The head of U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula on Wednesday warned that North Korea has the ability to conduct an assault on the South at a moment's notice.
In testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti said,"The Kim Jong Un regime is dangerous and has the capability ... to attack South Korea with little or no warning," Stars and Stripes reported.
In recent days Kim threatened to use the North Korean military to "crush" what he perceived as a hostile U.S. policy toward his country. That threat comes on the heels of a Monday live-fire maritime exercise carried out by the North that sent some shells across a disputed sea line with the South. And on Sunday, Pyongyang warned it was prepared to carry out a "new" type of nuclear test and would stage further military drills aimed at improving the ability to strike longer-range targets.
"This is a common strategy with North Korea to come out of a period of calm and to use these types of actions" to send a message about Pyongyang's "displeasure" with U.S. military exercises in the region, Scaparrotti said.
Meanwhile, South Korea, the United States and Japan are slated to convene trilateral talks next week in Washington that will focus on prospects for reinvigorating a frozen multinational process aimed at achieving irreversible North Korean denuclearization. Ahead of that meeting, Seoul announced it had appointed a new senior negotiator to the nuclear talks -- diplomat Hwang Joon-kook, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
Elsewhere, a new analysis published on Thursday by the expert website 38 North concluded there is a "high" probability of an atomic accident occurring at the experimental light-water reactor recently constructed at North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear complex.
Experts Niko Milonopoulous and Edward Blandford found a number of reasons stemming from North Korea's international isolation and poverty that could contribute to a nuclear meltdown at the reactor, including potentially flawed reactor safety blueprints and possibly shoddy construction work. A spring 2013 image analysis by 38 North concluded that external work on the reactor appeared to be done but that it was not clear if activities were going on to operationalize the facility.