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SEOUL: North Korea leader Kim Jong-Un threatened to “wipe out” a South Korean island as Pyongyang came under new economic and diplomatic fire yesterday from US sanctions and UN charges of rights abuses.
The threat to the border island of Baengnyeong, which has around 5,000 residents, carries the weight of precedent. In 2010, the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan was sunk in the area, with the loss of 46 lives, and later that year North Korea shelled the nearby island of Yeonpyeong, killing four people.
On a visit to frontline artillery units, Kim Jong-Un briefed officers on their mission “to strike and wipe out the enemies” on Baengnyeong and turn the island into a “sea of fire”.
In New York, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Pyongyang to continue to respect the 1953 Armistice Agreement that ended the Korean War, amid the country’s claims that it is nullified.
“The Armistice Agreement is still valid and in force. The terms of the Armistice Agreement do not allow either side unilaterally to free themselves from it,” Ban’s spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, told reporters.
Meanwhile, the US National Intelligence Director James Clapper said: “Although we assess with low confidence that the North would only attempt to use nuclear weapons against US forces or allies to preserve the Kim (Jong-Un) regime, we do not know what would constitute, from the North’s perspective, crossing that threshold.
North Korea would likely only use nuclear weapons if it perceived a threat to its survival, he said in an annual report to Congress on global security threats.
In Vienna, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation said it was highly unlikely to find any “smoking gun” radioactive traces from the North’s nuclear test last month.
South Korea said it refused to recognise North Korea’s move to unilaterally scrap the 60-year-old Korean War armistice, and urged Pyongyang to row back on its warlike rhetoric.
“Unilateral abrogation or termination of the armistice agreement is not allowed under its regulations or according to international law,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-Young said.