niger also are in Mali, but the French and Chadians are doing most, if not all, of the fighting and providing almost all of the support.

On 22 January, Der Spiegel published a summary of the jihadist groups. It reported the three major groups were estimated to have 2,500 fighters.

If the casualty and jihadists strength figures are assumed to be reasonably accurate - or equally inaccurate, they suggest that the French and Chadians do not have enough soldiers to secure northeastern Mali without near continuous air cover.

End of NightWatch


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