North Korea on Monday ratcheted up the belligerent rhetoric against the South, threatening "peculiar means" to destroy South Korean targets.
"The special actions of our revolutionary armed forces will start soon to meet the reckless challenge" of the Lee Myung-bak administration, North Korea's military supreme command thundered in an English-language statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
"Once the above-said special actions kick off, they will reduce all the rat-like groups and the bases for provocations to ashes in three or four minutes, in much shorter time, by unprecedented peculiar means and methods of our own style," it added.
The regime is apparently miffed at comments by President Lee Myung-bak last week. Visiting the Agency for Defense Development, Lee was briefed on South Korea's cruise and long-range missiles and said deterrence is the best defense against a provocation by the North. On Friday, Lee urged North Korea to implement agrarian reforms, and added Pyongyang "needs to improve its human rights situation."
Experts point out that the regime regularly spouts belligerent rhetoric to divert public attention from internal problems. "North Koreans must feel disappointed because of the failed rocket launch and the centenary celebrations" for nation founder Kim Il-sung, said Yoon Duk-min at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security. "So the regime is trying to create a sense of threat from outside its borders in order to boost internal unity and loyalty" to new leader Kim Jong-un.
The state-run Rodong Sinmun daily allocated four out of its six pages on Monday to denunciations of the South Korean government. A headline on page two read, "Leader, just give us the order!" The top of the page carried a militaristic song, while the bottom featured photos of North Korean rocket launcher units firing shells.
Some experts fear that could be the prelude to a military provocation. "There is a chance that North Korea could deploy its multiple rocket launchers," said Ryu Dong-ryeol at the Police Science Institute. "They could target communications and energy facilities and other infrastructure."
Chung Sung-jang at the Sejong Institute said, "We should prepare for all kinds of provocations, including cyber terror against Cheong Wa Dae, government and media websites, as well as biological attacks."
A South Korean military spokesman said the rhetoric emerging from North Korea is worthy of "terrorists." "The [South] Korean and U.S. forces are closely monitoring North Korean troop movements, but no unusual signs have been spotted so far," he said.
But the military has apparently boosted its readiness in case of a North Korean provocation. Police stationed around 240 officers around South Korean media offices including the Chosun Ilbo, Donga Ilbo and Joongang Ilbo dailies, as well as broadcasters YTN, KBS and MBC.