Two Koreas pump up the volume as bomb test sparks new Cold War

A South Korean couple take pictures at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, near the border that separates North and South Korea. Picture: AP

A South Korean couple take pictures at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, near the border that separates North and South Korea. Picture: AP

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THE two Koreas have slid into a Cold War-era standoff after the North’s recent nuclear hydrogen bomb test.

South Korea responded to fourth nuclear test with blasts of anti-Pyongyang propaganda from giant green speakers aimed across the world’s most dangerous border.

North Korean military personnel attend a rally after the nation said Wednesday it had conducted a hydrogen bomb test. Pictur: AP

North Korean military personnel attend a rally after the nation said Wednesday it had conducted a hydrogen bomb test. Pictur: AP

A top North Korean ruling party official warned that the South’s broadcasts have pushed the Korean Peninsula “toward the brink of war”.

Seoul resumed the cross-border broadcasts on Friday for the first time in five months.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing an anonymous military source, reported yesterday that the North had started its own broadcasts, in order to keep its soldiers from hearing the South Korean broadcasts. The North’s broadcasts were too weak to hear clearly on the South Korean side of the border.

Workers’ Party Secretary Kim Ki Nam said in comments aired on state TV on Friday that Pyongyang’s rivals are “jealous” of the North’s successful hydrogen bomb test.

Many outside governments and experts question whether the blast was in fact a powerful hydrogen test.

South Korean troops, near about ten sites where loudspeakers started blaring propaganda on Friday, were on the highest alert, but have not detected any unusual movement from North Korea along the border, said an official from Seoul’s Defence Ministry, who refused to be named.

The Yonhap news agency said Seoul had deployed missiles, artillery and other weapons systems near the border to swiftly deal with any possible North Korean provocation. The ministry did not confirm the report.

Officials say broadcasts from the South’s loudspeakers can travel about six miles during the day and 15 miles at night.

That distance would reach many of the huge force of North Korean soldiers stationed near the border, as well as residents in border towns such as Kaesong, where the Koreas jointly operate an industrial park that has been a valuable cash source for the impoverished North.

Seoul also planned to use mobile speakers to broadcast from a small South Korean island just a few miles from North Korean shores.

While the South’s broadcasts also include news and pop music, much of the programming challenges North Korea’s government more directly.

“We hope that our fellow Koreans in the North will be able to live in a society that doesn’t invade individual lives as soon as possible,” a female presenter said in the broadcast.

“Countries run by dictatorships even try to control human instincts.”

Marathon talks between both nations in August eased anger and stopped the broadcasts, which Seoul started after blaming North Korean land mines for maiming two soldiers. Analysts have said Seoul will not be able to stand down easily and it is unlikely that the North will express regret for its nuclear test, which is a source of intense national pride.

Responding to the bomb test, US Secretary of State John Kerry urged China, the North’s only major ally and biggest aid provider, to end “business as usual” with North Korea.

Diplomats at a UN Security Council emergency session pledged to swiftly pursue new sanctions but for current sanctions and any new
penalties to work, better cooperation and stronger implementation from China is seen as key.

The South Korean and US militaries also discussed the deployment of US “strategic assets”, Seoul’s Defence Ministry said.

Officials refused to elaborate, but the assets would probably include B-52 bombers, F-22 stealth fighters and nuclear-powered submarines.

After North Korea’s third nuclear test, in 2013, the US took the unusual step of sending its most powerful warplanes to drills with South Korea in a show of force.

It may take weeks or longer to confirm or refute the North’s claim that it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, which would mark a major and unanticipated advance for its still-limited nuclear arsenal. Outside experts doubt whether the blast was a hydrogen bomb, but even a test of an atomic bomb would push North Korea closer to building a nuclear warhead small enough to place on a long-range missile.

The Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety said a small amount of radioactive elements were found in air samples collected from the peninsula’s eastern seas after the blast, but the measured amount was too small to determine whether the North had really detonated a nuclear device.

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