Tensions are flaring as North Korea and South Korea find themselves in the middle of a military standoff. After South Korea completed a series of major land and sea military exercises near the border, North Korea accused its neighbor of warmongering and threatened retaliation. Pyongyang’s chief of defense, Kim Yong Chun, said: “To counter the enemy’s intentional drive to push the situation to the brink of war, our revolutionary forces are making preparations to begin a holy war at any moment necessary based on nuclear deterrent.” North Korea is not shy about throwing down the nuclear gauntlet, but analysts say they aren’t capable of launching the device, predicting that the country, which is rumored to be in the middle of a leadership transition, is more likely to wait and see whether its offer to let in international nuclear inspectors can restart international negotiations. But South Korea, who planned the drills last year, continues to prepare another show of aggression like the military fire in Yeonpyeong last month.
“In the case of another surprise attack,” said South Korean president Lee Myung-bak, “the country must launch a merciless counterattack.”
Bill Richardson, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was on hand recently to give North Korea an avuncular dressing down. “I think in a situation like this it’s useful to have somebody they can talk to,” said Richardson. “I gave them a lot of grief when I was there. I’m not their apologist. I told them they had to clean up their act.” But U.S. officials say it was China — who referred to North Korea as its “spoiled child” in one of the WikiLeaks cables — who helped convince Pyongyang to show restraint.