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N.K. could react to sanctions with military clashes, cyberattacks, suspension of U.N. membership: expert

All Headlines 07:08 March 07, 2016

WASHINGTON, March 6 (Yonhap) -- North Korea could respond to the new U.N. sanctions with military clashes with South Korea, cyberattacks, expulsion of diplomats of sanctions-supporting countries and even suspension of its own U.N. membership, a Russian expert said Sunday.

Georgy Toloraya, director of Korean Programs at the Institute of Economy at the Russian Academy of Science, made the prediction, saying Pyongyang's reaction to the sanctions resolution could be "harsh" as it came just a few months before the North holds a congress of the ruling Workers' Party in May.

"High-ranking North Koreans recently told this author that North Korean authorities may respond with 'benign neglect' -- essentially ignoring the new sanctions under the pretext that the DPRK has been surviving under such measures for years -- but Kim Jong-un may react forcefully to avoid the risk of backlash from conservative forces in Pyongyang," Toloraya said in an article carried by the website 38 North.

"Therefore, it is possible to expect new provocations, even some that may lead to limited military clashes on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea's decision to launch several short-range missiles within hours of the UNSCR's adoption gives credibility to such assumptions," he said.

Pyongyang could also use "some untraditional measures," such as expelling diplomats who represent "guilty" countries that supported the sanctions, Toloraya said. Also possible are cyberattacks that may not even be traced back to the North, he said.

"Pyongyang could go so far as to freeze its U.N. membership, which would let it ignore any other measures by the UNSC," he said.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 2270, adopted last week in response to the North's nuclear and missile tests, are the harshest sanctions ever on Pyongyang. They include mandatory inspection of all cargo going in and out of the North, and a ban on the North's exports of coal, iron and other mineral resources.

Toloraya said the sanctions could erode Russia's relations not only with North Korea but also with South Korea as well due to Moscow's initial reluctance to fall behind the latest resolution.

"These measures will not speed up the resolution of the nuclear problem, which appears more intractable than ever," he said. "Yet if the current crisis eventually leads to nuclear discussions with North Korea, Russia could find itself in a weaker position at the resumed Six Party Talks -- or even face outright exclusion from a new negotiation format."

jschang@yna.co.kr
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