North Korea could attempt to provoke the South prior to the G20 summit in Seoul in November in an effort to divert attention from its deepening domestic crisis, experts speculated Monday at a seminar on the G20 summit and security in the Korean Peninsula organized by the Institute for National Security Strategy. The seminar comes amid suspicions that North Korea may have been involved in the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan in a mysterious explosion on March 26.
Brian Myers, a professor at Dogseo University in Busan, said North Korea is unlikely to sabotage the G20 summit or commit a provocation disgracing the host, but recalled that Pyongyang bombed KAL flight No. 858 just prior to the 1988 Seoul Olympics and killed four South Korean sailors in a naval skirmish during the 2002 football World Cup.
"Kim Jong-il has lost confidence in his health and the 2012 deadline for achieving 'a great, prosperous and powerful nation' approaches, so he is obsessed with paving the way for his heir," said international security ambassador Nam Joo-hong said. "The North will pursue the contradictory paths of improving relations with the U.S. on the one hand and threatening the South on the other." He added provocations cannot be ruled out.
Choi Dae-suk, a professor at Ewha Womans University, said, "If North Korea was involved in the sinking of the Cheonan, the damage to inter-Korean relations would be tremendous." He warned that since this year marks the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, Pyongyang could seek to create military tension along the demilitarized zone.
To prevent the worst-case scenario, Myers proposed offering the North strategic concessions. Nam said that the G20 summit needs to come up with a "Seoul consensus" over the security problem.