North Korea could invade South Korea's five northernmost islands in the West Sea, a think tank warns. In predictions for 2011 published Sunday, the National Intelligence Service's Institute for National Security Strategy said there is a chance the North will try to attack the South again next year.
The North's artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island, one of the five, last month shows that the regime "was no longer fully in control of its actions," it said. It seems highly likely that the North will continue to launch various provocations to consolidate the regime succession."
While a full-scale war is unlikely, a "limited war mobilizing the Army, Navy and Air Force is a possibility," the report said. It also warned the North could shut down the joint Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex, even if that would mean shooting itself in the foot economically.
Having developed strategies for limited warfare, "the North will further heighten threats to attack South Korean submarines, to infiltrate and shoot at South Korean guard posts or frontline outposts, and to launch terrorist attacks on defectors and electronic jamming attacks on South Korean aircraft and ships," the report speculated.
The North will likely "focus on increasing artillery capabilities, improving infiltration submarines, enhancing submarine warfare capabilities, and reinforcing special troops."
The North Korean military could also take "unpredictable action" to show its loyalty to leader Kim Jong-il's son and heir Jong-un. The general and presidential election in South Korea in 2012 will give rise to more psychological warfare against the South both on- and offline from next year, the report speculated.
The institute also points out that that there are growing signs the North is preparing a third nuclear test and is "technically ready to conduct it any time now. It will conduct the test to improve the technical aspects of nuclear arms and pressure South Korea and the international community."
In the event of another nuclear test, it advises the government "to pressure China into restraining the North's will to develop nuclear weapons further, while highlighting the threat of nuclear armament by neighboring countries like Japan."