JEFFREY BROWN: There were new rumblings from North Korea today, as it tried to bolster its latest threats against the U.S. by moving a missile with — quote — “considerable range” to its eastern coast.
The announcement of that move came from South Korea’s defense minister. But he also said that the missile wasn’t capable of reaching the United States.
DEFENSE MINISTER KIM KWAN-JIN, South Korea: As I see its firing range, it is not aimed at the U.S. mainland. We’re closely monitoring North Korea. We haven’t found any signs of all-out war, but we consider that its provocation is always possible and we are ready for it.
JEFFREY BROWN: Pyongyang’s newest provocation is part of its ongoing rallying cry against joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises on the peninsula and a reaction to the U.N. Security Council’s renunciation of the North Korea nuclear test in February. State television broadcast North Korea’s latest threat against the United States.
WOMAN: We will cope with the U.S. nuclear threat with a merciless nuclear attack. And we will face this infiltration with a justified all-out-war. This is our military and our people’s unchangeable stance. The U.S. and those followers should clearly know that everything is different in the era of respected Kim Jong-un.
JEFFREY BROWN: That response comes after the Pentagon announced yesterday it deployed a land-based missile defense system to Guam in response to North Korea’s escalating military threats.
And for a second day, the border to a shared factory park in North Korea remained closed to workers from the South. Some South Koreans were finally able to return home from the Kaesong Industrial Park. They expressed concerns that heightened tension between the two countries was trickling down to employees still at work.
WOMAN: I’m nervous, of course, since travel was suspended. I hope it would be normalized soon. Both South and North Korean workers are all nervous.
JEFFREY BROWN: Kim Jong-un’s escalating rhetoric and actions, including news the country would be restarting once-shuttered nuclear weapon production facilities, has come under fire from the international community.
Today, Russia’s foreign ministry spokesman underscored North Korea’s nuclear intentions were unacceptable.
ALEXANDER LUKASHEVICH, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman: We are categorically against Pyongyang’s indifference to the U.N. Security Council’s resolutions that form the base and the sphere of nuclear nonproliferation. This radically complicates, if it doesn’t in practice shut off the prospects for resuming six-party talks to resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.
JEFFREY BROWN: And State Department Press Secretary Victoria Nuland said the U.S. wouldn’t back down from North Korea’s threats.
VICTORIA NULAND, State Department Spokeswoman: It is incumbent upon us to take prudent steps to defend the United States, to defend our allies, to be prepared for a necessary deterrence, et cetera. That is reflected in the moves that you have seen announced from the Pentagon, et cetera.
That said, we continue to make the case that it doesn’t have to go this way. The DPRK could chose a different course.
JEFFREY BROWN: Despite the calls to defuse hostilities, North Korean state television again aired undated footage of mass rallies against the U.S. and South Korea. Marchers chanted anti-American slogans and carried banners reading, “Let’s destroy our mortal enemy, the United States.”
JUDY WOODRUFF: The heated rhetoric is being watched closely on a small South Korean island two miles from the maritime border with North Korea.
It is from there that John Irvine of Independent Television News reports.
JOHN IRVINE, Independent Television News: This remote South Korean outpost in the Yellow Sea paid the price the last time this conflict went beyond the slanging match.
Yeonpyeong Island lies just off the North Korean coast and two-and-a-half years ago, it found itself in the crosshairs of the rogue state. Four people would be killed. In a single brazen daylight bombardment, the North Koreans fired almost 200 artillery shells and missiles into this island. The South Koreans have preserved these bombed-out buildings as a permanent reminder of who they’re dealing with.
This crisis has persuaded some residents of Yeonpyeong Island to leave. Those still here have been on edge, ever since Kim Jong-un was seen rallying his troops on a nearby North Korean island early last month.
The images of an adoring throng waving and wading through icy waters added to the world’s amusement back then. How serious things have become since, with this region held hostage to the unknowable intentions of an inexperienced despot. These are dangerous, uncharted waters indeed.