North Korean State Media reports that the military is on high-alert preceding Kim Jong-un’s first trip to the DMZ since his father Dear Leader Kim Jong-il’s death in December. Analysts call this ‘language for an internal audience’ and downplay fears that South Korea-U.S. war games will actually provoke conflict.
New North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered the military on high alert ahead of his planned trip to the DMZ and Panmunjom village, the first such visit since his father Kim Jong-il died in December. This language, directed at U.S. ally South Korea, is geared toward establishing the young Kim as a military leader. This language comes after the United States and North Korea tentatively agreed to an exchange of food aid for cessation of the D.P.R.K.’s nuclear activities.
North Korean threats are not entirely hollow, however, as threats of likewise retaliation led to the deaths of South Koreans in 2010. North Korean state media argues that the drills between U.S. and South Korean forces are in preparation for a northward invasion regardless of the regularity of said drills. In a new turn not really seen while Kim Jong-il was in power, North Korea’s National Defense Commission called on the U.S. to cease drills if it were serious about peace.
The conclusion of an aid agreement promising 240,000 tonnes of food in exchange for cessation of nuclear development is the first thawing in the failed six party talks since 2009. North Korean rhetoric and actions complicate the situation on the peninsula, but with the death of Kim Jong-il analysts hope that a change in policy may also be underway in the D.P.R.K. Maj. Gen. Kwak Chol Hui, deputy director of the National Defense Commission’s Policy Department said: “Talks and military exercises are contradictory.” State media reports mass enthusiasm for the heightened alert status in the D.P.R.K.