05/26/2010, 00.00
KOREA
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North preparing the crisis for some time

by Joseph Yun Li-sun
Sources tell AsiaNews that Kim Jong-il’s government is “on the verge of collapse because of its economic mistakes. It has caused the crisis to rally the population.” In Seoul, Clinton tells North to stop its provocations.
Seoul (AsiaNews) – The sinking of ROKS Cheonan “was an unacceptable provocation by North Korea and the international community has a responsibility and a duty to respond,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during an official visit in South Korea.

At a press conference with Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, the former First Lady said the crisis caused by the sinking of the naval vessel “requires a strong but measured response. But there is the longer-term challenge of changing the direction of North Korea” that must be taken into consideration. Sources in Korea tell AsiaNews “Pyongyang was preparing the crisis for some time”.

According to a humanitarian aid worker, who visits regularly the North, “the order to evacuate all South Koreans from the Kaesong demilitarised zone and the order issued to North Korea’s navy to fire on sight on all unidentified ships go back a few weeks. It is clear that Kim Jong-ill wants to use the crisis to rally his people and make them accept more sacrifices because the money is gone and he is afraid of an uprising.”

In fact, the country’s disastrous currency reform and its highly centralised economic policies have bankrupted the state. The end of food aid from South Korea has further cut into the country’s food supply. “The regime wants to blame Seoul and Washington for starving the population. Only this way, they can survive a dramatic situation.”

In light of this, Secretary Clinton has urged the world to act jointly. In Beijing yesterday, she tried to get China’s support. Beijing is North Korea’s sponsor, the only country that can exert pressure on the Communist regime and get it to change direction. Although Chinese authorities have refused Clinton’s request, they have left the door open to further dialogue.

In any event, Pyongyang has put its armed forces on alert, slamming Seoul’s “provocations”, issuing orders to its Navy to fire on sight against any naval vessel that crosses the Northern Limit Line, the maritime demarcation line between the two Koreas.

In the meantime, the United States and South Korea have begun joint naval and anti-sub exercises, a move that is bound to escalate tensions with the North.

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