On Friday, the North Korean government said it would not be able to guarantee the safety of embassies after April 10, and suggested that Russia, China, and Great Britain consider evacuating their diplomats.
Tensions have been on the rise since the United Nations imposed harsher sanctions following Pyongyang’s third nuclear test on Feb. 12. The rogue state expressed fury over ongoing U.S.-South Korean military exercises and threatened a nuclear strike against the U.S. It also scrapped the Korean War armistice, began moving missiles, and restarted a plutonium reactor capable of producing more fuel for nuclear bombs.
One concern is that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has something to prove. He’s still tightening his grip on power and is something of a military unknown.
While the situation appears to be serious, governments are playing down the rhetoric from North Korea, assuming it represents yet another tantrum by a regime starving for attention, legitimacy, and economic aid. Spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA Todd Nettleton describes the typical pattern. “The world community makes some concessions. They deliver some food or they lower the sanctions or they deliver some oil, and the crisis magically goes away until the next time North Korea needs something.”
Nettleton connected on Friday with their contacts working with North Korean Christians. According to them, “When North Korea needs something, when they need concessions, they create a crisis. They do a lot of saber rattling and a lot of press release about how terrible it’s going to be for all the aggressors against them.”
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The situation is still fairly rhetorical. Nettleton says they’re taking their cues from their national partners, some of whom are North Korean defectors. He goes on to say that because the poverty and hunger situation is desperate, it’s unlikely the threats are little more than talk. He explains, “The surrounding nations are comfortable with the status quo. Maybe at times it’s a little irritating, but it is seen as a better alternative than to see the regime fall and North Korea fall into complete chaos with those surrounding nations left to clean up the mess.”
North Korea is the worst perpetrator of persecution against Christians in the world. Christians are tortured, imprisoned, and murdered. Private, non-state-sanctioned religious activity is prohibited. Anyone discovered engaging in clandestine religious activity is subject to arrest, torture, or even public execution.
As many as 100,000 believers are thought to worship secretly. Possessing a Bible, saying the words God or Jesus, and meeting together are all offences punishable by death. VOM reports estimate that of the hundreds of thousands incarcerated in labor and concentration camps, about 30,000 are Christians.
Yet there are still requests for help. VOM supports Gospel radio broadcasts into North Korea and participates in balloon launches that carry the hope of Christ into the country. “Pray that North Korean Christians will remain faithful, that they will remain encouraged. The other thing we can pray is for the delivery of Gospel materials, for the these balloons, for these radio broadcasts, for other Gospel work that is going on into North Korea, that the Gospel message will get in there, that it will be received, and that there will be fruit.”