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North Korea threatens to take 'special actions' against South Korea (+video)

North Korea today threatened to take 'special actions' against the South. The rising rhetoric comes as US and South Korean forces devise ways to coordinate closely in the event of battle with the North.

By Donald KirkCorrespondent / April 23, 2012

North Korean soldiers take part earlier this month in a mass military parade in Kim Il Sung Square to celebrate 100 years since the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Ng Han Guan/AP

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Seoul, South Korea

North Korea today unleashed its deadliest threat so far in a campaign of mounting rhetoric that began with its failed long-range rocket launch on April 13.

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North Korea threatens 'special action' against South Korea in TV broadcast

Coming after a series of tirades against the South, the North threatened “special actions” that, as reported by Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency, went well beyond the rhetoric in which Pyongyang has been engaging for years. This time, the military command was quoted as saying, “Once special actions kick off, they will reduce all the rat-like groups and the bases for provocations in three or four minutes.”

Although there were no signs that a North Korean attack was imminent, the rising rhetoric disturbs commanders at a time when US and South Korean forces are devising ways to be able to coordinate closely under battlefield conditions.

“I worry more about readiness,” says Major Gen. Edward C. Cardon, commander of America’s forward-most combat troops in Asia, the Second Infantry Division. “There’s always the potential for something to happen here.”

Cardon, headquartered north of Seoul, cites “provocations over the past two years” as evidence that North Korea might again try to take the South by surprise. Those incidents, he notes, include the sinking in March 2010 of the South Korean ship the Cheonan in which 46 sailors died and the shelling eight months later of nearby Yeonpyeong Island that killed two South Korean marines and two civilians.

Today's North Korean tirade was worded to evoke memories – and to fuel fears of a sudden artillery barrage or even a short-range missile shot across the demilitarized zone that has divided the Korean peninsula since the Korean War ended in an armistice in July 1953.

The Korean Central News Agency warned that attacks would involve “unprecedented peculiar means and methods of our own style” – turns of phrase contrived to keep South Koreans and their American allies guessing. The sense here is that North Korea might well be planning a third underground nuclear test after the humiliation of the failed rocket shot on April 13, two days ahead of the 100th anniversary of the North’s founding “Great Leader” Kim Il-sung.

Concerns for US commanders

One overriding question confronting US commanders is how to assess the role of the country’s new leader Kim Jong-un, how much power he really wields over his generals and how he’s likely to want to lead North Korea.

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