News / Asia

    US, South Korea Closely Monitor North

    Kim Jong Il
    Kim Jong Il

    South Korean and U.S. officials are expressing renewed concern about North Korea. The concern comes as there are indications the power transition in the reclusive communist state is accelerating and that Pyongyang has completed a new missile test launch facility.

    Military and government officials in Seoul and in Washington say they are closely monitoring North Korea. They say there is heightened concern of possible violence, given Pyongyang’s history of belligerent action in the years before the country’s founding leader, Kim Il Sun, prepared to hand power to his son, Kim Jong Il.

    Father, son

    Regional analysts note that Kim Jong Il’s heir apparent, Kim Jong Un, is being more prominently featured in official activities and is quickly moving up the leadership ranks. His father, believed to be beset by health problems, celebrated his 69th birthday Wednesday.

    South Korea’s prime minister, presiding over an annual defense meeting Friday of top military and government officials, warned of possible incidents because of Pyongyang’s economic hardship and diplomatic isolation. Kim Hwang-sik called on the South’s military to be "fully prepared" to respond to attacks from the North.

    The top U.S. military commander in the Pacific, Navy Admiral Robert Willard, said Thursday that any provocative moves toward South Korea could be part of the leadership transition in Pyongyang.

    "Our concerns are that we're in a period of a compressed timeline for Kim Jong Il to train Kim Jong Un in these coercive measures and that we may very well be facing a next provocation in months and not years," Admiral Willard said.

    North-South tensions

    North Korea is blamed for sinking a South Korean navy ship last March in the Yellow Sea. In the same waters, eight months later, it shelled a South Korean island, killing four people.

    Pyongyang denies being involved in the ship sinking and says it fired on the island only because South Korean troops had fired into waters the North claims.

    VOA this week reported that North Korea appears to have completed construction of its second launch site, which could be used to fire an intercontinental ballistic missile.

    Admiral Willard says the United States is watching the site, although he has received no information a launch from the new facility is likely in the short term.

    "This is a major concern of ours," he said. "And when you package that together with the provocative actions that we saw in 2010 and the complexities of succession that are currently ongoing in North Korea it should concern us all."

    The admiral added he wants to "message Pyongyang that a next provocation will have serious consequences." He also noted that Seoul now has a "low tolerance" for such incidents.

    Show of force

    North Korea conducted nuclear weapons tests in 2006 and 2009. It has attempted three times, without full success, to fire a long-range missile.

    An annual U.S. South Korean military exercise begins February 28 and continues through April.

    U.S. military officers say it will, in part, assess how to deter new actions by the North and help reduce South Korea’s vulnerabilities if it is attacked.

    North Korea, however, says such exercises are preparations for an invasion of its territory, and considers them to be provocative.


    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    You May Like

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.