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(Yonhap Editorial) N. Korea must stop threatening nuclear attacks
SEOUL, March 27 (Yonhap) -- It appears North Korea will never alter its pattern of threatening a war against South Korea and the United States. The country's latest barrage of saber-rattling came after the U.N. Security Council imposed the U.S.-led additional sanctions against the isolated country in response to its third nuclear test last month.

   On Tuesday, North Korea's military said that it would put its missile and artillery units into the highest-level combat readiness posture, further fueling the already-tense inter-Korean relations. The Supreme Command of the Korean People's Army said the artillery units target the U.S. mainland, Hawaii and Guam and other U.S. military bases in the Pacific as well as South Korea. The same day, South Korea grieved the third anniversary of the sinking of its navy ship Cheonan by North Korea. A torpedo attack from a small North Korean submarine tore apart the 1,200-ton corvette near a border island in the Yellow Sea, killing 46 South Korean sailors.

   Another threat of war against the two allies came from the North. The country said on Wednesday launching a pre-emptive nuclear attack on the U.S. and South Korea is part of its military options, which "include our powerful sovereignty-protecting pre-emptive nuclear attack."

   No other countries that have nuclear weapons have ever threatened openly to launch a first-strike nuclear attack against specific countries nearly every day. Leaders in the North seem to have no qualms about the use of a nuclear weapon, which could take the lives of millions of people.

   They must realize that their regime will come to an end on the day they use a nuclear weapon. It should be realized that possession of nuclear weapons will not bring a guarantee to the protection of the regime, as illustrated by the downfall of the Soviet Union which held thousands of nuclear weapons.

   In this regard, the North should pay heed to the remarks made by South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday. Park urged Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons and take the path to change, saying that is the only way to ensure its survival. The only way North Korea will survive is if it voluntarily lays down its nuclear weapons, missiles, provocations and threats, and transforms into a responsible member of the international community, Park said.

   We should make sure thorough preparations will be made to cope with any possibility that the North's threats could come to fruition. U.S. B-53 strategic bombers have flown over the Korean Peninsula in a show of strong alliance between Seoul and Washington in the face of the North's series of bellicose behavior. The two allies have reaffirmed Washington's commitment to the defense of South Korea through a joint military drills aimed at fending off the North's possible provocations.
The militaries of the two allies have signed a new joint operational plan to enable them to respond to North Korea's limited-scale provocations, such as an isolated incident or cross-border shelling. The Combined Counter-Provocation Plan, which is led by South Korea and supported by the U.S., calls for South Korea's military to take an active role in the initial stage of a contingency on the Korean Peninsula by striking the origin of the enemy's provocations and supporting the command forces. If the situation were to then escalate, the U.S. military would provide reinforcements from within and outside of South Korea, including Japan and elsewhere in the region.

   Further actions to enhance the South Korea's military capabilities are necessary. The fact that state-of-the-art equipment for detecting North Korean submarines has yet to be deployed suggests the country's fragile security preparedness against the North's provocations. It is hoped that the ruling and opposition camps will work closely to the cause of protecting the people's lives with a sense of urgency.