SEOUL // North Korea looks certain to face UN sanctions for this week's nuclear test, and South Korea today raised the military alert level for the peninsula after the reclusive communist state warned it was ready to attack. North Korea this week unnerved the world with a series of provocations unseen since the 1950-53 Korean War, including war threats, missile launches and a nuclear test that puts it closer to having an atomic bomb.
The joint command for the 28,000 US troops that support South Korea's 670,000 soldiers has raised its alert a notch to signify a serious threat from the belligerent North, the South's joint chiefs of staff said. It is the highest threat level since the North's only other nuclear test in October 2006. North Korea could be set for further provocations that include additional short-range missile tests off its west coast, the South's Yonhap news agency on Wednesday night quoted an unnamed government source as saying.
Analysts said the North's sabre rattling might be partly aimed at firming leader Kim Jong-il's grip on power and helping him draw up succession plans in Asia's only communist dynasty after a suspected stroke in August raised questions over his rule. Weapons experts point out that while North Korea is pushing hard to develop a nuclear arsenal it has does not have an effective way to attack with an atomic warhead or bomb.