Seoul (AsiaNews) - North Korea has stopped TV broadcasts for a special bulletin in which the Central Military Commission "warned" South Korea to be ready for a "decisive military response" to the provocations of Lee Myung-bak's government. For various analysts, the announcement is connected to Pyongyang's expected third nuclear test after those of 2006 and 2009.
Following the failure of the Unha-3 rocket launch, which should have topped off centennial celebrations for the birth of Kim Il-sung, the Stalinist regime said it would carry out another nuclear test, an event confirmed by intelligence sources in Seoul, Moscow and Beijing. The actual test is set for 1 May and a North Korean delegation was urgently summoned a few days ago to China to discuss the matter.
In early March this year, Pyongyang had accepted a moratorium on its nuclear programme in exchange for humanitarian aid. About half of the north Korean population lives with less than a dollar a day and famine is an ever present danger in the country. With the latest provocation, the nation could collapse.
Despite a brave face, a power struggle is underway in Pyongyang to succeed the late Kim Jong-il. His third son and heir, Kim Jong-un, does not enjoy the support of the military who prefer his uncle Jang Song-taek. At the same time, he has not yet earned the total loyalty of the party. The recent wave of militaristic propaganda is thus an attempt by the third Kim to assert his authority as the country's sole leader.
"Threats from the North do not scare us. Not for any particular reason, but because we have lived with them for decades," Mgr Lazarus You Heung-sik, bishop of Daejeon and president of the Episcopal Commission for the Care of Migrants, told AsiaNews. Instead, "We must work for dialogue because the path of confrontation cannot lead to anything good."
"Refugees from the North seeking peace and food are the key to peace," he explained. "We Catholics, but also South Korea as a whole, view these people as goodwill ambassadors. If the regime does not make any more false moves, sooner or later we will reach a peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula."