North Korea: Next Seven Days Could Be Critical

Mark Stone, Asia Correspondent, in South Korea

The latest propaganda offering from North Korean state television is as bizarre as the rest of them.

Angry soldiers unleash German Shepherd dogs to attack mannequins representing South Korea's Defence Minister.

In another clip, the minister's face is pinned to a target, which the soldiers fire repeatedly at.

"Kim Kwan-jin is such a b****** and a defective human being. He doesn't even deserve to be our target," one of them screams.

This sort of propaganda loops on television sets in the northern half of the Korean peninsula.

It is designed primarily for domestic consumption: all part of the North Korean regime's attempt to justify its existence and shore up its own legitimacy by creating an external threat that doesn't exist.

To the outside world, the video offerings of soldiers and their museum-worthy equipment forms the less convincing part of Kim Jong-Un's game to be taken seriously.

Yet the country's December rocket launch and February nuclear test proved beyond doubt that North Korea is over the nuclear threshold. That prompted the UN sanctions in March. Mr Kim responded with rhetorical threats, propelling this crisis to where it is now.

And so the world waits for Mr Kim's next move.

The coming seven days will probably be critical. Several dates seem to hold significance.

April 10 was the date Western diplomats were told their safety couldn't be guaranteed from. It was also the deadline given for South Korean workers in the joint industrial plant at Kaesong to leave.

April 15 is the anniversary of the birthday of Mr Kim's grandfather and the founder of the nation, Kim Il-Sung.

So what is North Korea planning? An all-out assault or attempted invasion of the South is entirely improbable. That would signal a massive American military response and the end of a regime whose overriding aim is survival not suicide.

Much more likely is another missile test. Intelligence agencies tracked the movement of two mid-to-long range missiles last week. They believe they are now at a launch pad in the far north-east of the country.

So here is the most likely scenario: Mr Kim fires off a missile with great fanfare between now and next Monday. It soars into the skies east of the Korean peninsula, and then drops into the sea.

That will prompt the world to condemn the launch and the UN will levy yet more sanctions on the country.

Crucially though with this scenario, neither side will lose much face. Mr Kim survives and proves to his army and his people that he is strong and can launch missiles as he pleases.

America and her allies can claim that they avoided war and contained an extremely volatile situation.

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes