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Wed., 9:05am: US moves on NKorea aimed at deterring new leader

April 3, 2013
Tribune Chronicle | TribToday.com

WASHINGTON -- The parading of U.S. air and naval power within view of the Korean peninsula - first a few long-range bombers, then stealth fighters, then ships - is as much about psychological war as real war. The U.S. wants to discourage North Korea's young leader from starting a fight that could escalate to renewed war with South Korea.

Worries in Washington rose Tuesday with North Korea's vow to increase production of nuclear weapons materials. Secretary of State John Kerry called the announced plan ``unacceptable'' and stressed that the U.S. is ready to defend itself and its allies. But he and other U.S. officials also sought to lower the rhetorical temperature by holding out the prospect of the North's reversing course and resuming nuclear negotiations.

At a joint news conference with visiting South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, Kerry said the U.S. would proceed ``thoughtfully and carefully'' and in consultation with South Korea, Japan, China and others.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in a call late Tuesday to China's defense minister, called the North's development of nuclear weapons a ``growing threat'' to the U.S. and its allies. Hagel, citing North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in his phone conversation with Chang Wanquan, said Washington and Beijing should continue to cooperate on those problems, according to a Pentagon statement describing the call.

Michael Green, an Asia specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it should be no surprise that North Korea is vowing to restart a long-dormant nuclear reactor and ramp up production of atomic weapons material.

``This is part of their protection racket,'' Green said in an interview. ``I think the end state North Korea would like is that we, the U.S. in particular, but also China, Japan, South Korea, are so rattled by all this that we decide it's just better to cut a deal with them.''

 
 

 

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