As tensions ratcheted higher on the Korean peninsula, the shrill rhetoric from the North has been garnished with state television video of military training.
However South Korean defence officials said there were no signs of unusual activity by the North’s military to suggest an imminent attack.
Washington was of the same opinion. “We haven’t seen actions to back up the rhetoric,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
“We are not seeing changes to the North Korean military posture, such as large-scale mobilisations and positioning of forces,” Carney added.
Meanwhile the re-appointment of Pak Pong-ju as prime minister seems to be a move by the North’s leader Kim Jong-un to consolidate his grip on power.
Pak is an economic reformer – as much as one can be in North Korea – and the head of the light industry ministry Jang Il-ho - saying nothing about the fate of the industrial zone the two Koreas jointly operate – has been speaking of the “reasonableness” of a policy of economic construction and building nuclear armed forces simultaneously in the face of nuclear threats from the United States.
“Bellicose rhetoric not new”
At US military bases in the South, F-22 stealth fighter jets have been deployed as part of military drills with Washington’s ally.
That follows flight by two nuclear-capable stealth bombers over the Korean peninsula as part of the joint exercise last week.
The White House spokesman said stealth bomber flights were important to reassure US allies and “demonstrate our resolve to the North and reduce pressure on Seoul to take unilateral action”.
“And we believe this has reduced the chance of miscalculation and provocation,” Carney said. “I would also note this pattern of bellicose rhetoric is not new. It is familiar. And we take it very seriously, we take prudent measures in response to it, but it is consistent with past behavior.”
South Korea’s president Park Geun-hye also shifted into tough talking mode as she warned: “If there is any provocation against South Korea and its people, there should be a strong response in initial combat without any political considerations.”
The South has changed its rules of engagement giving local units the OK to respond immediately to attacks rather than waiting for permission from Seoul.
But the big question remains unanswered, is this more than the same old rhetoric from the North?
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