South Korea predicts North Korea will ramp up attacks in 2011
South Korea's Institute for National Security Strategy warned this weekend of increasing 'unexpected moves' as North Korea's military 'scrambles to display its loyalty' to heir apparent, Kim Jong-un.
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Whatever the forecast, each reveals the nervousness here about North Korea’s strategy and tactics.
“Military provocations and nuclear tests are all options on the table,” says Choi Jin-wook, senior North Korea analyst at the Korea Institute of National Unification, which is affiliated with the unification ministry. “They want to increase tensions.”
The succession of Kim Jong-un to power, Mr. Choi adds, is “one of the major reasons they have a hard-line policy.”
South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak and his newly appointed defense minister, Kim Kwan-jin, have vowed a strong response to future North Korean attacks, but clearly no one has any real idea where or when the North will strike next.
South Korea's show of strength
South Korean infantry, armored artillery, and air forces staged a massive exercise last Thursday about 20 miles of the demilitarized zone, and South Korean naval vessels this week are again playing war games off the coast but far from North Korean waters.
Such large-scale exercises have become far more frequent in recent months than in the past few years – though they are not likely to be within range of the type of North Korean artillery that bombarded Yeonpyong Island in the Yellow Sea on Nov. 23. An exception was a brief artillery exercise one week ago on the island – a show of force intended to prove that South Korea was not intimidated by the attack.
North Korean restraint – for now
North Korea did not respond to that drill, but North Korean soldiers bragged on television in Pyongyang of their success in last month’s bombardment. As one soldier, Kim Moon-chol, put it, “Our eyes were full of fire right after we saw the enemy's shells being fired into our sacred waters.”
North Korea contends that it opened the barrage after South Korean shells landed in North Korean waters.
North Korea has long challenged South Korean control over the Northern Limit Line, set three years after the Korean War and disputed in several bloody flare-ups in recent years.
North Korea continues to deny anything to do with the sinking of the Cheonan but has no compunctions about publicizing the Yellow Sea barrage.
“At the order of ‘fire,’” said Kim Moon-chol, “we poured our merciless thunderbolt of fire at the enemy.”