Playing with fire

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Playing with fire

The North Korean army carried out a military drill specifically targeting South Korea’s Blue House as its leader Kim Jong-un looked on, according to a report from the North’s state media. The Korean Central News Agency said the drill was meant to confirm means of attack on specific targets in the South. It carried pictures of North Korean commandoes invading and striking a model of the Blue House.

The photos of the drill were released after the legislature passed a motion to impeach President Park Geun-hye. The state mouthpiece touted that “our forces extended the sea of fire of Yeonpyeong Island [a border island that the North shelled in 2010] to the sea of fire of Cheong Wa Dae [the Blue House].” Watching the drill through binoculars, Kim beamed as his troops left no room for enemies to counteract or hide.

Intelligence authorities in Seoul believe North Korea has installed a half-size model of the Blue House in a firing training site not far from Pyongyang. The strike was part of North Korea’s regular winter military exercise that began on Dec. 1. But authorities are alarmed by the timing of the drill and release of the photos as they took place during a period of political unrest following an impeachment vote.

Seoul and Washington are both undergoing a transition of power. Pyongyang could take advantage of the hiatus by making a military provocation. Lt. Gen. Thomas S. Vandal, commander of the Eighth U.S. Army in South Korea, warned that the North could carry out a military provocation in the next 30 to 60 days to test Donald Trump’s response at a time when South Korea is rattled by political unrest.

North Korea may aim for attention and a breakthrough amid mounting international sanctions as China recently suspended coal imports.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn presided over a National Security Council meeting as soon as he became acting president. He vowed a resolute response to any military provocation from North Korea. Hwang was sending a strong message that the South’s military command is as intact as ever. North Koreans must not underestimate South Korea’s security front as it remains as solid as the people power behind the impeachment.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 12, Page 34
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