Mounting tensions on the Korean peninsula have raised the prospect of a new, this time possibly nuclear, war. State television in the North has been broadcasting endless militaristic images intended to stir up a patriotic fervour at home and serve as a warning to the rest of the world. A newsreader said that yesterday’s decision by South Korea to start searching North Korean ships was “a declaration of war.” She added that Pyongyang has torn up the truce that has kept the Korean War on hold since 1953.
Not wishing to excite its volatile northern neighbour any further, Seoul has resisted sending more troops to the border. Two million armed soldiers already face each other across the world’s last Cold War frontier. The South’s President Lee Myung-bak spoke to his Russian counterpart as tensions mounted. They discussed a stronger UN Security Council position that may put enough pressure on North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il. However, strict sanctions already in place have proven ineffective in getting Pyongyang to halt its nuclear programme. There are also reports that vapour is once again emerging from the North’s YongByon nuclear plant, a sign that it has gone back to producing weapons-grade plutonium. Some political analysts say this week’s nuclear test and military chest-beating by North Korea is an attempt by Kim to tighten his grip on power amid concerns over his health.