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S. Korean military cautious on N. Korea`s power shuffling
DECEMBER 05, 2013 07:17  
The South Korean military authorities Wednesday ordered commanders to maintain high vigilance against North Korea to prevent any provocations and an all-out battle, following intelligence that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un`s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, is believed to have been ousted from power. Seoul`s military views that there is a high possibility of Pyongyang`s political instability triggered by the ouster of the No. 2 man in power will lead to unpredictable provocations.

"During the process of establishing Kim Jong Un`s sole leadership structure over the last two years, frequent replacements of key military posts have created instability and an atmosphere of fear in North Korea," South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said during a biannual meeting of top South Korean military commanders, according to Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for Seoul`s Ministry of National Defense. "Under such circumstances, (the South Korean military) should prepare not only for provocations but also for an all-out battle."

The minister was also quoted as saying that the North has recently strengthened its frontline military forces and capabilities for infiltrating into the South while stepping up threats of provocations such as cyber warfare. "In particular, the North is maintaining a posture for making provocations against the South any time in the border area around northwestern islands following Kim Jong Un`s several visits to the area," Kim was quoted as telling the top commanders. "Two years after Kim Jong-un took power, work is currently underway to reorganize the power structure within the inner circle in North Korea. Under this circumstance, North Korea is stepping up military capabilities across the nation."

In a related move, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said its chairman, Admiral Choi Yun-hee, ordered the South Korean military to strengthen its surveillance and operational preparedness against the North, which started winter-season military exercises Monday. A JCS official said that the South Korean military will beef up situational duty to more closely watch the North Korean military`s moves. "So far, no unusual moves by the North Korean military have been observed."

Regarding Jang`s rumored ouster, the defense minister was quoted as saying that the public execution and purges of two of Jang`s close confidants have been confirmed. But the minister said Jang`s complete removal from power needs to be ascertained through more intelligence gathered, according to the Defense Ministry`s spokesman.

"What the minister said was that although currently available intelligence and relevant circumstances suggest it is very likely that Jang Song Thaek has been ousted but we should not overlook past precedents in which the North deceived the South Korean intelligence authorities with disinformation when it launched long-range missiles," a Seoul`s military official said.

The defense minister also had video teleconference with field commanders who could not attend the meeting to check out their preparedness. Rear Admiral Park Sung-bae, commander of the South Korean Navy`s Second Fleet, told the minister that his fleet was watching the North Korean military`s movements while maintaining the highest vigilance posture.

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