North Korea’s military warned today that its artillery and rocket forces are at their highest-level combat posture. This is the latest in a string of bellicose threats by North Korea aimed at South Korea and the United States. It appears that US B-52 sorties are particularly maddening to the North.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry said that it hasn’t seen any suspicious North Korean military activity and that officials are analyzing the North’s warning. Obviously if any of the indications and warning criteria of a possible attack from the North had been observed the South Korean Defense Ministry wouldn’t be playing down the North’s threats. This adds credence to the argument that the North right now is all smoke with no fire.
Most analysts also believe that a direct North Korean attack is extremely unlikely right now. This is because the US and South Korea are conducting military exercises that end April 30. There is some worry about a provocation after the training wraps up.
Part of the bellicosity from the North was probably prompted by a new South Korea-US pact that provides for a joint military response to low-level provocations by the North. It also may provide an added deterrent at a time of elevated tension.
The two allies signed the military agreement Friday. Existing agreements provide for a US involvement in the event of a full-scale conflict. The new protocol addresses the possible responses to low-level action such as a limited cross-border incursion by guaranteeing support by the US for any South Korean retaliation. It also allows Seoul to request whatever additional military forces from the US that it deems necessary.
“This allows both nations to jointly respond to the North’s local provocations, with the South taking the lead and the US in support,” South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok said. “It will have the effect of preventing the North from daring to provoke us.”
The “provocative” scenarios envisaged by the new pact include maritime border incursions, shelling of border islands, and infiltration by low-flying fighter jets or Special Forces.
The chairman of the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Jung Seung-Jo, said the accord would allow for “strong retaliation” that would make North Korea “bitterly regret” any provocative move.
Angered by United Nations sanctions imposed after its nuclear test in February, North Korea has issued a wave of threats over the past month — ranging from a surgical military strike to nuclear war. Its latest threat with the announcement of bringing it artillery forces to full time alert is that it will attack US bases in the region, Hawaii and the West coast of the US. As mentioned previously North Korea expects the US and South Korea to back down and thus achieve some of its policy goals through the time tested method of bluffing. Given the new support agreement, only time will tell if the bluff will be less effective because the South is now more emboldened. Stand by.