While North Korea marked the anniversary of its departed ‘Dear Leader’ Kim Jong-il’s birth on February 16th with a military parade, mass dances and televised sporting activities, this week’s nuclear test drew international condemnation, with President Obama pledging to “lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats”.
The European Union will tighten sanctions on North Korea to curb trade in gold and diamonds and crack down on financial links in protest at Pyongyang’s recent rocket launch and nuclear bomb test, EU diplomats said on Friday.
In separate developments, North Korean officials have reportedly informed counterparts in China that further nuclear tests and rocket launches are planned for this year, with Pyongyang seeking to force the US into negotiations, a source told Reuters.
Commentators interpreted the North’s aggressive move as a statement by its new leader Kim Jong-un that he plans to follow his father’s “military first” strategy.
South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said tests to date indicate North Korea’s weapons had a range of about 6,200 miles, making the west coast of the United States a potential target.
Meanwhile, in the South Korean bordertown of Imjingak, defectors from the North released hundreds of thousands of helium balloons containing anti-regime leaflets and $1 currency notes, and bearing slogans declaring “Stop provocative acts with missiles and nuclear tests”, “North Koreans rise up” and “The Kim dynasty will soon collapse”.
Pyongyang has in the past threatened a “merciless military strike” in response to similar anti-North Korea propaganda leaflets, forcing the evacuation of South Korean residents.