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The Next Set Of Challenges Facing North Korea

Nam Joo-hong, a political scientist at Kyonggi University in Seoul, says the North is likely to stage a limited war on the South if U.S.-led allies impose naval blockades on the communist country.
by Lee Jong-Heon
UPI Correspondent
Seoul (UPI) Oct 13, 2006
After conducting its alleged nuclear weapon test, what will North Korea's next move be? This is the question of the moment, as the defiant communist country has vowed to take "a series of physical countermeasures" if U.S.-led pressure continues.

Government officials and analysts in Seoul raise the possibility that North Korea might carry out a second nuclear test or launch a ballistic missile which could be equipped with a nuclear warhead, as the country is set to face tougher sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council, which could devastate the North's already tattered economy.

North Korea has warned it would consider the imposition of strict sanctions as "tantamount to an act of war" which would bring unspecified "physical countermeasures."

Many analysts in Seoul say North Korea means what it says. They see a significant possibility that North Korea would carry out a second nuclear test to win global recognition of the fact that it is armed with nuclear weapons amid doubts regarding whether it really carried out a nuclear test because of the small magnitude of the blast and the lack of radiation detected.

Some U.S. officials have played down the strength of North Korea's nuclear program and the significance of the reported nuclear test on Oct. 9.

"North Korea is expected to conduct two or three more nuclear tests in order to demonstrate its nuclear capability and to be fully recognized as a nuclear state," said Hong Kwan-hee, a North Korea specialist who has served as a researcher at Seoul's state-run institute.

Opposition lawmaker Chung Hyong-keun, who was former senior official in the country's intelligence agency, also said the North would conduct more tests, citing the examples of Pakistan and India, both of which carried out multiple tests.

Seoul's Munhwa Ilbo daily quoted an unidentified source familiar with North Korean affairs as saying a second test would occur this week.

North Korea's No. 2 leader, Kim Yong Nam, has also threatened more nuclear tests if Washington continued what he called its "hostile attitude."

"The issue of future nuclear tests is linked to U.S. policy toward our country," Kim told Japan's Kyodo news agency, which recently opened a bureau in Pyongyang.

"If the United States continues to take a hostile attitude and apply pressure on us in various forms, we will have no choice but to take physical steps to deal with that," said Kim, president of the Presidium of the Legislative Supreme People's Assembly. Some analysts say the North's next step is to test a far-more powerful hydrogen bomb.

Kim Kyung-min, a political science professor at Seoul's Hanyang University, said North Korea is likely to fire a ballistic missile that can carry a nuclear warhead to raise its stakes in the nuclear standoff with the United States.

The North is likely to try and make an atomic bomb small enough to fit to a missile. A nuclear bomb can be dropped from a plane, but experts say North Korea would prefer to fit it to a missile, as it would reach the target more quickly and would be harder to shoot down.

Paek Seung-joo, an analyst at the Korea Institute for Defense Analysis in Seoul, says the North may try to transfer nuclear materials and missile technology. "Transfer of nuclear and missile (technology) is the most sensitive to the United States," he said.

Nam Joo-hong, a political scientist at Kyonggi University in Seoul, says the North is likely to stage a limited war on the South if U.S.-led allies impose naval blockades on the communist country.

"The North would be tempted to launch minor military provocations to raise military tensions on the Korean peninsula, saying the United States was responsible, in a bid to fuel anti-U.S. sentiment in the South," he said.

Nam and other experts say the poorly marked inter-Korean sea border is a potential flashpoint. Their western maritime border has long been a constant source of armed conflicts between the two Koreas, particularly during the crab catching seasons.

In recent years, South and North Korean Navy vessels have clashed at the disputed western sea border of the Northern Limit Line, around which lucrative blue crab beds lie.

The NLL, a U.N.-imposed inter-Korean maritime border established after the 1950-53 Korean War, has served as a neutral zone to avoid possible armed clashes between the two Koreas, which still remain technically at war as the armed conflict ended without a peace treaty, but an armistice agreement. Their border has remained tightly sealed since the end of the Korean War, and is guarded by nearly 2 million troops on both sides.

But North Korea says that it does not recognize the border, insisting on its own sea border far south of the NLL.

The territorial sovereignty contest led to an armed clash in June 2002, when the two Koreas traded naval gunfire which left dozens of casualties on both sides.

In June 1999, the two Koreas exchanged naval gunfire in the same area; a North Korean torpedo boat was sunk and about 30 North Korean sailors were killed.

North Korean fishing boats and naval patrols still often cross into South Korean waters, with the South's navy ships occasionally responding with warning shots.

Source: United Press International

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Signs Of Discord Over North Korea Sanctions
Washington (AFP) Oct 15, 2006
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