The Koreas: So close, so uneasy
North Korea no longer considers itself bound by the terms of the armistice that ended war between the Koreas five decades ago.
North Korea's official news agency warned of a “powerful military strike” on South Korea if it searched the North’s ships. This came the same day that the North said that it no longer considers itself bound by the terms of the armistice that ended war between the Koreas five decades ago.
"New York Times" reporter Martin Fackler wrote about a dramatic shift in how South Koreans are viewing their northern neighbors. On "The Takeaway" he calls in from Seoul to talk about the recent developments and
Fackler's take on the latest actions by North Korea: "I think that, basically what you see is a number of things going on. One is North Korea is developing nuclear weapons, I don't think as an offensive capability, but more as a defensive one -- I think that they see this as a key to their survival. That if they have their own nuclear arsenal, say like Israel does and Pakistan does, that they can insure the US will not attack them.
"There's also ... a message to their domestic audience, and I think this is one of the key facts that often get overlooked in the coverage of North Korea. North Korea is facing a succession -- the current leader Kim Jong-il is sick, or was sick, had a stroke apparently last year and there's talk of maybe his ... youngest son being tapped to replace him. And I think that the regime -- this is the world's only communist family dynasty -- is trying to show its own people that they are capable of protecting North Korea, that they're technically advanced, that they have the will and the wherewithal ... this is a message from the Kim dynasty to their own people, 'you should stick with us...'"
As for how South Koreans are taking North Korea's positioning: "I think they see it as the ranting and raving of a poor cousin, and perhaps one who is spoiled by too much largess..."
"With the South, the official policy is they want reunification with the North -- they basically want a single country, a single Korea ... however if you actually ask them in reality what they want, they don't think they want to take over North Korea anytime soon ... for the simple reason that it would be too expensive. If South Korea were to go in there an rebuild it, and take it over like West Germany did to East Germany two decades ago, the bill would be enormous. North Korea is so far behind, and I think South Koreans are balking at the prospect of doing that themselves."
Fackler thinks that on a visceral level, the US and Japan take North Korea's saber rattling more seriously than South Korea.
"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.