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Disgruntled North Korean Hawks Might Provoke the Naval Attack

Disgruntled North Korean Hawks Might Provoke the Naval Attack

Posted June. 30, 2002 08:38,   


The naval battle on the 29th occurred at a time when the World Cup, which has attracted the global attention, is nearing to an end, and when the US. and North Korea are closing to the resumption of dialogue. The government and the military authorities conclude that North Korea showed a significant degree of intention when its patrol warships carried out a preemptive offensive using ship guns from the first confrontation.

The government is exercising caution in defining the characteristic of the inter-Korean skirmish in the West Sea. Lim Sung-jun, presidential secretary for foreign affairs and national security commented on the background of the incident, saying that the National Security Council (NSC) has discussed on the matter, but it was not appropriate to reveal the contents of the discussion. It appears that the NSC has yet to take in the real intention of the North side.

But the government authorities have been strained to the limit. The government analyzed that North Korea intended to obstruct the smooth proceedings of the World Cup. While its South counterpart has enhance its national image in the world stage through the World Cup, North Korea had to witness its prestige nose-dive due to a series of defection issues. The government thinks that the discontent of North Korea`s hard-liners including the military might be translated into the provocative naval attack.

Some see a possibility that the North Korean military, which had been punished and lost face after its humiliating defeat in the previous naval battle in 1999, took a retaliatory move.

Others say that the peace of the Korean peninsula will not be possible without the improvement of the relation with the North given that the Stalinist country in again bringing up its old tactic to pass the buck to South Korea. They see the North`s provocation as an attempt to secure an edge over South Korea in the future process of improving relations between the two Koreas.

Another analysis is that the provocative act was aimed at the US. at a time when the likelihood of dialogue between the US. and North Korea is unprecedentedly high. North Korea might want to argue that the fundamental reason behind unstable situation between the two Koreas is the US military stationed in South Korea as it has always done in the run up to dialogues. Others observe that the North`s provocation was a bid to refuse the agenda to be proposed by the Bush administration in a future dialogue with the US.

A North Korea expert said, "North Korea might feel burden on the skepticism expressed by the Bush administration in the run up to a dialogue between the US and North Korea because the North has long been prepared for the resumption of dialogue with the US. The negative attitude shown by the US has thrawn the Stalinist country into confusion."

klimt@donga.com spear@donga.com