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North Korean media spreads rumors on war with South, U.S.

Scaremongering about an imminent war with North Korea is quickly spreading among residents in the communist state, as the media in Pyongyang have increasingly distorted facts about Seoul’s military drills in recent weeks, sources said.

The Korean Central Television, which controls both radio and TV broadcasting, said through its radio station on Monday that South Korea and the U.S. were “getting ready to stage a new nuclear war against North Korea by organizing the Extended Deterrence Policy Committee for a pre-emptive strike.”

The term “extended deterrence” refers to a nuclear power’s promise to protect an ally that is not nuclear-armed.

Seoul and Washington held a so-called tabletop exercise, or TTX, organized by the committee, at the U.S. Strategic Command on Nov. 8-9.

Lim Kwan-bin, South Korean deputy minister for policy, and Michael Schiffer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, were in charge of the exercise, as well as Bradley Roberts, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy.

The exercise has been distorted as “a nuclear war preparation.”

The Rodong Sinmun, the most widely read newspaper in North Korea, on Nov. 18 called a joint sea rescue drill between South Korea and Japan “a scheme by Japan’s militant force to invade the Korean peninsula with the help of South Korean puppets.”

The Washington-based Radio Free Asia on Nov. 8 reported scaremongering among North Koreans that a war might break out late this year or early 2012.

The report also said there are rumors that leader Kim Jong-il’s youngest son Jong-un promised his father that he would unify the two Koreas as a “gift,” as the leader is preparing to hand power to his son.

Yang Moo-jin, a North Korean expert at South Korea’s University of North Korean Studies, said there is no need to pay much attention to the rumors.

Yang said if there was serious talk of war in North Korea, there would be particular changes in four areas ― North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s inspections on companies and military bases, interactions with foreign diplomats, stronger security at borders to prevent North Koreans from defecting and agitation among residents in Pyongyang.

However, he could see no changes, he said.

“This might be rather South Korea’s psychological ploy to amplify North Korea could implode soon, which gives more room to put pressure on the North,” Yang said.

“What’s more important for the South Korean government for now is to search for more effective ways to build dialogue channels.”

An official at the Unification Ministry said the South Korean government has not detected any particular change in the North’s internal situation, either.

By Kim Yoon-mi (yoonmi@heraldcorp.com)
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