North Korea threatens U.S. military exercises as sanctions mount

an aircraft carrier flanked by escorts

North Korea threatened to get physical as the U.S. and South Korea prepared joint military exercises and a new round of sanctions hit the outlaw nuclear state. Squeaky Marmot/Flicker photo.

Nuclear outlaw North Korea is attracting more attention after it threatened a “physical response” to war games being played by the U.S. and South Korea this weekend. In addition to the joint military exercise, North Korea’s nuclear program and the sinking of a South Korean warship earlier this year has attracted a new round of economic sanctions that are expected to further cripple the country’s feeble economy.

North Korea calls U.S. military exercises a ‘grave threat’

North Korea issued its threats as about 8,000 military personnel from the U.S. and South Korea gear up for joint military exercises beginning this weekend. CNN reports that North Korea spokesman Ri Tong Il called the military exercise “another example of a hostile policy” against North Korea. He went on to say that the war games are a grave threat to the Korean peninsula and the entire Asian region. The military exercise, dubbed “Invincible Spirit,” is scheduled to run from July 25 to July 28.

Military exercises a response to Cheonan sinking

North Korea’s saber-rattling toward the U.S./South Korean military drills raised the level of tension that was already high in the region. The Associated Press reports that the latest threat come four months after the Cheonan sinking that killed 46 sailors. An international investigation has determined that North Korea is culpable, but its government fiercely denies any involvement. In the face of North Korea’s familiar belligerence, the U.S. seems to have run out of patience, saying any new talks with the North are unlikely in the current standoff.

North Korea sanctions target corrupt elites

On July, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled new sanctions designed to deny luxury goods to the country’s elites and cut off funding for North Korea’s nuclear program. The Guardian reports that new U.S. sanctions would target 200 North Korean-held foreign bank accounts thought to be connected with illegal activities such as nuclear weapons development, drug trafficking and counterfeiting. The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo said North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il is believed to have stashed a $4 billion slush fund in secret accounts in Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.

Desperate North Korea acting out

North Korea is threatening violence toward U.S./South Korean military exercises as it becomes increasingly desperate. Voice of America reports that North Korea is already suffering from poor harvests, a manufacturing slump, U.S. sanctions and a reduction of international aid. Analysts warn that a famine could ensue similar to the 1990’s when hundreds of thousands of North Koreans died from starvation or disease. Intense famine could lead the North Korean government to respond with harsher restrictions on the already destitute masses in one of the world’s poorest, most isolated nations.

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