The top US intelligence official says North Korea's nuclear tests and missile launches are a familiar pattern of provocation, but they take on dangerous significance with last week's designation of strongman Kim Jong Il's successor.
National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair said in speech Monday that the military shows of force could pose a higher level of risk to the West because they come at a precarious time for the dictatorship. The North Korean leader last week named his youngest son, 26-year old Kim Jong Un, to follow him. Kim Jong Il has ruled the country since 1994.
Blair said missile and nuclear tests are calculated to scare the West into offering North Korea money and other inducements to abandon the weapons programs. But Blair said the timing of the tests is a potentially dangerous mixture of political and military events.