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(News Focus) N. Korea fueling tensions to seek diplomatic solution: sources
By Lee Joon-seung
SEOUL, March 27 (Yonhap) -- North Korea may be ratcheting up tensions to push for a diplomatic solution to the impasse on the Korean Peninsula triggered by its recent nuclear test, local observers said Wednesday.

   Observers speculate that Pyongyang is using a "two-pronged strategy" of heightening fear of confrontation, while simultaneously pushing for a diplomatic resolution to diffuse the tensions. The isolationist country has come under concerted criticism and censure for detonating a nuclear device on Feb. 12 and launching a long-range rocket late last year despite opposition from the international community.

   Such views come as the communist country's military supreme command, the foreign ministry and the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland all issued harsh statements Tuesday that claimed conditions on the peninsula have deteriorated to the point that a nuclear war could take place.

   The Korean People's Army (KPA) supreme command claimed that it will engage in a sacred war to "destroy the U.S. imperialists and the South Korean puppets with one stroke." The military said it has placed its troops on a combat ready posture.


Pyongyang often refers to the United States as an imperialistic power and South Korea as Washington's client state.

   The reunification committee also warned that the North will obliterate the source of confrontation in the South including the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae, while the foreign ministry formally informed the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) that the U.S. is seeking nuclear war with the DPRK. The DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.

   "A nuclear war in the Korean Peninsula is no longer a representative meaning but a realistic one," the ministry told the UNSC.

   Before the latest threats were made, the North, in response to joint military exercises carried out by South Korea and the United States, said it will nullify the Armistice Agreement that ended the Korean War (1950-53) and no long respect non-aggression pacts reached with Seoul in the past.

   Notwithstanding its saber-rattling tactics, Pyongyang at the same time has been calling for a diplomatic solution to the standoff.

   The KPA supreme command asked all progressive forces the world over to stage a campaign to oppose U.S. unilateral actions.

   It called for "people of conscience" not to blindly follow the UNSC that has lost its impartiality and sense of fairness, and join forces with the North to stand up for independence and justice. The international body announced a resolution early this month condemning the North and plans to tighten sanctions against the country for its latest nuclear provocation. The country had already conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 that drew censure from the international community.

   Local North Korea watchers claimed such remarks show that Pyongyang is seeking a diplomatic outlet to the current situation, and may be a strategy to ask Beijing to change its posture. China has been highly critical of North Korea's actions as of late and did not block the UNSC from penalizing the North, even though in the past it had stood up for its neighbor.

   Chang Yong-seok, a senior researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University, said recent moves by the North to emphasize the "dangerous situation" on the Korean Peninsula may be a plan to overcome the present unfavorable circumstance.

   He claimed that by pointing out mounting risks Pyongyang may be seeking dialogue with the outside world.

   "The North may be worried about circumstances getting out of control without any diplomatic mediation process," the researcher said.

   Chang added that holding onto a combat readiness posture for a long period of time can cause the general population to become fatigued, which is not good for governing the country.

   Others echoed this view of Pyongyang seeking an "exit" to deal with the heightened tensions.

   Kim Yeon-chul, a professor of unification studies at Inje University, said the North so far has been raising the ante by threatening both Seoul and Washington.

   He said that this tactic makes it difficult for the country to find an alternative strategy, but this may be changing as it seeks to win sympathy for its cause and gain international support that has been waning in recent months.

   North Korean experts, moreover, said that by appealing to progressives and "people of conscience" Pyongyang may be attempting to prevent the current confrontational situation from spiraling out of control.

   "They may want to 'safely' control the situation and not let tensions escalate any further," a government source said.

   The source, who declined to be identified, said that while the North has been claiming it can and will go to war, its leadership has also been making clear that it wants economic growth, which can be a sign that the communist country does not really want conditions on the Korean Peninsula to deteriorate any further.

   Reflecting this view, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been making frequent visits to military bases and ordering drills, yet he was on hand for the light industrial workers meeting on March 18 in Pyongyang, where he emphasized the need to improve the everyday lives of the people.