North, South play cat-and-mouse with intelligence
North Korea kept a lid on its military response during the South’s Yeonpyeong Island live-fire exercise on Monday, but behind the scenes the two militaries jockeyed for position, according to South Korean military sources.
The South Korean Armed Forces had deployed unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor unusual activity from the North, but its military jammed the plane’s navigation system, rendering the aerial vehicle ineffective.
There was also intelligence that North Korea was preparing to fire antiaircraft missiles. A South Korean military source said that light beams to guide surface-to-air missiles had been detected on Monday at an antiaircraft base in northern Hwanghae Province, but no missiles were launched.
“The F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets were targeted. Mobile missile launch pads were continuously deployed, then removed; we thought these were tactics to throw us off,” the military source told the JoongAng Ilbo.
A diplomatic source in Seoul believes that North Korea did not go any further to provoke the South because of a recent visit made by high-ranking U.S. officials to China.
The delegation that visited Beijing included Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and Jeff Bader, senior director for Asian Affairs of the National Security Council. They were said to have delivered a “very tough message” to China. China is North Korea’s closest ally and has been under rising pressure from the U.S. to rein in the North after the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island on Nov. 22.
The diplomatic source said the delegation had told Chinese officials that if North Korea launches another attack, the U.S. would not stand in the way of South Korean military retaliation.
“Steinberg and his delegation also informed China that if it did not take up a responsible role in blocking North Korea’s provocations, then North Korea will inevitably be brought up during summit talks between President Obama and Hu Jintao next year,” the source added. “We believe that China delivered this message to North Korea because of the pressure, and urged them to tone down their response to the South Korean firing exercise on Yeonpyeong Island.”
Another South Korean diplomatic source said the fact that 19 U.S. soldiers were involved in the Yeonpyeong exercise was another reason North Korea did not attack.
“It would have been difficult for [North Korea] to attack because they knew American soldiers were on the island and they want talks with the U.S.,” said the source.
By Jeong Yong-soo, Christine Kim [email@example.com]