US commander says more N. Korea attacks likely
SEOUL – The US commander in South Korea said Monday that North Korea is likely to launch more military attacks against the South, but Seoul and Washington are better prepared to counter the threat.
“While the Kim (Jong-Il) regime has proven a willingness to escalate in order to obtain what it wants, I am convinced that the ROK (South Korea)-US alliance is prepared,” General Walter Sharp told a forum.
“Our counter-provocation planning and combined exercises are stronger than ever…. In the past year, we have worked hard to develop a hostile counter-provocation plan that more adequately addresses the full spectrum of conflict.”
The South’s defence minister Kim Kwan-Jin said last week the North is increasingly likely to launch a “surprise provocation” following a series of strongly worded threats.
Tensions have been high for more than a year, since the South accused the North of torpedoing the Cheonan warship near the disputed Yellow Sea border in March 2010, with the loss of 46 lives.
The North denied involvement in the sinking, but killed four people with an artillery bombardment of a South Korean island last November. The same month it disclosed a uranium enrichment plant which could give it a second way to make atomic weapons.
In recent weeks, the regime has announced it will no longer deal with the South’s conservative government.
Its military threatened an attack after some South Korean military units used photos of the Kim dynasty as rifle-range targets, a practice now banned.
“North Korea’s unprovoked submarine attack against the Cheonan, announcement of their highly enriched uranium programme and brutal artillery barrage on Yeonpyeong Island over the past year were part of the North’s spiralling threat of coercive strategy,” Sharp was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying.
“Their desire to antagonise, provoke, appease and demand concessions has been taken in order to achieve the regime’s goals of gaining food, fuel, economic aid and succession to sustain their regime and become a ‘strong and prosperous nation’ by 2012.”
The North has publicly set such a goal to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of its late founder Kim Il-Sung next year.
A total of 28,500 US troops are stationed in the South to help defend it against the North.
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