This piece was printed in Korean and published on the KINU Online Series CO 10-19 in Korean.
North Korea's Position on the Ship Cheonan Incident and Projected Future Attitude
[First part of the paper is about the official statements from South Korea and North Korea on the Cheonan incident, and those passages were not translated.]
North Korea's Projected Future Attitude
The North Korean authorities must have expected that the surprise attack by a small-sized midget submarine would remain a case of permanent unsolved mystery, if not a perfect crime. [They] must have expected that [the South Korean] Government would be at a loss due to its inability to find material evidence despite strong belief, and hoped that it would find itself in a tight dilemma due to criticism of security incapability from the conservative camp and criticism from the progressive camp calling for the withdrawal of the hostile policy toward the North.
Nevertheless, such an expectation proved futile with the announcement of the scientific, objective investigation results by an international joint investigation team. Instead, with the revelation that the sinking of Cheonan was a clear military provocation by North Korea, North Korea finds itself in a tight spot. Whenever a deception tactic to deceive a counterpart failed, North Korea used to choose a path that further deteriorated the circumstance. A case in point is that in the early 1990s when a false report to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] turned out to be a fact, [the North] severed North-South dialogue and declared the withdrawal from the NPT [Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty]. In view of such an experience, this time, too, North Korea is likely to take an offensive reaction that damages stability on the Korean peninsula while using a strategy of offensive advancement to evade a defensive phase. Under the basic premise that the sinking of Cheonan has nothing to do with North Korea, North Korea will define the nature of all the measures it takes as a reaction in the self-defensive dimension against the international community's pressure on the North.
In the future, North Korea will attempt to incite mistrust and criticism for the [South Korean] government and create conflict among South Koreans by giving a political, economical, psychological blow by means of heightened tension through an offensive strategy toward the South. North Korean ships' infiltration of the NLL [Northern Limit Line] will continue and there is a likelihood that North-South maritime collisions may occur. As a counter offensive to South Korea's reaction, [the North] may fire surface-to-ship missiles against [the South] ships. Regarding the Kaesong Industrial Zone, [the North] would not easily close it in consideration of economic benefits and the domestic, international burdens in the aftermath of closing the zone. For the time being, [the North] will use the tactic of pressuring South Korea with the card of possible hostage-taking of the South side's workers. Nevertheless, in case the situation worsened, [we] cannot rule out the possibility that [the North] would take the measure of closing the zone.
Since strained North-South relations are inevitable for a considerable period, South Korea's internal strategy is likely to be adjusted. It appears that [the North] will promote the power-succession project, which will be concretized with the opening of the door to a powerful state in 2012, with the focus placed on the military aspect. [The North] will actually give up economic assistance from South Korea and try to find a breakthrough of economic losses from the military sector. In other words, it is likely that [the South] will create a semi-war situation with heightened confrontation against South Korea and achieve power succession amid the atmosphere of war. This is to overcome the people's discontent over the poor economy and the three-generation hereditary succession, by creating a threat of war.
In the international stage, including the United Nations, [the North] will unfold diplomatic warfare on the basis of two pillars of "North Korea's non-involvement" and "self-defensive reaction." A method that North Korean may choose to give a strong shock externally is a third nuclear test. It is expected that [the North] is highly likely to conduct a third nuclear test in a period between the conclusion of the eighth NPT evaluation meeting at the end of May and before the November US mid-term election this year.
In connection with this, [we] need to take note of the Rodong Sinmun report dated May 12 that North Korean scientists successfully conducted a nuclear fusion reaction. Nuclear fusion is a technology for manufacturing the H-bomb, which is mightier by tens or hundreds of times than the atomic bomb, whose principle is nuclear fission. [I] view that lurking behind the background of announcing North Korea's success in fusion technology is a calculation to conduct an additional nuclear test. It is expected that by carrying out a third nuclear test, which is much bigger in scale than the previous ones, [the North] will exaggerate its nuclear deterrent, implicitly showing off the fact that it has made a new nuclear warhead relying on the nuclear fusion technology.
The nuclear tests conducted in 2006 and 2009 were small-scale nuclear tests at the level of 1 kiloton and 2 kilotons, respectively. North Korea must have conducted small-scale nuclear tests with some calculation of its own, but with the West's reaction that North Korea's nuclear capabilities are nothing much, it is evaluated that [the North] plans an additional nuclear test that has much larger destructive power. In conclusion, the report of successful nuclear fusion may be a political move, and a prior ground-laying work, to conduct a third nuclear test by taking advantage of a tense atmosphere created by the Cheonan incident.