On the streets of Pyongyang, North Koreans shifted into party mode as they celebrated the anniversary of leader Kim Jong Un’s appointment to the country’s top party post — one in a slew of titles collected a year ago in the months after the death of his father. Kim Jong Il.
But while there was calm in Pyongyang, there was condemnation in London, where foreign ministers from the Group of Eight nations slammed North Korea for “aggressive rhetoric” that they warned would only further isolate the impoverished, tightly controlled nation.
North Korea’s provocations, including a long-range rocket launch in December and an underground nuclear test in February, “seriously undermine regional stability, jeopardize the prospects for lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula and threaten international peace and security,” the ministers said in a statement.
In the capital of neighboring South Korea, the country’s point person on relations with the North, Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae, urged Pyongyang to engage in dialogue and reverse its decision to pull workers from a joint industrial park just north of their shared border, a move that has brought factories there to a standstill.
“We strongly urge North Korea not to exacerbate the crisis on the Korean Peninsula,” Ryoo said.
Secretary of State John Kerry was headed to Seoul on Friday for talks with South Korean officials before heading on to China.
“If anyone has real leverage over the North Koreans, it is China,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress on Thursday. “And the indications that we have are that China is itself rather frustrated with the behavior and the belligerent rhetoric of … Kim Jong Un.”
Today’s statement was the latest in a torrent of warlike threats seen outside Pyongyang as an effort to raise fears and pressure Seoul and Washington into changing their North Korea policies, and to show the North Korean people that their young leader is strong enough to stand up to powerful foes.