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Seoul warns of N.Korean terror threat

The National Intelligence Service reported to the National Assembly on Thursday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently ordered terrorist attacks in the South, which reportedly include kidnapping or poisoning government officials or North Korean defectors here.

Saenuri’s Rep. Lee Cheol-woo, member of the National Assembly Intelligence Committee, said that the North may target the country’s power supplies or public areas. He added members of the media who criticize the Kim regime may be victims.

Officials said the highlight of the upcoming seventh convention of Pyongyang’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea -- slated for May 7 -- will be the nuclear test in January and long-range rocket launch earlier this month.

An antiterrorism unit of the UDT/SEAL (Underwater Demolition Team/Sea, Air, Land) of the Navy conducts a drill inside a ship along the east coast on Thursday. (Yonhap)
An antiterrorism unit of the UDT/SEAL (Underwater Demolition Team/Sea, Air, Land) of the Navy conducts a drill inside a ship along the east coast on Thursday. (Yonhap)

Lee also said the North has been claiming the recent shutdown of Gaeseong industrial park -- intended as a punitive action by Seoul against Pyeongyang -- was its intent.

Preluding stronger and more proactive measures against North Korea’s provocations, President Park on Tuesday said the government will take “effective measures” to create an environment that forces North Korea to realize that nuclear programs will lead to a “collapse of its regime.”

The following day, the U.S. flew four of its F-22 stealth fighter jets over the Korean Peninsula, the latest deployment of its strategic assets here in what was widely viewed as demonstration of power and the Seoul-Washington alliance.

Later in the day, Cheong Wa Dae echoed escalating concerns of a possible terrorist attack by the North and called for the prompt passage of a pending antiterrorism bill at the National Assembly.

The bill remains deadlocked upon the opposition parties’ claim that it is politically devised to elevate the civilian surveillance capacity of the National Intelligence Service.

Meanwhile, North Korea has been uncharacteristically quiet in the wake of combined pressure from the allies, touching off speculation that further provocation from Pyongyang may be imminent.

The 38 North website, operated by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, recently warned that North Korea may conduct its next nuclear test with little or no warning.

But Koh Yoo-hwan, a North Korean studies professor at Dongguk University, said military altercations or nuclear testing is unlikely in the near future.

“North Korea has already carried out a nuclear test and a missile launch, which leads them to believe they hold some kind of strategic advantage (over South Korea and the U.S.),” he said, adding that the communist country will not feel compelled to react to each blow, such as Park’s strong rhetoric.

Furthermore, Koh explained that the North is well aware that it is unwise to provoke the allies when their forces are fully prepared. He said, however, that Pyongyang may strike again if it feels enough pressure from inside and outside the country, such as growing discontent from its citizens and U.N.-led economic sanctions.

By Yoon Min-sik