Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

N. Korea's Rhetoric Worrying Washington

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

N. Korea's Rhetoric Worrying Washington

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- The latest round of threats exchanged by North Korea and the United States is dragging on longer and taking on a more virulent tone than in the past, provoking deep concerns among American officials and their allies.

Following blustery warnings by Kim Jong Un, North Korea's 30- year-old leader, and videos depicting North Korean attacks on the United States, the Obama administration took the unprecedented step last week of sending two stealth bombers to South Korea as part of an ongoing military training exercise.

But despite the escalating tensions, U.S. officials said they have focused more closely on what North Korea is doing than on what it is saying.

"Putting on a show is not the same as taking action. Describing the situation as akin to war is not to be remotely confused with wanting a war, let alone going to war," said a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the volatile situation.

The senior administration official said that U.S. military commanders are closely watching the situation, which has escalated since North Korea conducted a nuclear weapons test in December. In addition, officials cited new levels of cooperation and mutual confidence between the United States and allies in South Korea and Japan.

While a direct attack on U.S. forces on the mainland or in the Pacific Ocean seems unlikely, non-government analysts said the rising tensions increase the risk of some form of limited armed conflict. North Korea recently cut off its military phone line with the South, which is used to coordinate logistics along the demilitarized border buffer.

On Saturday, North Korea reiterated that it considered the Korean Peninsula back in "a state of war" and it threatened to shut down a factory complex it jointly operates with South Korea that stands as the last significant symbol of cooperation.

The industrial park, the 8-year-old Kaesong complex in the North Korean border town of the same name, is a crucial source of badly needed cash for the heavily sanctioned North. It funnels more than $92 million a year in wages for 53,400 North Koreans employed there, and its operation has survived despite years of military tensions. …

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