North Korea Threat Sparks Terror Alert

North Korea Threat Sparks

The South Korean government raised the terror alert levels at five overseas missions on Thursday, citing the possibility of attacks by the North.

The Foreign Ministry in Seoul ordered elevated threat monitoring at its embassies in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh; Laos' capital, Vientiane; and Vietnam's capital, Hanoi. Warnings were also sent to its consulates in Vladivostok in Russia's Far East and in Shenyang in northeastern China.

The diplomatic missions were warned after a government counterterrorism committee was briefed on recently acquired intelligence linked to North Korea, the ministry said in a notice on its website, without elaborating.

South Korea has a four-category terrorism alert system. The decision to raise the levels by two classifications to the third highest—from "attention" to "alert"—indicated "a strong possibility of terrorism," the government said.

Also on Thursday, South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS) disclosed that Kim Jong Un's regime had dispatched agents to China, Southeast Asia and the Middle East to surveillance South Korean missions and select targets for acts of terrorism, according to the Korea JoongAng Daily newspaper.

Last week, the NIS said that state-backed cyber hackers funded by Pyongyang had successfully infiltrated South Korean defense contractors, stealing sensitive technical data. South Korea is a major weapons developer, with global contracts for advanced fighter aircraft, warships and heavy artillery.

The United States, which is treaty-bound to defend South Korea, redesignated the North a state sponsor of terrorism in 2017, having previously taken the regime off the blacklist to ease nuclear nonproliferation talks.

North Korea says it is strongly opposed to terrorism. Its embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to a written request for comment.

Inter-Korean relations remain at a low point, with Kim ignoring U.N. Security Council resolutions to continue a series of provocative ballistic missile tests this year. North Korea state media outlets also have increased their saber-rattling in the lead-up to the U.S. presidential election later this year.

Earlier this week, the NIS warned of possible North Korean terror attacks using drones and paragliders, tactics employed by the pro-Palestinian Hamas militant group in Israel last October. South Korean intelligence also pointed to the illicit trading of arms between Pyongyang and Hamas, its annual report said.

Suspicions are being raised over links between North Korea and Hamas in areas, including military training and exchange of tactics," the NIS said, according to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency. "The probability of simultaneous infiltration and provocation using drones and motorized paragliders cannot be ruled out."