ⓕ font-size

  • -2
  • -1
  • 0
  • +1
  • +2

'NK heightening tensions to test-fire missiles'

  • Facebook share button
  • Twitter share button
  • Kakao share button
  • Mail share button
  • Link share button

By Kim Hyo-jin

Some North Korea watchers cautioned Friday that the reclusive country is deliberately heightening tensions as an excuse to test-fire its missiles.

"The latest provocations might have been carefully premeditated," said Ahn Chan-il, the head of the World North Korea Research Center.

"North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wants to show off his leadership on the occasion of the Oct. 10 anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party.

"Rising tensions could provide Kim with an excuse to test-fire missiles."

Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute, echoed a similar view.

"North Korea is willing to flex its muscles before the national day as it could give a pretext to test missiles," he said.

On Friday, South Korean military officials said North Korea was preparing to test-fire short-, mid-range and ballistic missiles.

"The North is showing signs of mounting a Scud missile near Wonsan and a Rodong missile in the North Pyeongan Province," an official said.

Victor Cha, a senior adviser and Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said growing tensions between South and North Korea could lead to military conflicts.

"We are now in a classic game of chicken, with neither side willing to back down," Cha told The Korea Times. "I am concerned that we will see more North Korea's actions."

Following the shelling over the western border of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), Thursday, Pyongyang threatened to take further action unless Seoul halts border propaganda broadcasts and dismantles loudspeakers set up near the DMZ within 48 hours.

Seoul's defense ministry responded by saying it will continue the broadcasts, regardless.

"If North Korea fires on the broadcast speakers, the South could respond in kind with a proportional response," Cha said. "But what concerns me is that if South Korean soldiers or civilians suffer casualties, then the South's response will be more severe and an escalation dynamic could follow."

North Korea experts speculate an additional attack on the loudspeakers could lead to an unexpected situation.

"It is hard to rule out the possibility of Pyongyang's shelling over the facilities," said Koh Yoo-hwan, a North Korean studies professor at Dongguk University. "In that case, the situation could possibly grow out of control."

Cheong said, "North Korea is very sensitive about psychological warfare as it can undermine soldiers' sprit, which is critical to well-manage its military.

"The North's shelling also appears to reflect its sensitivity."

Seoul resumed the loudspeaker broadcasts for the first time in 11 years after determining that North Korea secretly planted land mines on the southern side of the DMZ that exploded earlier this month, maiming two South Korean soldiers.

Pyongyang's shelling attack came after it warned of launching "indiscriminate strikes" against the South unless Seoul stopped propaganda broadcasts along the border.

Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Kookmin University, however, expects the military tension on the Korean Peninsula will eventually die out.

"Neither side wants a full-scale conflict or even a dramatic increase in tension," he said. "Most likely, things will calm down soon.

"What concerns me more is that inter-Korean relations are hopelessly frozen and have little chance to restart for the next couple of years."


Top 10 Stories

go top LETTER