Experts forecast imminent provocations by Kim Jong-un
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is likely to keep tensions with Korea high and continue provocations against the South to help consolidate his power, experts in Seoul forecast Thursday.
Kim would also be very reluctant to pursue reform or open his isolated country out of fear such steps could lead to the collapse of his regime, Koo Bon-hak, a professor of Hallym University Graduate School of International Studies, said at a Seoul forum.
Kim has made frequent inspection trips to military units in an apparent attempt to bolster his support from the military since he took over the country following the December death of his father, long-time leader Kim Jong-il.
"Instead of relying on the United States, South Korea should try to secure independent deterrence against North Korea" to cope with the North's provocations, Koo said at the forum on the North Korean situation, organized by the private Sejong Institute think tank.
The U.S. keeps about 28,500 troops in South Korea to help deter North Korea's possible aggression. South Korea has strengthened its defense posture following the North's two deadly attacks on the South in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans, mostly soldiers.
Koo also said South Korea should strengthen ties with China, North Korea's key ally and economic benefactor, to help Beijing nudge the North to pursue reform and openness.
China has repeatedly tried to coax its impoverished neighbor to follow in its footsteps in embracing reform similar to that which lifted millions of Chinese out of poverty and helped Beijing's rise to become the world's second-largest economy.
"A fundamental issue is to persuade North Korea to embrace democracy, reform and openness through humanitarian assistance and the resumption of inter-Korean exchanges and cooperative projects," Koo said.
The assessment came more than two weeks after the North threatened to launch special military actions to reduce Seoul to ashes in minutes over an alleged insult by South Korea on the North's dignity.
In March, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said he believed North Korea would make a carefully calculated provocation against South Korea to help Kim strengthen his grip on power and resolve internal friction.
The North has a track record of such provocations against the South.
During the forum, Lee Seung-yeol, a research fellow at the Ewha Womans University Institute for Unification, said the North will continue military adventurism to try to overcome internal instability, instead of seeking improved ties with the outside world and resolving economic difficulties.
Yoo Dong-ryul, a senior research officer at the state-run Police Science Institute, said the new North Korean leader could follow his late father's policy to consolidate his own power.
Yoo said South Korea should consider setting up a plan to isolate Kim's regime and establish a democratic regime in the North as part of measures to deal with the North's hard-line policy toward Seoul.
Kim has vowed to uphold the dying wish of his late father, who pursued nuclear and missile programs as well as a military-first policy. The North has also warned the world should not expect it to change. (Yonhap)