Friday, October 28, 2011

U.S. and South Korea see more North Korean provocations looming

South Korea's defense minister said Friday he expects more provocations from North Korea in 2012, during a session with his American counterpart.

"Next year, I believe that the possibility of North Korea conducting additional provocations is ... very high," Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin told reporters at a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

The regime is planning a nationwide, year-long celebration in 2012 to show North Korea is "strong and prosperous" and also to honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Song, the founder of the communist nation. The current regime is run by his son Kim Jong Il.

That event, along with the ongoing transition from Kim Jong Il to his son Kim Jong Un, is why the South Korean defense minister is worried about more problems from the North in the new year.

A senior U.S. defense official said Panetta is "concerned that threats from North Korea will be elevated next year."

Friday's news conference was the final event of Panetta's week-long tour of Asia that also took him to Indonesia and Japan.

While he promised the U.S. military will remain committed to all three countries and the Asian region in general, in South Korea he spelled out specific steps of how the United States would prove its commitment. more