North Korea may launch provocative acts as it carries out its leadership succession plan, and could disrupt a G20 summit in South Korea next month, Seoul's defence minister has said.
Last week, North Korea announced leader Kim Jong Il had promoted his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, to four-star general and given him key political posts aimed at an eventual succession.
It would be the North's second hereditary power transition; the elder Kim took over in 1994 after the death of his father, national founder Kim Il Sung.
"There is a possibility that North Korea could launch provocations to overcome internal and external difficulties in the process of Kim Jong Un's succession and to disrupt our G20," Defence Minister Kim Tae-young told lawmakers during an annual parliamentary inspection of the government.
Seoul is preparing to host G20 leaders in November at a summit largely focussing on economic issues.
Kim did not elaborate on what actions the North might take, but its reclusive regime has acted provocatively in the past at times of internal change, external tension or when the rival South was the focus of world attention.
In 1987, North Korean agents planted a bomb on a South Korean plane, killing all 115 people on board, a year before Seoul hosted the 1988 Olympics.
In 1983, North Korean agents carried out a bombing during a trip to Burma by South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan. The attack, which killed 21 people, came three years after Kim Jong Il was confirmed at a 1980 party congress as the man who would take over from his father as the country's next leader.
"The attack was designed to draw support from North Korea's military toward Kim Jong Il," said Baek Seung-joo, a North Korea expert at Seoul's state-run Korea Institute for Defence Analysis. "The North could launch provocations, if necessary, to build Kim Jong Un's military charisma."
Tensions have recently been high between the two Koreas. In March, a South warship sank in disputed sea waters, killing 46 sailors. A South-led investigation blamed a North Korean torpedo attack, but the North denies involvement.