'Senior N.Korean Hardliner at Hand' During Incursion

      November 11, 2009 11:54

      Kim Kyok-sik

      Tuesday's inter-Korean naval skirmish occurred when a recently transferred North Korean general was inspecting the unit responsible for the stretch of the West Sea where the incursion happened, intelligence reports say. "We are confirming an intelligence report saying that Gen. Kim Kyok-sik, commander of North Korea's frontline fourth corps, is inspecting a Navy base on the western coast that covers the Northern Limit Line in the West Sea and Hwanghae Province," a military source said.

      Kim was abruptly demoted from chief of the General Staff of the People's Army in February to the current post. An intelligence officer said, "From our perspective, it clearly is a demotion, but if he was sent to the frontline under special orders to escalate tensions on the NLL by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, we should pay close attention."

      Immediately after he was appointed to the fourth corps, Gen. Kim carried out shooting drills near the NLL on Feb. 24. A source said Kim is one of the hardliners in the North Korean military and has rich experience in commanding military provocations against South Korea." The South Korean military believes Tuesday's incursion may well have happened at Kim's orders.

      Another government source said the fourth corps became very busy after North Korea on May 27 said it could no longer guarantee safe passage of South Korean ships in the West Sea. Seoul has intelligence reports that the amount of ammunition and fuel available to forces has doubled near the North Korean side of the NLL, and several high-ranking North Korean military officers have recently visited the region. 

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