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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More