LONDON?North Korea's artillery attack on South Korea is likely linked to the eventual power transfer from leader Kim Jong-Il to his youngest son, a leading analyst said Tuesday.
Mark Fitzpatrick, a fellow of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London and formerly a senior official at the US State Department, said however that it was unlikely to lead to full-scale conflict.
"It's hard not to draw the conclusion that this, like the Cheonan sinking, was related to the succession," Fitzpatrick told AFP, referring to a South Korean warship in March that Seoul said was hit by a North Korean torpedo.
Both incidents were ways to give North Korean heir apparent Kim Jong-Un "some accomplishments," he said.
"He has had little time to do anything at age 27, but given a general's title the North would like to gird him with some military victories and this is one that will surely be ascribed to his military leadership," he added.
North Korea was, however, also trying to force South Korea back into talks on the disputed Yellow Sea border, said Fitzpatrick, the senior fellow for non-proliferation at IISS and ex-former US deputy assistant secretary of state.
"One reason North Korea took this provocative step is to get the South's attention, to say: 'Look, unless you're willing to negotiate on this line of demarcation, you're going to draw military consequences,'" he said.
World powers condemned Tuesday's attack on Yeonpyeong island near the Yellow Sea border, which killed two marines, but nuclear-armed North Korea accused South Korea of firing first.
Fitzpatrick said the clash was a "serious escalation" in tensions, especially after North Korea's disclosure at the weekend of an apparently operational uranium enrichment plant.
But he added: ?I don't think it will turn into a full-scale war, South Korea will be very careful not to escalate its response.?
Seoul would, though, seek diplomatic responses ? even though they may have no lasting effect on changing Pyongyang's thinking.
They would include ?responding diplomatically through the United Nations, working with the United States to get China to tighten up implementation of previous Security Council measures,? he said.