North Korea tightened the tension in its smoldering conflict with the United States, South Korea and other Western nations another twist on Sunday, when Kim Jong-Un called a rare party meeting. The plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party included high-ranking government officials, including Kim himself, and set out to draw a new "new strategic line" to guide the country's politics. A big part of that plan involves beefing up its nuclear arsenal even more. A statement released after the meeting called North Korea's nuclear arsenal "the nation's life" and a "treasure" not worth trading "billions of dollars."In other words, they're not backing down any time soon.
The more notable fact about the event wasn't so much what was said, but simply the fact that it took place at all. The Central Committee hasn't held a plenary session since 1992, when the country agreed to cooperate with inspections conducted by the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA). North Korea denied access to inspectors for the next two years, when Kim Jong-Il agreed to halt the program in exchange for $5 million in humanitarian relief. But as we know all to well at this point, North Korea fired that program right back up, and things are now starting to get pretty hot in Pyongyang. That heat hit a new high on Saturday, when North Korea boldly mentioned entering a "state of war" with South Korea. "Time has come to stage a do-or-die final battle," said the government in a statement.
We wondered at the time how seriously to take the latest episode of sabre-rattling. The U.S. doesn't appear to be taking any chances. Apparently in response, the Air Force sent a fresh batch of the radar-dodging F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets to the Osan Air Force base in South Korea. In a statement, US military leaders said that North Korea "will achieve nothing by threats or provocations, which will only further isolate North Korea and undermine international efforts to ensure peace and stability in Northeast Asia."
The sound of the countries' chest-pumping has now gotten so loud, it's made it all the way to the Vatican City. In his Sunday Easter services, Pope Francis asked for peace on the Korea peninsula. So even though we know that North Korea is largely bark, it's never a comforting sign when the pope is asking God for help.