History shows North Korean pattern: Wait, then attack

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SEOUL, South Korea — Recent Korean history reveals a sobering possibility: It may only be a matter of time before North Korea launches a sudden, deadly attack on the South. And perhaps more unsettling, Seoul has vowed that this time, it will respond with an even stronger blow.

Humiliated by past attacks, South Korea has promised — as recently as today — to hit back hard at the next assault from the North, opening up the prospect that a skirmish could turn into a wider war.

In its March 5 statement, North Korean army Supreme Command said it “will make a strike of justice at any target anytime as it pleases without limit.”

Those words have a chilling link to the recent past, when Pyongyang, angry over perceived slights, took its time before exacting revenge on rival South Korea. Vows of retaliation after naval clashes with South Korea in 1999 and 2009, for example, were followed by more bloodshed, including attacks blamed on North Korea that killed 50 South Koreans in 2010.

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