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Nature of Pakistani, North Korean Nuclear Threats Shift

May 27, 2009 at 6:20 PM EDT
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As North Korea intensifies its rhetoric and nuclear tests and Pakistan confronts an increasingly extremist insurrection, two Independent Television News correspondents report on the shifting nature of the nuclear threats from those two countries.

GWEN IFILL: Nuclear threats appear to be gathering force from North Korea to Pakistan to Iran. We bring you reports now on North Korea, where harsh new rhetoric has accompanied explosive new nuclear bomb and missile tests, and on nuclear-armed Pakistan, which is confronting an extremist insurrection.

There was another suicide bomb attack in Lahore today. Correspondent Lindsey Hilsum reports for Independent Television News.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Ten-thirty this morning, a blast in the center of Lahore so big that, even before the smoke rose, reverberations could be felt several miles away. It left a huge crater some eight-foot deep.

The target appears to have been the police headquarters and an office housing the Inter-Services Intelligence, the ISI. The building they call Rescue 15, the ambulance service, was also hit, causing more chaos. The attackers started shooting from a car, then got out. The car exploded, but shooting continued for at least 20 minutes.

MUHAMMAD ALI, Witness (through translator): The moment the blast happened, everything went dark in front of my eyes. The way the blast happened, then gunfire. It looked as if there was a battle going on.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Police, paramilitaries and troops arrived quickly. This is a crowded part of Lahore’s city center, difficult to secure, and they knew that they themselves had been the target of the blast.

Dozens were trapped in the rubble, as bystanders and surviving police tried to rescue them.

Such scenes are becoming familiar in Lahore. This is the third such blast in less than three months. First, militants hit the Sri Lankan cricket team on tour here, then a police academy. But the government is convinced that this attack is connected to its military campaign against the Taliban in Swat.

REHMAN MALIK, Pakistan Interior Minister (through translator): I believe that anti-Pakistan elements, who want to destabilize our country and see defeat in the Swat province, have now turned to our cities.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Local television caught the moment when two suspects were arrested.

TELEVISION NEWS ANCHOR: You’re looking at pictures of an alleged terrorist being taken away by the police, being whisked away, angry onlookers trying to get a pot shot at him, but, of course…

LINDSEY HILSUM: It’s not clear whether these were the men who got out of the car shooting.

In the past, the Taliban has used local Sunni extremists to carry out such missions. The police will now investigate.

Hundreds were taken to hospitals, amongst them, policemen who had been in the police headquarters when the bomb hit.

PAKISTANI POLICEMAN (through translator): I was there on duty. Suddenly, gunfire erupted. All of us got down on the ground on our elbows. Then, after the gunfire, there was an explosion, and the building collapsed. The gunfire continued even after that, and I can tell you there were bullets coming in from every direction.

LINDSEY HILSUM: The people of Lahore used to see themselves as somehow separate from the extreme religious politics and violence which has long characterized other parts of Pakistan. No longer.

The battle against the Taliban in Swat is only one facet of a war which at any time, it seems, can destroy the lives of anyone, anywhere in the country.

North Korea increases threats

North Korean News Anchor
Any hostile act against our peaceful vessels, including search and seizure, will be considered an unpardonable infringement on our sovereignty...

GWEN IFILL: And to North Korea. This report is narrated by correspondent Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News.

JONATHAN MILLER: Today, the rhetoric got shriller, the newscaster sounding fierce.

NORTH KOREAN NEWS ANCHOR (through translator): Any hostile act against our peaceful vessels, including search and seizure, will be considered an unpardonable infringement on our sovereignty and we will immediately respond with a powerful military strike.

JONATHAN MILLER: This evening's broadcast branding the South Korean president a traitor and a puppet of the United States, his joining the U.S.-led initiative to search vessels suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction, a declaration of war.

NORTH KOREAN NEWS ANCHOR (through translator): Second, the Korean People's Army will not be bound to the armistice agreement any longer.

JONATHAN MILLER: In a stroke, the 56-year-long truce with the South torn up, and then more threats over disputed islands, U.S. imperialist aggressors, and the South Korean puppet navy.

One of the world's most secretive, most militarized states, with an army of 1.1 million, led by an ailing Stalinist dictator armed with a nuclear bomb, has in the past four days conducted another nuclear test in defiance of a U.N. resolution and fired off five short-range missiles over the Sea of Japan.

YUKIO TAKASU, U.N. Ambassador, Japan: This is really a direct threat to the security, including Japan, but also as a challenge to the Security Council.

JONATHAN MILLER: U.S. commercial satellite imagery, however, contradicting reports from Seoul today that the North had begun making weapons-grade plutonium again at its Yongbyon reactor. The telltale signs aren't there.