North Korea takes inspiration from Putin’s nuke threats

Oct 13, 2022, 1:16 AM | Updated: 1:21 am
FILE - This photo provided on Oct. 10, 2022, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Ki...

FILE - This photo provided on Oct. 10, 2022, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects a missile test at an undisclosed location in North Korea, as taken sometime between Sept. 25 and Oct. 9. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

(Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

TOKYO (AP) — For decades North Korea has threatened to turn enemy cities into a “sea of fire,” even as it doggedly worked on building a nuclear weapons program that could back up its belligerent words.

Now, as North Korea conducts another torrid run of powerful weapons tests — and threatens pre-emptive nuclear strikes on Washington and Seoul — it may be taking inspiration from the fiery rhetoric of the leader of a nuclear-armed member of the U.N. Security Council: Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

With Putin raising the terrifying prospect of using tactical nukes to turn around battleground setbacks in Ukraine, there’s fear that this normalization of nuclear threats is emboldening North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as he puts the finishing touches on his still incomplete nuclear program.

“Putin and Kim feed off each other, routinizing the right to nuke a peaceful neighbor by repeating it without repercussion,” said Sung-Yoon Lee, an expert on North Korea at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. “Putin’s threats sound more credible than Kim’s, as there is bloodshed in Ukraine every day. But Kim’s threats must not be dismissed as empty bluster.”

After more than 40 missile launches this year — its most ever — there are a host of fresh signs that North Korea is becoming more aggressive in making its nuclear bombs the centerpiece of its military.

A recent two-week barrage of missile launches was meant, according to North Korean media, to simulate the use of its tactical battlefield nuclear weapons to “hit and wipe out” potential South Korean and U.S. targets. It’s believed to mark the first time that North Korea has performed drills involving army units tasked with the operation of tactical nuclear weapons.

The tests — all supervised by Kim — included a nuclear-capable ballistic missile launched under a reservoir; ballistic missiles designed for nuclear strikes on South Korean airfields, ports and command facilities; and a new-type ground-to-ground ballistic missile that flew over Japan.

State media announced Thursday the tests the previous day of long-range cruise missiles, which Kim described as a successful demonstration of his military’s expanding nuclear strike capabilities and readiness for “actual war.”

There are also indications that North Korea is taking steps to deploy tactical nuclear weapons along its frontline border with South Korea. The North has also adopted a new law that authorizes preemptive nuclear attacks over a broad range of scenarios, including non-war situations, when it perceives a threat to its leadership.

North Korea is still working to perfect its nuclear-tipped missile technology, but each new test pushes it closer to that goal.

“North Korea has been clearly emulating Putin’s approach in his war on Ukraine while using it as a window to accelerate arms development,” according to Park Won Gon, a professor of North Korea studies at Seoul’s Ewha Womans University.

In what’s seen as a reference to his nuclear arsenal, Putin has declared his readiness to use “all means available” to protect Russian territory. With a string of defeats in Ukraine leaving Putin increasingly cornered, observers worry that Putin could be tempted to explode a tactical nuclear weapon to avoid a defeat that may undermine his grip on power.

Battlefield nuclear weapons are intended to crush advancing enemy troops in one designated frontline section, and have a low yield compared to nuclear warheads fitted on strategic weapons. But even these types of nuclear weapons would expose huge numbers of civilians in densely populated Ukraine, and possibly Russia and other places, to radiation risks.

It would also have a devastating political impact, marking the first time nuclear weapons have been used since World War II and prompting rapid escalation that could end in all-out nuclear conflict.

The United States and its allies have said they are taking Putin’s threats seriously but won’t yield to what they described as Putin’s blackmail to force the West to abandon its support for Ukraine. Ukraine said it won’t halt its counteroffensive despite Russian nuclear strike threats.

U.S. officials have said they don’t believe that Kim is going to launch conventional or nuclear attacks because of what the North Korean leader sees happening in Ukraine. Rather, they see Kim as worried that North Korea may be left behind in the international influence battle and therefore escalating because Putin is getting all the attention.

North Korea’s missile launches are seen by many as presaging an eventual test of a nuclear device.

Such tests, besides putting Washington and Seoul on the defensive, may be meant to win talks, on North Korean terms, with Washington that could eventually get the North recognized as a legitimate nuclear power. That, in turn, would force the international community to ease crushing sanctions and, eventually, negotiate the removal of nearly 30,000 U.S. troops in South Korea.

Pyongyang’s ultimate goal, according to Lee, the Tufts professor, is to complete what Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, began in 1950 with the surprise North Korean invasion of South Korea and establish a Korean Peninsula ruled by the Kim family.

Putin’s moves in Ukraine could also help Kim by continuing to distract the United States from focusing on North Korea and deepening a divide on the U.N. Security Council where Russia and China side with North Korea and prevent additional sanctions over the North’s recent tests, said Park, the analyst in Seoul.

“North Korea is paying as much attention to the (Ukraine) situation as anyone,” Park said. If Putin gets away with using nukes without suffering major repercussions, North Korea will see that as boosting its own nuclear doctrine, Park said.

The Korean Peninsula is still technically at war because the 1950-53 conflict ended with an armistice not a peace treaty, and the two Koreas have a history of bloody skirmishes. North Korea fired artillery during South Korean military drills in 2010 that killed two civilians and two South Korean military members on a front-line island. An international panel also blamed the North for sinking a South Korean warship the same year, killing 46.

Similar future clashes could be followed by North Korean threats to use nuclear weapons, said Park. He noted that conventional military clashes between India and Pakistan increased after Pakistan acquired its own deterrent to counter its nuclear-armed rival, mainly because the perceived balance in strength emboldened the countries to carry out more aggressive military action.

Recent North Korean missile tests came despite a U.S. aircraft carrier in nearby waters and during trilateral naval drills between the United States, South Korea and Japan, Park said. “This shows the growing confidence they have in their weapons.”

___

AP reporters Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this story.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


              FILE - This photo distributed by the North Korean government shows what it says a test-fire of a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), at an undisclosed location in North Korea on March 24, 2022. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)
            
              FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un take an elevator heading to the talks in Vladivostok, Russia on April 25, 2019. As North Korea conducts more powerful weapons tests — and threatens pre-emptive nuclear strikes on Washington and Seoul — it may be taking inspiration from the fiery rhetoric of the leader of a nuclear-armed member of the U.N. Security Council: Russia's Vladimir Putin. (Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik, Kremlin/Pool Photo via AP, File)
            
              FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, center right, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un shake hands during their meeting in Vladivostok, Russia on April 25, 2019. As North Korea conducts more powerful weapons tests — and threatens pre-emptive nuclear strikes on Washington and Seoul — it may be taking inspiration from the fiery rhetoric of the leader of a nuclear-armed member of the U.N. Security Council: Russia's Vladimir Putin. (Yuri Kadobnov/Pool Photo via AP, File)
            
              FILE - This undated file image distributed on Sept. 3, 2017, by the North Korean government, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at an undisclosed location. As North Korea conducts more powerful weapons tests — and threatens pre-emptive nuclear strikes on Washington and Seoul — it may be taking inspiration from the fiery rhetoric of the leader of a nuclear-armed member of the U.N. Security Council: Russia's Vladimir Putin. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)
            
              FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un shake hands during their meeting in Vladivostok, Russia, April 25, 2019. As North Korea conducts more powerful weapons tests — and threatens pre-emptive nuclear strikes on Washington and Seoul — it may be taking inspiration from the fiery rhetoric of the leader of a nuclear-armed member of the U.N. Security Council: Russia's Vladimir Putin. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool, File)
            
              FILE - This photo provided on Oct. 10, 2022, by the North Korean government purports to show a missile test at an undisclosed location in North Korea, as taken sometime between Sept. 25 and Oct. 9. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)
            
              FILE - This photo provided on Oct. 10, 2022, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects a missile test at an undisclosed location in North Korea, as taken sometime between Sept. 25 and Oct. 9. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

AP

Slovak President Zuzana Caputova speaks during a press conference with her Austrian counterpart Ale...
Associated Press

Slovakia’s parliament sets early election for Sept 30

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Slovakia’s parliament on Tuesday approved Sept. 30 as the date for an early election in the country. Ninety-two lawmakers in the 150-seat National Council — two more than needed — voted in favor of the move that came a week after lawmakers amended the country’s constitution to make it possible to […]
10 hours ago
Florida center Jason Jitoboh (33) runs up court after making a shot against Alabama during the firs...
Associated Press

Jitoboh’s recovery coming into focus year after eye injury

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jason Jitoboh won’t step foot onto a basketball court without his glasses. And he doesn’t even need them to see. The darkened lenses merely provide extra protection for what eyesight Jitoboh has remaining. Florida’s 6-foot-11 center took a finger to his left eye at Tennessee last January and spent the better […]
10 hours ago
Associated Press

US reassures Kosovo it won’t support Serb-majority ministate

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — The United States on Tuesday reassured Kosovars that it wouldn’t support the creation of a Serb-majority ministate in Kosovo — like one in Bosnia — as Washington attempts to convince the country to accept a controversial association. The U.S. Embassy in Pristina met with a group of civil society leaders, government […]
10 hours ago
Associated Press Cleveland reporter Mark Gillispie takes a selfie with his AP colleagues videojourn...
Associated Press

Veteran AP, Plain Dealer reporter Mark Gillispie dies at 63

Mark Gillispie, a veteran journalist who wrote about many of Ohio’s biggest stories and characters during a four-decade career primarily with The Associated Press and The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, has died. He was 63. Gillispie, who was diagnosed with cancer last fall, died Sunday while in hospice care, his children, Sam Gillispie and Martha […]
10 hours ago
The sun begins to rise in Mexico City, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)...
Associated Press

Mexico’s growth slows to 0.4% in 4Q, 3.6% in 2022

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s economy slowed in the last quarter of 2022 but still managed to advance by 0.4%, bringing economic expansion for the full year to 3.6%, the National Statistics Institute announced Tuesday. The country’s gross domestic product had expanded by 0.9% in the third quarter, but the effects of high domestic interest […]
10 hours ago
FILE - A sign for the Food and Drug Administration is displayed outside their offices in Silver Spr...
Associated Press

FDA revamping foods program to move past ‘constant turmoil’

The head of the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday announced an overhaul of the agency’s food safety and nutrition division, vowing that a new structure will better protect consumers and the U.S. food supply. FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said he would create a new human foods program led by a deputy commissioner with […]
10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
North Korea takes inspiration from Putin’s nuke threats