By Lee Joon-sung
SEOUL, March 8 (Yoinhap) -- North Korea on Friday upped the ante and caused alarm bells to go off on and around the Korean Peninsula by threatening war as the United Nations passed a resolution condemning last month's nuclear test and agreed to impose wide-ranging sanctions against the communist country.
In a statement released by the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland (CPRK), Pyongyang said it will scrap all non-aggression agreements reached between the two Koreas in the past and sever the emergency hotline that runs through the truce village of Panmunjom.
The committee charged with carrying out inter-Korean dialogue and exchanges, also confirmed the country's stance to nullify the 1953 armistice pact and no longer honor the joint declaration for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
"With the U.S. and traitors in South Korea engaged in anti-DPRK activities and invasion exercises using nuclear weapons, the country has no choice but to take grave counter-measures to defend its national interests," the statement said. The DPRK is short for the country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The CPRK then blasted U.N. Security Council resolution 2094 that passed Thursday, as the byproduct of unlawful manipulation by the United States and its attempt to invade the North.
Pyongyang has consistently claimed that the joint South Korea-U.S. Foal Eagle military maneuvers that began last week and the Key Resolve that kicks off on Monday are preludes to an invasion.
The statement comes less than a day after the foreign ministry predicted it may be impossible to avoid another war from breaking out on the Korean Peninsula and warned that Pyongyang could launch pre-emptive nuclear attacks against the strongholds of aggressors that challenge the country's sovereignty.
The ministry then said that actions taken by the U.S. will compel the country to implement strong second and third steps that could unleash the might of the songun spirit and effectively end the vicious cycle of tension surrounding the peninsula. Songun is the military-first politics pursued by the North to build up its armed forces, in the face of economic hardships.
Additional measures could involve more nuclear tests and the launching of more long-range rockets. The country has detonated three nuclear devices and launched five long-range rockets so far.
Moreover, alarm bells have been sounded that the North may carry out limited attacks along the 248 kilometer-long demilitarized zone and the Northern Limit Line (NLL) that separates the two sides on land and at sea, respectively.
The North already shelled Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea in November 2010 that resulted in four deaths.
Reflecting such risks, South Korean forces that have been placed on a high state of alert with the defense ministry expressing concerns that there has been a spike in exercises by North Korean artillery that seem to be targeting areas in Gyeonggi Province surrounding the capital city.
The sudden inspection of front-line units responsible for the Yeonpyeong shelling on early Thursday by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is further fueling speculation that the North may be moving to provoke the South and test the resolve of the new Park Geun-hye administration. The 61-year-old Park took office on Feb. 25 as the country's first female president.
"The North may conduct another nuclear test at its Punggye-ri site, launch short-range missiles or even provoke the South along the NLL," said Hong Hyun-ik, the director of securities strategy studies at Sejong in Seongnam.
He said Seoul policymakers need to be open to all possibilities and prepare accordingly.
There has been speculation that the new administration, which called for the building of trust that can lead to normalization of South-North relations, may have to alter its policy goal after the North's latest nuclear test.
Speaking at his confirmation hearing earlier in the week, Unification Minister nominee Ryoo Kihl-jae said Seoul will take every measure to build trust with Pyongyang that can ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. He conceded, however, that there may be a need to work with the international community on what actions to take to penalize the isolationist country for going ahead with the nuclear test.
On the other hand, some independent North Korean watchers, said that while inter-Korean relations may be unable to make headway in the next few months, heightened tension can help lead to a breakthrough down the road.
They said there are growing calls within the United States for talks with the North to resolve the latest standoff, with China, which agreed to the tougher U.N. sanctions, likely to push for the resumption of the stalled six-party talks that aim to deal with the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula down the line.
Yang Moo-jin, a political science professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said despite difficult circumstances South Korea, the United States and China should all try to engage in dialogue with the South.
"There is a need for Seoul, Washington and Beijing to get together, and find a way to deal with the North Korean issue, and through this process get the North to join in the negotiations," the scholar said.
This view was echoed in part by Lim Eul-chul, a research professor at Kyungnam University's Graduate School of North Korean Studies, who called on the government to engage the North in dialogue with the North regardless of the U.N. sanctions.
He said engaging in talks is critical because if the present confrontational situation is not resolved, even minor provocations can lead to serious military collision.
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