With colour and fury, anti-American posters appear in North Korea

Anti-American posters in North Korea.
Anti-American posters in North Korea.PHOTO: TWITTER/NK NEWS

NEW YORK (NYTIMES)- The language on the North Korean posters is as bombastic as the images are eye-popping and the colours blindingly bright.

One blue-lettered poster shows a barrage of missiles heading toward a map of the United States that is in flames.

It boasts, "The entire mainland United States is within our range!"

Another shows red missiles emerging from a North Korean flag to slam into the US Capitol and eviscerate the American flag. It carries the words: "Our answer!"

A third poster displays a red missile mounted on a giant red tank. It lambastes United Nations sanctions and hails the North's self-reliance with the words: "No one can stop our march forward!"

The posters and defiant slogans were unveiled this past week, the latest sign that tensions remain high between Washington and Pyongyang over the North's nuclear ambitions and the sanctions imposed by other nations.

Political posters have long been an important feature of culture and daily life in the North. They are everywhere: on the walls of public buildings, at the gates of schools and at factories and collective farms. They are used to instil in North Koreans the tenets of party ideology and loyalty.

The KCNA state news agency did not explain why these themes were chosen. But the posters were unveiled after President Donald Trump warned North Korea that it would face "fire and fury" from a U.S. military that was "locked and loaded" if the country made any nuclear provocations.

The North, in turn, threatened to launch four intermediate-range ballistic missiles into the waters near Guam, a US territory in the Western Pacific, to teach Trump a lesson.

The government in the North has long used posters and rallies to whip up anti-U.S. sentiments and national fervour. They are mainly for domestic consumption. But these military-themed posters also send a message to President Kim Jong Un's perceived enemies abroad.

"What is typical in these posters is the image of an undaunted, fierce North Korea that is not fazed by the moves by the United States or the United Nations," Koen de Ceuster, an expert on North Korea at Leiden University in the Netherlands, told Reuters.

"It reinforces the images of the strides North Korea made in missile capability," he said, "and how North Korea is undaunted by any challenges to its sovereignty." Countries use various signalling techniques in times of crisis, experts in geopolitics say, including diplomacy, back-channel talks and public messaging. The North is clearly sending a message with these posters. The tank symbolises "byungjin," the North Korean policy of seeking nuclear and economic development simultaneously.

The North has test-fired missile after missile, rattling the region. Then in July, the country tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that appeared capable of hitting the West Coast of the United States - a milestone, experts said.

That prompted the United Nations to impose new sanctions in August that could slash the country's US$3 billion in annual export revenue by one-third.

Heated words followed, and the leaders of Japan and South Korea scrambled to tamp down the tensions. The top US general, Joseph F. Dunford Jr., and President Moon Jae In of South Korea huddled in talks, saying they hoped to avoid armed conflict.

Since then, Kim has appeared to back off any imminent decision on blasting the waters around Guam. And Trump praised Kim for his "wise" decision.

For now, the war of words has been muted. But a potential inflection point looms. On Monday, U.S. and South Korean troops will begin annual large-scale war games - the first since the North test-fired missiles that might be able to reach the United States mainland.