(2nd LD) N. Korea prepares for terror attacks on S. Korea: intelligence unit
(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 9-11)
SEOUL, Feb. 18 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered intensified preparations for terror attacks on South Korea, a ruling party lawmaker said Thursday, citing information from Seoul's state intelligence agency.
The North's Reconnaissance General Bureau is preparing for such disruptive acts, including cyberattacks on the South, Rep. Lee Chul-woo said after an urgent meeting between the ruling party and the government over North Korea.
The bureau is tasked with intelligence operations in foreign countries and cyberwarfare.
The government told lawmakers that there is a possibility that the North will wage terrorist attacks using poison or kidnap South Koreans.
"The North can inflict damage on anti-North Korean activists, defectors and Seoul government officials," Lee told reporters. "It could target public facilities and key infrastructure, including subways, shopping malls and power stations."
The National Intelligence Service is collecting the relevant information on possible attacks by the North, he said.
South Korea has vowed to take bone-numbing measures against the North in response to Pyongyang's latest nuclear test and long-range rocket launch.
The Seoul government said that the North seemed to time its recent provocations to come before its key party congress slated for May.
Lee said the Workers' Party of Korea is scheduled to hold the congress on May 7, the first event in more than three decades. The North's leader is likely to unveil new lines of policies and a major reshuffle on the occasion.
Lee also added that the North insisted on its active role in the shutdown of a jointly run inter-Korean industrial complex in its border city of Kaesong.
Seoul shut down the Kaesong Industrial Complex last week in response to the North's rocket launch on Feb. 7, a move that Seoul and Washington view as a banned test of ballistic missile technology.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry told lawmakers that China also shared the need to slap stronger and more effective sanctions on North Korea as Seoul has appealed for cooperation, according to Lee.
The U.N. Security Council is working on a fresh resolution for tougher sanctions over North Korea's provocations. But China and Russia, two of the five veto-wielding permanent council members, are known as being lukewarm about such a move.
"(The government) sees that a new resolution would be passed by the end of February," the lawmaker said.
At the meeting, Defense Minister Han Min-koo said that Seoul and Washington plan to conduct the largest joint military drills ever starting in March for about two months to counter any North Korean provocation.
He said that the planned drills will likely involve about 15,000 American soldiers, along with increased military assets, about twice the size of the exercise conducted last year.
The two allies have carried out annual joint exercises -- Key Resolve and Foal Eagle -- since the 1990s to better deter North Korean aggression. The North claims the drills are a rehearsal for a northward invasion.