SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea could fire missiles at South Korea next year, analysts predicted Monday, as the isolated North's hostility toward the outside world deepens while it undergoes a hereditary transfer of power.
Tensions are high on the Korean peninsula following a series of provocations from the North this year. More recently, however, as South Korea responded angrily with threats of its own, Pyongyang has shown some restraint.
Expect the pendulum to swing back in the other direction in 2011, the Institute for National Security Strategy warned in a report published last week and posted to its website Monday.
The country could conduct a third nuclear bomb test and wage more attacks on front-line islands - like Yeonpyeong, which was bombarded in shelling that killed four South Koreans last month - the report said. North Korea may even fire missiles and more artillery at the those islands, chief researcher Lee In-ho told The Associated Press after the report was posted.
The Yeonpyeong attack came eight months after the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship blamed on a Pyongyang in which 46 sailors were killed.
North Korea accuses the South of triggering the assault on Yeonpyeong by carrying out military drills from the island, and denies involvement in the sinking of the Cheonan.
However, such hostility is often used to drum up solidarity in the military at times of transition, and this year North Korea made the clearest sign yet that leader Kim Jong Il is grooming his third and youngest son - Kim Jong Un - as his successor. The 20-something was promoted to a four-star general and appointed to key ruling party posts in September to mark his formal political debut.
And the provocations are expected to become only more serious next year as North Korea pushes to cement the son's leadership and achieve its goal of building a "powerful, prosperous nation" in 2012, the 100th anniversary of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung's birth, said the report by the institute, which is affiliated with South Korea's main spy agency. The report was jointly written by about 20 institute researchers, but they say it does not represent their organization's official view.