Who will blink first?

North Korea threatens war as South joins U.S.-led blockade following N-bomb explosion

North Korea has warned of a 'military' response after South Korea joined a U.S.-led programme to intercept and search its ships for weapons of mass destruction.
The country, which shocked the world with the explosion of a nuclear device the size of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs on Monday, said the South signing up to the proliferation security initiative was tantamount to a declaration of war.
It has also declared that it no longer considers itself bound by the truce that halted the Korean War in 1953. Technically, the armistice has meant the war between the two countries never ended.
Rally: North Korean soldiers, officials and people celebrate the firing of a second nuclear missile
Rally: North Korean soldiers, officials and people celebrate the firing of a second nuclear missile
The declaration comes as fears grow that North Korea has restarted a nuclear plant. This is based on data from spy satellites which spotted vapour emerging from a known facility.
This suggests the country has followed through on its threat to restart its attempts to create weapons-grade plutonium.
North Korea leader Kim Jong-il launched the high stakes poker game of nuclear diplomacy with the explosion of the nuclear bomb on Monday.
U.S. President Barack Obama  immediately demanded action from the international community as the nuclear test was universally condemned.
But North Korea is already so isolated that diplomats have openly admitted that it would be difficult to exert leverage over the rogue state with any further sanctions.
  Rally: North Korean soldiers, officials and people celebrate the firing of a second nuclear missile
North Korea has said that it no longer considers itself bound by the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953
cuban anti-aircraft battery in 1962
A Cuban Army battery during the 1962 crisis. Kennedy chose to use a blockade over a military strike in the hope it would leave all sides room to manoeuvre as the world came the closest it has ever been to nuclear war
With fears that Kim Jong-il could allow his newly-demonstrated nuclear technology to fall into the wrong hands, the blockade on ships has been pushed through as one of the few viable options.
Blockades have been used in nuclear diplomacy before, with President John F Kennedy imposing a blockade around Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 in hope of squeezing the missiles out.
Kennedy chose the blockade over a military strike in hopes it would leave all sides room to manoeuvre as the world came the closest it has ever been to nuclear war.
Now Barack Obama - who has been likened to Kennedy many times - is having to navigate his own path through the murky waters of nuclear diplomacy against a rogue communist state.
South Korean soldiers look at the North Korean side through binoculars at Dora Observation Post in the demilitarized zone today, near the border that has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War
South Korean soldiers look at the North Korean side through binoculars at Dora Observation Post in the demilitarized zone today, near the border that has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War
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North Korea carried out the nuclear test at a site six miles underground and 40 miles north-west of Kimchaek in the north-east of the country
The proliferation security initiative is not as blanket a response as Kennedy's 'quarantine' of Cuba, but it does leave the international community - and Kim Jong-il - room to manoeuvre.
South Korea has previously stayed out of the U.S.-led operation to avoid harming reconciliation efforts with its neighbour, but announced it would join the pact yesterday.
Pyongyang responded by warning of an 'immediate, strong military measures' if the South stopped and searched any of its ships.
'Any hostile act against our peaceful vessels including search and seizure will be considered an unpardonable infringement on our sovereignty, and we will immediately respond with a powerful military strike,' an army spokesman said, according to official news agency KCNA.
North Korea accused the U.S., a signatory of the armistice, of 'dragging' the South into the programme under its 'hostile policy' against the North.
Barack Obama speaks in Las Vegas yesterday. He has promised to support South Korea as tensions rise over the nuclear row with the North
Barack Obama speaks in Las Vegas yesterday. He has promised to support South Korea as tensions rise over the nuclear row with the North
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in an undated photo released this week. North Korea's defiance over its nuclear programme has outraged the international community
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in an undated photo released this week. The country's defiance over its nuclear programme has outraged the international community
Obama has already promised unequivocal support for South Korea after the nuclear explosion earlier this week.
This was followed by a series of short-range missile launches, three on Monday and another three yesterday.
Reports in South Korea claim its neighbour has restarted its main nuclear plant at Yongbyon, indicating it is reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods to harvest plutonium.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak talks with Barack Obama on a telephone as defiant North Korea test-fired more missiles yesterday
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak talks with Barack Obama on a telephone as defiant North Korea test-fired more missiles yesterday
South Korea's Defence Ministry and the National Intelligence Service were unable to confirm the claim which came from an unnamed official.
The North had warned it would restart the process in protest at international criticism of its rocket launch on April 5 this year.
It is believed to have enough plutonium for at least half a dozen atomic bombs and around 8,000 spent fuel rods.
If these were reprocessed, it could allow the country to harvest 6-8 kilograms (13-18 pounds) of plutonium - enough to make at least one nuclear bomb, experts said.
There were similar reports last week after claims the gate at a facility where the spent fuel rods were being stored was spotted open several times and chemical-carrying vehicles seen in the area.
Emergency sessions of the UN Security Council drew up new sanctions aimed at persuading North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il to rejoin talks on ending his nuclear programme.
But existing sanctions are regularly flouted and the country is so poor it relies on aid, mainly from China, to feed its 23million people.
Diplomats believe Monday's explosion, which prompted an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council, was a calculated attempt by Pyongyang to destabilise the region and shore up its hardline regime.
But the isolated nation appeared to have overreached itself when even China and Russia joined in with the criticism.
While the leadership is hard to penetrate and its motives are difficult to read, it is thought that North Korean Army chiefs want to reassert their influence before a successor is chosen to Kim, whose position has been on under question since he suffered a stroke last year.
... Then he returned to the refuge of his hometown, Nagasaki - and survived THIS atomic bomb blast on August 9, 1945
The explosion caused by the bomb dropped by America on Nagasaki in August of 1945. That bomb carried a payload of 22 kilotons, roughly two kilotons stronger than the one tested by North Korea on Monday
Others think nuclear brinkmanship is a way for Kim to reassert his iron grip on power to ensure that one of his sons is well placed to succeed him.
China, the state's regional benefactor, said it was resolutely opposed to the test, but it was thought to remain opposed to punitive sanctions.
The U.N. Security Council condemned the test and is working on a new resolution, but analysts say China is unlikely to support anything tough.
For China, the more immediate risk may be serious rupture inside the impoverished state, which could spark a flood of North Korean refugees across its border.
 
 
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