Defense Chief Warns of N.Korean Provocations Next Year

There is high risk that North Korea will carry out military provocations between late January and early March next year, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said Tuesday.

Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said Lee made the remark in a video conference with military commanders on Tuesday morning.

The execution of former eminence grise Jang Song-taek, who was seen as a moderate, "could serve as a major turning point for North Korea's 68 years after its establishment," Kim said. "It may be able to consolidate the power of the leader internally for a short while, but internal instability will grow as the people become disaffected with the government and distrust deepens," the minister was quoted as saying.

"There may be a misjudgment resulting from excessive competition amongst the military brass to prove their loyalty and existing destabilizing factors within the country. Provocations can take place in various forms," he added.

A military source said North Korea will want an opportunity to rally around the leader at the end of January, when the purge of Jang's faction is complete, and joint drills between South Korea and the U.S. scheduled for March would provide an excuse for provocations.

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 18, 2013 12:55 KST