North Korea Rattling the Saber

Fun news from the other side of the Pacific:

North Korea warned Japan on Wednesday that it would treat economic sanctions as a “declaration of war” and threatened to try to exclude Tokyo from six-party talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear arms programs.
Calls are growing from the Japanese public and politicians for the government to impose sanctions on North Korea after Tokyo said bones Pyongyang had identified as those of kidnapped Japanese were from other people.
“If sanctions are applied against the DPRK (North Korea) due to the moves of the ultra-right forces (in Japan), we will regard it as a declaration of war against our country and promptly react to the action by an effective physical method,” a spokesman for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said.

This is in reference to an ongoing flap between those two countries over 13 Japanese nationals that the North Koreans kidnapped back in the 1970s and 80s. Of those 13, only five remained alive in 2002 when the North Koreans finally confessed to the crime to be repatriated to Japan. (This was truly one of the more bizarre stories to come out of the Cold War.)

The most recent development saw the North Koreans recently give the Japanese back the remains of two of the eight dead kidnap victims — but then DNA testing revealed that at least one of the bodies they handed over wasn’t of the kidnapped woman they claimed it was. The outraged Japanese have responded by freezing 250,000 tons of food aid, which the starving North Koreans probably desperately need.

So now Kim is falling back to his usual last resort — rattling sabers. And since he has at least one nuke, the Japanese are probably paying pretty close attention.

(If you want to keep up with news from North Korea, the NKZone blog is a great place to start.)