The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


April 5, 2013

Obama avoids war of words with North Korea


North Korea was seen loading two mid-range missiles onto mobile launchers and hiding them in a facility near the east coast, Yonhap reported Friday, citing unidentified South Korean military sources. Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok declined to confirm or comment on reports of a second missile.

North Korea has in the past sought to mask its intentions and deceive surveillance tools by steps such as displaying dummy missiles and covering test sites.

While North Korea has intensified its threats, the U.S. and South Korea have said they've seen no unusual military movements suggesting preparations for war. North Korea is incapable of hitting the U.S. with a nuclear missile, and its chances of winning a second war with South Korea and the U.S. are poor, according to Joseph Bermudez, a military analyst who has studied North Korea's strengths and weaknesses.

Donald Gregg, a former CIA official who was ambassador to South Korea for President George H.W. Bush, said that some show of deterrent force was justified, although sending stealthy, nuclear-capable B-2s was "maybe overkill."

"We had to demonstrate we were responding seriously to this wild bluster coming out of North Korea," Gregg said in an interview. "But at some point, we have to figure out a way to start talking."

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been reflected in financial markets, as South Korea's Kospi index fell 1.6 percent Friday to 1,927.23 in Seoul, its steepest loss since Oct. 26. The won dropped 0.7 percent to 1,131.69 per dollar, the weakest since Sept. 6. The currency slumped 6 percent in the past three months, Asia's second-worst performer.

Joel Wit, a former diplomat who was involved in denuclearization talks with North Korea in the 1990s, said the U.S. has made its point and may be able to dial back military moves to avoid provoking Kim and to provide an opening for him to reduce tensions.

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