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, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Ukraine President Appeals for More US Support

Speaking before Congress ahead of meeting with President Obama, Petro Poroshenko urges lawmakers to back Ukraine in its quest for freedom and democracy More

Photogallery Global Audience Watches as Scots Go to the Polls

People were almost equally divided over a vote for independence, watched closely by Britain's allies, investors and restive regions at home and abroad More

China to Invest $20B in India Amid Border Dispute

Border spat between armies of two countries in Himalayas underlines mutual tensions despite growing commercial ties highlighted by Xi Jinping's high-profile visit 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.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid