South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong said on Thursday that North Korea can be expected to conduct more provocative actions in October, due to the impending anniversary of the foundation of the North Korean Communist party.
Chung was specific enough to mention the period between October 10th and 18th as a likely window for North Korean mischief, according to Reuters. His report to South Korean lawmakers also warned of the possibility that “accidental incidents” could escalate into military conflict.
However, Reuters notes that the Chinese Communist Party will also hold its congress in October, and North Korea’s patrons in Beijing would be angry if Pyongyang causes trouble with nuclear detonations or missile launches.
Chung informed lawmakers that the United States has agreed to deploy more “strategic assets” to South Korea, although he did not specify exactly what these assets would be. Nuclear submarines and long-range bombers are considered to be among the most likely possibilities.
Business Insider quotes South Korean media claims that an American aircraft carrier, B-2 stealth bombers, and F-22 Raptor fighters could be among the assets rotated to South Korea, weapons BI describes as a “potential nightmare for Pyongyang” because it lacks the technology to reliably track or target the B-2 or F-22. In fact, North Korea had so much trouble tracking the technically non-stealthy B-1B bombers that fly out of Guam that the United States had to tell North Korea about their most recent flight near the border, in order for North Korea to become outraged by their presence.
Chung said the deployment would “begin as early as late this year” and would “help us expand our defense capabilities.”
South Korea’s Yonhap News speculates this announcement may help to ease fears in Seoul that the United States would become less willing to defend South Korea if North Korea can credibly threaten to hit American cities with nuclear missiles.
President Moon Jae-in gave a speech on Thursday to commemorate South Korea’s Armed Forces Day in which he promised enhancements to his country’s pre-emptive strike, missile defense, and retaliatory capabilities.
He also said he wants to recover operational control of the South Korean military from the United States, a change to 50-year-old treaties that specify an American general will command South Korea’s forces in the event of a war with the North. Before the North Korean crisis escalated, the latest timetable called for the restoration of operational control to South Korea sometime in the 2020s.
The New York Times observes that although Moon campaigned as a liberal who wished to focus on developing better ties with North Korea, he has in fact been “more aggressive than his conservative predecessors about building up the South Korean military,” and the Trump administration has signaled a willingness to help him do it.
Another development mentioned by the New York Times is that Malaysia, formerly one of North Korea’s few international friends, has barred its citizens from traveling to North Korea, a ban that might prevent the Malaysian soccer team from traveling to Pyongyang for an Asian Cup match next week.