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Will N. Korea Retaliate During Obama’s Visit to Seoul?

Posted November. 14, 2009 08:51,   


North Korea threatened South Korea yesterday with “merciless” military action to defend its maritime border, Pyongyang’s first mention of military measures in connection with the naval skirmish Tuesday off the west coast.

A day earlier, the North Korean daily Rodong Sinmun said the South will “pay dearly” for the clash.

South Korean experts say the North’s escalated rhetoric is a warning that the North Korean military will take retaliatory action.

Yoo Ho-yeol, a professor of political science at Korea University in Seoul, said Pyongyang is seeking to raise its military’s internal unity through its comments. The North could launch short-range missiles or fire coastal artillery in a show of force, he added.

Yoo also said the North might retaliate because of complaints in the process of the military’s complaints about the sea border.

South Korean intelligence views the North’s latest provocation as aimed at attracting world attention by escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula.

“We cannot rule out the possibility of additional provocations before or shortly after U.S. President Barack Obama’s planned visit to Seoul (this week),” a South Korean military official said.

If the North eyes further provocations, it could attempt to strike a South Korean naval vessel that approaches the Northern Limit Line with its coastal artillery and short-range missiles.

As shown in the latest clash, North Korean patrol ships are no match for South Korean naval vessels.

Others warn that the North could start an armed provocation near the east coast, as the South has increased its naval deployment to the Yellow Sea.

In contrast, skeptics doubt whether the North’s rhetoric will lead to military action.

Paek Seung-joo, head of the security strategy research center at the Korea Institute for Defense Analysis, said the North has long made such rhetoric as “merciless retaliation.” “While Seoul should take a military defensive posture, the North’s latest argument is more likely to be a psychological offensive aimed at blaming the South for the skirmish."

Another military official in Seoul said the North’s military threat aims to maximize its threat toward Seoul and seek internal unity.

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