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Korea Specialist Thinks North Korea Will Stage Response to South Korean Artillery Drills

  • Les Carpenter

The North Korea says it will not react to the South's live-fire artillery drill Monday, despite its earlier threats of a "catastrophic" response to the exercise. But Katy Oh, a specialist in East Asian Affairs at the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institute is not convinced.

Oh: "I think this is a classic North Korean game. When there is an expectation of some kind of retaliatiion and counter attacks, North Korea remains silent. But, when the United States and South Korea are relaxed, perhaps over the national holidays then North Korea could launch a surprise attack, which is a recurring tactic of the North Korean regime."

Q: So, you do expect a retaliation and quite soon?

Oh: "Whether it is a retaliation or a new provacation, they will not be sitting quiet for long. They will continue to seem to be doing so, but they will use the best mix of surprise and shock."

Q: Could diplomacy prevent North Korea from going ahead with retaliation or with another provacation?

"Basically, my answer is 'no', because in a sense that the U.S., South Korea, Japan, Russia and China urge North Korea to return to the six-party talks, we always send them a signal, 'look, we're really seriously ready to sit down with you'. As long as we wanted to talk about this real substantial issue, North Korea always walked away. They would like to control the situation with their own agenda while keeping their nuclear option open. In that case, the U.S. and South Korea will not talk to them. But, it does not mean we gave up on diplomacy. I think North Korea has its own agenda and they will use a combination of diplomacy and provacation to reach their own goals. North Korea is a regime that needs an external crisis, for two reasons: to have social control and to continue the legitimacy of the regime that is not really legitimate in terms of delivering welfare and economic benefit for the population. So, with that mindset, I think there will be a provacation in the near future. I think that other countries, particularly the U.S., South Korea and Japan should be fully alert and possibly use assymetrical warfare to deal with this unpredictable nemisis...this country."

Q: Do you believe the six-party talks will resume anytime soon?

Oh: "I don't think so."