South Korea to Resume Anti-North Propaganda Broadcasts
By Foster Klug & Hyung-Jin Kim 8 January 2016
SEOUL — South Korea plans to retaliate for North Korea’s nuclear test by starting broadcasts of anti-Pyongyang propaganda across the border on Friday, believed to be the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The broadcasts will draw a furious response from North Korea, which considers them an act of psychological warfare. Pyongyang is extremely sensitive to any outside criticism of the authoritarian leadership of Kim, the third member of his family to rule. When South Korea briefly resumed propaganda broadcasts in August after an 11-year break, Seoul says the two Koreas exchanged artillery fire, followed by threats of war.
South Korean media reported that frontline troops, near sites where 11 propaganda loudspeakers are to start blaring messages from Friday at noon (0300 GMT), were on highest alert. South Korea’s Defense Ministry couldn’t confirm the reports but said it will sternly repel any provocation by North Korea.
North Korea’s response to the broadcast resumption could be especially harsh because of the high emotions surrounding the likely birthday of Kim, who is believed to be in his early 30s. North Korean military forces often compete to show their loyalty to the leader. The North’s state media hasn’t mentioned Kim’s birthday and South Korea’s loudspeaker campaign.
August’s broadcasts, which began after Seoul blamed Pyongyang for land mine explosions that maimed two South Korean soldiers, stopped only after the rivals agreed on a set of measures aimed at easing anger.
In the past, the broadcasts typically blared messages about alleged North Korean government mismanagement, human rights conditions, the superiority of South Korean-style democracy as well as world news and weather forecasts. South Korea says this round of broadcasts will contain South Korean pop songs and criticism of the North’s leadership.
North Korea says it detonated a hydrogen bomb Wednesday. There has been worldwide condemnation and threats of sanctions.
It may take weeks or longer to confirm or refute the North’s claim that it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, which would mark a major and unanticipated advance for its still-limited nuclear arsenal. Even a test of an atomic bomb, a less sophisticated and less powerful weapon, would push its scientists and engineers closer to their goal of building a nuclear warhead small enough to place on a missile that can reach the US mainland.
Later Friday, South Korea was to announce the results of its first round of investigations of samples collected from sea operations to see if radioactive elements leaked from the North’s test, according to the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety.
US President Barack Obama has spoken to South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and reaffirmed the “unshakeable US commitment” to the security of the two Asian allies. Separate statements from the White House said Obama and the two Asian leaders also “agreed to work together to forge a united and strong international response to North Korea’s latest reckless behavior.”
South Korean and US military leaders also discussed the deployment of US “strategic assets” in the wake of the North’s test, Seoul’s Defense Ministry said Thursday.
Ministry officials refused to elaborate about what US military assets were under consideration, but they likely refer to B-52 bombers, F-22 stealth fighters and nuclear-powered submarines.
When animosities sharply rose in the spring of 2013 following North Korea’s third nuclear test, the US took the unusual step of sending its most powerful warplanes—B-2 stealth bombers, F-22 stealth fighters and B-52 bombers—to drills with South Korea in a show of force. B-2 and B-52 bombers are capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
The UN Security Council held an emergency session and pledged to swiftly pursue new sanctions against North Korea, saying its test was a “clear violation” of previous UN resolutions.
The North’s claim of a successful test drew extreme skepticism abroad.
An early analysis by the US government was “not consistent with the claims that the regime has made of a successful hydrogen bomb test,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
South Korea’s spy service said it thought the estimated explosive yield from the blast was much smaller than what even a failed hydrogen bomb detonation would produce.
Some believe North Korea might have detonated a boosted fission bomb, a weapon considered halfway between an atomic bomb and an H-bomb.
But even if the North exploded a boosted fission bomb, its explosive yield, estimated at six kilotons, showed the test was likely a failure, a South Korean defense official said Thursday. An explosion two to five times more powerful would have been reported if it were successful, the official said, requesting anonymity because of department rules.
The North’s 2013 test produced an estimated yield of 6-7 kilotons of explosives, according to South Korean officials.
Fusion is the main principle behind the hydrogen bomb, which can be hundreds of times more powerful than atomic bombs that use fission. In a hydrogen bomb, a nuclear fission explosion sets off a fusion reaction responsible for a powerful blast and radioactivity.
The hydrogen bomb already is the global standard for the five nations with the greatest nuclear capabilities: the United States, Russia, France, Britain and China. Other nations may either have it or are working on it, despite a worldwide effort to contain such proliferation.
To build its nuclear program, the North must explode new and more advanced devices so scientists can improve their designs and technology. Nuclear-tipped missiles could then be used as deterrents and diplomatic bargaining chip—especially against the United States, which Pyongyang has long pushed to withdraw its troops from the region and to sign a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War.