Yesterday we wrote that:
Another example of North Korea’s bluff strategy is currently playing out on the Korean peninsula. North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong-un has ordered North Korea’s troops to be on a war footing as tensions with South Korea escalate. The North Korean press reported that: “The Korean People’s Army (KPA) front-line large combined units entered into a wartime state all at once, fully armed to launch surprise operations, and wound up their preparedness for action.”
The current tensions began early this month when two South Korean soldiers were wounded by landmines along the border. The North denies laying the mines. Days later, Seoul began its propaganda broadcasts in random three-hour bursts from 11 banks of loudspeakers, including news reports and K-pop music from the South, resuming a tactic both sides halted in 2004. North Korea issued an ultimatum to cease using the speakers for propaganda against the north. Kim Jong-un went so far as to issue a time ultimatum, which has now passed and South Korean government officials have said that the broadcasts with not cease, causing some to believe that an outbreak of fighting is possible. We now wait to see if Kim Jong-un will make good on his threat to launch an attack.
What North Korea is the best at is bluffing. Technically, North and South Korea have been at war for the past 65 years, as the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a ceasefire that was never ratified by a formal peace treaty. Kim has given similarly bellicose orders in the past, most recently in 2013 when he declared “a state of war” with the South, although no clashes resulted, AFP reports.
As part of the ongoing “bluff” South Korean government officials are claiming that North Korea is showing signs of preparing Scud missiles. A source is reported to have told the Yonhap news agency: “The North is showing signs of deploying a Scud missile near Wonsan and a Rodong missile in the North Pyeongan Province. It seems that [the North] is weighing the timing of the firing under its strategic intention to increase military tension on the Korean Peninsula to the highest level.” The North is also reported to have deployed 50 sumarines.
Following a land mine issue last week, the escalation of threats increased including the exchange of artillery rounds. North Korea on Thursday afternoon first fired a single round believed to be from an anti-aircraft gun, which landed near a South Korean border town. About 20 minutes later, three North Korean artillery shells fell on the southern side of the Demilitarized Zone. South Korea is reported to have responded by firing dozens of 155-milimeter artillery rounds.
North and South Korean officials met yesterday at the “truce village” inside the Demilitarized Zone to discuss the August rise in tensions and the current military standoff between the two countries. No details have emerged from the meeting and the media has not been allowed to cover the talks. North Korea asked for the meeting. The question is what will the North be willing to give up to cancel the propaganda broadcasts?
North Korea and South Korea have reached an agreement to de-escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula, according to South Korea’s national security chief, Kim Kwan-jin. Reportedly South Korea will stop its propaganda broadcasts over the border on Tuesday.
In exchange, South Korea will get the apology it demanded over recent military escalation by the North, and the South will stop broadcasting the propaganda that infuriated the North. North Korea said that it “regrets” that South Korean soldiers were injured by landmines and will lift its “semi-state of war” under the agreement by the two countries, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
“I wish that we can build the new South and North Korea relationship that our people (wish for) by sincerely carrying out the agreed issues and building trust through dialogue and cooperation,” Kim Kwan-jin said. “During the meeting, it is very meaningful in the aspect that the North apologized over the landmine incident and that they agreed on making efforts to prevent such incidents from reoccurring and easing tension.”
Once the smoke clears we will be able to see if the traditional North Korean bluff strategy achieved anything meaningful for the North. It is possible that the North is reaching a tipping point and is seeking a face saving route to better relations and a way to ease some of its economic woes. The other option is that the North had not expected the hard line response that it received from the South.