Subscribe

TOKYO — The United States is in danger of being shot down if it “continues spy flights over North Korea,” said a man considered North Korea’s unofficial spokesman.

Kim Myong Chol, speaking at Tokyo’s Foreign Correspondents Club Friday, said North Korea intends to reunify with South Korea. But, Kim said, the North believes U.S. Forces Korea — and the United Nations Command — stand in the way.

Born in Japan, Kim received a Ph.D. in political science from the DPRK Academy of Social Sciences and worked in North Korea from 1966 to 1984. He is executive director of the Center for Korean-American Peace in Japan and author of the book “Kim Jong Il’s Reunification Strategy.”

Tensions have continued to escalate between North Korea and the United States. In the past month, North Korea sent a fighter jet into South Korean airspace, fired a short-range missile into the Sea of Japan and sent four MiG jet fighters to intercept a U.S. RC-135S reconnaissance plane in international airspace over the Sea of Japan.

Kim said North Korea considers the spy flights “dangerous military action.” If an American “spy plane” violates North Korean airspace, he said, North Korea would “shoot it down.”

North Korea asserts that spy flights indicate that the United States is preparing for war on the peninsula, he said.

U.S. military officials, however, defend the flights.

Kim said international criticism doesn’t concern North Korea.

Negative or positive attention is a weapon for the North, said Kim, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is very grateful for the Japanese and American media.

If the U.S. and North Korea went to war, Kim Myong Chol said, North Korea would skip Okinawa or mainland Japan and bring its fight to the United States, hitting Los Angeles, New York or Washington.

“North Korea can reach any part of the U.S.,” Kim said, adding there will be “no shelter for Bush.”

Tetsuo Maeda, an international-relations professor at Tokyo International University, told Stars and Stripes “it is the U.S. that North Korea thinks is the enemy, and not Japan.”

“I believe it is a legit opinion, apart from whether they are capable or not” of reaching the United States with missiles, Maeda said. “North Korea has been at war with the U.S., even after the armistice agreement.”

North Korea feels pressured by the current U.S. administration, Maeda said, especially since the U.S. Department of Defense announced bringing long-range bombers to Guam and moving the USS Carl Vinson to the region after the USS Kitty Hawk left Yokosuka, Japan, for the Persian Gulf.

“The U.S. has pressured them militarily,” Maeda said.

Kim said that the “dream scenario” for Kim Jong Il is a nonaggression pact with the United States. North Korea will try to levy its nuclear-power status to force a nonaggression pact, he said, thus negating the need for the U.S. military in South Korea, and opening the door to reunification.

But, he predicted that President Bush will be in Pyongyang “shooting for peace” by the year’s end.

A researcher with the Korea Institute for Defense Analysis, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Kim exaggerates his claims about North Korea.

“He interprets North Korea is more actively reacting to current situations than it really does,” the researcher said. But it’s good to listen to what Kim says as a way of preparing for the worst possible scenario in dealing with the North, he said.

“I don’t think Kim has a special connection with the North Korean government,” the researcher said. “He is just someone who believes North Korea has the most powerful military capacity in the world.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up