I think it is worth recalling Dr. Bruce Bechtol's assessment of the north's standard provocation pattern that I have previously shared:
1. Intentionally initiated when they are most likely to attract most attention on the regional and international stage
2. They initially appear to be relatively small, easily contained, and quickly “resolved” incidents
3. They involve ever changing tactics and techniques
4. North Korea ensures plausible deniability, and denies responsibility for the incident
I would slightly add to the fourth point: The north will also act when it can pin blame on the ROK or US as in the Y-P Do artillery firing when it blamed the ROK's provocative actions (its artillery exercise on the island firing toward the South) and then claimed it shelled the island in "self defense."
The other condition the north usually needs is surprise. In some ways we might be somewhat reassured by the rhetoric we are hearing because they are (usually) less likely to conduct an attack when they cannot achieve surprise or if they are attacking against a ready force and I would submit the ROK military is at a very high state of readiness.
However, I do very much worry about Kim Jong-un's inexperience and potential hubris based on the idea that his western education and experience gives him superior insights into how the US in particular might react. Combine this will poor military advice from Generals who will be basing their assessments not only on what they think Kim Jong-un wants to hear but on their assessment of ROK/US Alliance actions over the past 6 decades (and I think that both the ROK and US are not going to react in accordance with historical patterns) and we do have the potential for miscalculation by the Kim and his regime.
March 26, 2013
North Korea Orders Artillery to Be Combat Ready, Targeting U.S. Bases
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said on Tuesday its strategic rocket and long-range artillery units have been ordered to be combat ready, targeting U.S. military bases on Guam, Hawaii and mainland America after U.S. bombers flew sorties threatening the North.
The order, issued in a statement from the North's military "supreme command", marks the latest fiery rhetoric from Pyongyang since the start of joint military drills by U.S. and South Korean forces early this month.
South Korea's defense ministry said it saw no sign of imminent military action by North Korea.
"From this moment, the Supreme Command of the Korean People's Army will be putting into combat duty posture No. 1 all field artillery units, including long-range artillery units and strategic rocket units, that will target all enemy objects in U.S. invasionary bases on its mainland, Hawaii and Guam," the North's KCNA news agency said.
The North previously threatened nuclear attack on the United States and South Korea, although it is not believed to have the capability to hit the continental United States with an atomic weapon. But the U.S. military's bases in the Pacific area are in range of its medium-range missiles.
South Korea's defense ministry said it had detected no signs of unusual activity by the North's military but will monitor the situation. The South and the U.S. military are conducting drills until the end of April, which they have stressed are strictly defensive in nature.
(Continued at the link below)