News / Asia

S. Korean Spy Chief: N. Korea Likely to Attack Again

General Hwang Eui-don (R), Chief of the General Staff of South Korean Army, checks the fence of the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas as he patrols with Army soldiers in Paju, South Korea, 01 Dec 2010
General Hwang Eui-don (R), Chief of the General Staff of South Korean Army, checks the fence of the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas as he patrols with Army soldiers in Paju, South Korea, 01 Dec 2010

South Korea's spy chief says North Korea is highly likely to attack the South again, following its deadly shelling of a South Korean island last week.

The Yonhap news agency says South Korean National Intelligence Service director Won Sei-hoon predicted another North Korean attack when he testified before a parliamentary committee Wednesday.

Yonhap quotes ruling party lawmaker Rhee Beum-kwan as saying Won told the committee that North Korea attacked Yeonpyeong island on November 23 to distract attention from its internal problems.

Rhee quotes Won as saying North Korea's leadership faces growing public dissatisfaction with the poor state of the economy and its plans for a transfer of power from Supreme Leader Kim Jong Il to his youngest son, Kim Jong Un.

A U.S. military official says a major U.S.-South Korean naval exercise in the Yellow Sea that wrapped up Wednesday sent a message to North Korea's leaders of deterrence against further attacks.

The U.S. State Department says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with her South Korean and Japanese counterparts in Washington on Monday to discuss "recent developments on the Korean peninsula" and their impact on regional security.

The State Department says Clinton's three-way talks with South Korea's Kim Sung-hwan and Japan's Seiji Maehara will demonstrate what it calls the "extraordinarily close coordination" between the three allies and the U.S. commitment to regional stability.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said Wednesday all parties in the region should avoid inflaming tensions and keep calm and exercise restraint. Beijing has criticized U.S.-South Korean naval exercises in the past, calling them a violation of what it claims as an exclusive Chinese economic zone.

In an interview with VOA's Korean Service, U.S. Rear Admiral Dan Cloyd rejected the Chinese criticism, saying the four-day exercise was intended to demonstrate freedom of movement in international waters. South Korean defense officials say another major exercise with the United States could be held as early as this month.

Diplomats at the United Nations say China is blocking Western efforts to condemn North Korea in the U.N. Security Council for attacking Yeonpyeong island and developing a uranium enrichment facility.

The diplomats say Beijing is refusing to approve a draft Security Council statement containing language that would "condemn" North Korea and accuse it of "violating" U.N. resolutions.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang said Beijing decides its position on such issues "based on the merits of each case" and "does not side with any party."

South Korea's Korea Times newspaper quotes President Lee Myung-bak as saying Wednesday that China should play a positive role in addressing tensions on the Korean peninsula. Seoul and Washington have been pressing Beijing to restrain Pyongyang. China is North Korea's main economic and diplomatic supporter.

China's top legislator Wu Bangguo held talks with his North Korean counterpart, Choe Thae-bok, in Beijing Wednesday. Wu said the Chinese government is committed to developing what he called friendly and cooperative relations with Pyongyang. Wu and Choe made no mention of the current tensions in the region.

North Korea's state-run news agency KCNA accused the United States Wednesday of adopting double standards on nuclear issues. KCNA said Washington labels North Korea and Iran criminals for nuclear activities Pyongyang says are peaceful while helping U.S. ally Israel to develop nuclear weapons.

Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear armed state in the Middle East but neither confirms nor denies such a capability.

In the November 23 incident, North Korea fired more than 100 artillery rounds at Yeonpyeong, located near the disputed western maritime boundary of the two Koreas. The attack killed two South Korean Marines and two civilians and caused widespread damage.

South Korea retaliated within minutes by shelling North Korean positions across the maritime border. Pyongyang said its shelling was in response to a South Korean exercise involving artillery fire from the island into waters it claims as North Korean.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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