By Graeme McNaughton
Amid growing tensions in the Korean Peninsula, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has threatened to turn the South Korean island of Baengyang into a “sea of fire.”
The Korean Central News Agency, the media outlet for the North Korean government, reported Tuesday Kim visited front-line troops near the island and was “briefed on the enemy’s situation from the commander of the detachment at the observation post.”
“Once an order is issued, you should break the waists of the crazy enemies, totally cut their windpipes and thus clearly show them what a real war is like,” said Kim, as quoted by the Korean Central News Agency.
This new threat comes days after North Korea announced it would be terminating its non-aggression pact with the South.
This is not the first time the North Koreans have threatened to tear up the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953, having made the threat five times before, according to the Yonhap News Agency. However, experts are saying this time may be different due to a recent change of leadership in South Korea.
“Since the shelling of [Yeonpyeong island], it’s quite clear that the southern government has been willing to take a more aggressive stance toward northern threats,” said Andre Schmid, a professor at the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto, to Humber News in an email.
The new regime in the South of female leader Park Geun-hye “is facing pressure, despite all its claim of trust politics, not simply to rollover,” he said.
According to the National Post, the North Koreans launched artillery shells at Yeonpyeong Island in 2010 in response to a South Korean military exercise there. Two civilians and two marines were killed.
The North also announced last week it would cut a hotline to the South Koreans. Again, this is not the first time this has happened.
“The separate link to US/UN forces has also reportedly not been operative for some days. This is not unusual,” Aidan Foster-Carter, a senior research fellow in sociology and modern Korea at Leeds University in England, told Humber News.
“North Korea goes through phases of not answering, and has formally cut both lines temporarily in the past.”
The renewed tensions were sparked last month when North Korea conducted a third nuclear weapons test, detonating a bomb at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the northeast part of the country. In response, the United Nations imposed new economic sanctions against the country.
“This response to North Korea’s reckless nuclear test in early February sends a clear and strong message to those responsible in Pyongyang,” said John Baird, Canada’s foreign affairs minister, in a statement.
“It is high time that the government of North Korea reverse this dangerous course, abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and focus its scarce resources on the living conditions of its people.”
Carter said that while tensions are high, a true sign that the conflict between the two nations is escalating would take place at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a joint venture between the two countries.
“The [Kaesong Instrial Complex] is a canary in the mine,” said Carter. “If either side were to shut or evacuate it, or worse, take hostages, then there would be serious cause for alarm on the peninsula.