Regardless of the upcoming meeting with the United States, North Korea is likely to launch additional provocations, the top U.S. military officer said Monday.
"It is my view that the North Korean regime will once again attempt to provoke hostilities," Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a meeting with foreign reporters here. "And that once again, leaders in the South will face some difficult decisions about if and how to respond."
The outgoing commander traveled to South Korea and China earlier this month.
The U.S. has invited North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan to visit New York later this week for talks with an inter-agency U.S. delegation. U.S. officials said Kim has accepted the invitation and the talks will be held on Thursday or Friday.
Mullen said, however, he was "concerned based on history that the North certainly could generate another provocation."
"There's a long history of provocations here and (belligerent) behavior," he said, citing the North's attacks on the South last year.
Although South Korean officials have shown restraint so far, he warned, it would be a grave mistake for the North to misread restraint as a lack of determination to retaliate.
"I was just there. That was just reaffirmed in my visit," he said.
Mullen is to retire on September after a four-year stint.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey has been nominated as his successor. (Yonhap News)