North Korea: Closing Kaesong, China Moves, and a US Flinch?
North Korea looks like it will end economic cooperation with South Korea at the Kaesong complex, cutting off one of the North's only sources of hard currency.
North Korea has said it will recall more than 50,000 workers from the industrial park it runs with the South and consider shutting it permanently, spelling an end to inter-Korean co-operation.
Pyongyang has engaged in weeks of angry rhetoric in response to a UN security council resolution expanding sanctions following its third nuclear test and to ongoing joint exercises by South Korean and US forces.
But analysts noted that while the latest move by Pyongyang was substantive, it was also a non-military one made amid concerns that the North might be planning another missile or nuclear test.
The North has moved at least two missiles to its east coast. They have an estimated range of about 1800 miles, therefore out of range of the continental US but within range of Hawaii, Japan and other US bases around the Pacific. State-run media -- North Korea's, not the US -- is warning that "a new war, a nuclear war, is imminent on the peninsula."
What the North cannot do with its rockets -- hit CONUS targets like Austin, TX -- it may try to do with its hackers.
The regime's next move could be to break into US computer networks to steal information and spread viruses, Jang Se-yul, who defected to the South in 2008, told the Observer. North Korea's hackers are suspected of being behind recent cyberattacks that paralysed computer networks at several South Korean banks and broadcasters.
"It would demonstrate that North Korea is a strong cyberpower," Jang said. "Their prime target is the US, and they've been preparing for something like this for years, including when I was there in the 1990s. I can't say how successful they would be, but it's a possibility."
The Chinese military confirmed that it has been conducting live-fire drills on its border with North Korea. China's leaders also issued a veiled warning to Pyongyang, so veiled that it could also have been aimed at the US and Japan.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, addressing a forum on the southern island of Hainan, did not name North Korea but said no country "should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain".
Stability in Asia, he said, "faces new challenges, as hot spot issues keep emerging and both traditional and non-traditional security threats exist."
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed similar frustration in a statement late on Saturday, relating a telephone conversation with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
"We oppose provocative words and actions from any party in the region and do not allow trouble making on China's doorstep," Wang said, according to a ministry statement on its website.
US SecDef Chuck Hagel decided to cancel a planned missile test, lest it be seen by the North Koreans as provocative.
The official says Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel delayed the long-planned Minuteman 3 test because of concerns the launch could be misinterpreted and exacerbate the current crisis.
North Korea could interpret this move as the US blinking in the face of pressure.
Dead North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung was born on April 15. His grandson, Kim Jong-Un, may be amping up the fear and loathing to draw attention to something he plans to do on or around that date. Last week the commie kingdom warned embassies that things would get dicey after April 10, which is Wednesday.