South Korea fears violent provocation from the North

Updated On: Jun 14, 2011

South Korea fears a violent provocation from North Korea is becoming more likely in light of its many recent strongly-worded threats against the South.

“The possibility of a surprise provocation with various means and methods is steadily increasing while (the North is) pressuring us with rhetorical threats,” said Kim Kwan-Jin, the South Korean Defence Minister.

He also stated he believes it is possible that the North may have developed smaller nuclear warheads capable of being delivered by missiles or planes.

To safeguard its interests, the South will deploy attack helicopters on the largest “frontline” island near the Yellow Sea border with the North, which is disputed territory.

Report & Analysis: N. Korea ‘provocation’ becoming more likely: Seoul [AFP, 13 Jun 2011]

This fits into a pattern of North Korean behavior in which the recalcitrant regime uses bellicose rhetoric toward South Korea and the United States to drum up support at home, while financing itself through weapons sales abroad.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Navy attempted to board a North Korean merchant ship, flagged in Belize, that it suspected of carrying illegal weapons technology to Myanmar.  The USS McCampbell requested permission to board the ship to inspect its cargo in the South China Sea, as per international law, and the request was denied.  The U.S. did not want to forcibly board the ship, and so it maintained surveillance, and the ship eventually stopped dead in the water and returned to its home port.

Report & Analysis: U.S. wanted to board North Korean merchant vessel, Pentagon says[CNN.com, 13 Jun 2011]

In 2009, the Indian Navy intercepted a similar North Korean vessel under suspicions that it was carrying radioactive material to Myanmar.  Myanmar claimed it wanted to build a nuclear plant for electricity, but arms experts have long suspected that Myanmar gets weaponry from North Korea, and was trying to build a secret nuclear reactor.

Report & Analysis: RI in the dark on N. Korea – Myanmar nuke ties [Jakarta Post, 14 Jun 2011]

Relations between the North and South have steadily deteriorated since Lee Myung-Bak was elected President of South Korea in February of 2008, with relations taking a dramatic turn for the worse following the sinking of the South Korean warship the Cheonan in March 2010.  The South has blamed the North for the attack, which they have continuously denied.  Then, in November 2010, the North shelled a South Korean border island with artillery fire, which it claimed was in response to a live fire drill conducted by the South.  

Furthermore, nuclear disarmament talks between the North and South, as well as China, the U.S., Japan and Russia have faltered after the North walked out on them in April 2009, and tested a nuclear device a month later.

Report & Analysis: N. Korea ‘provocation’ becoming more likely: Seoul [AFP, 13 Jun 2011]

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