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North Korean military forces remain on heightened alert, as do South Korean forces, and the sources said the South Korean military is set to counter any further artillery strikes.

One possible target being watched closely is the northernmost of South Korea’s five northwest islands, called Baengnyeong Island, a major intelligence base that has been a safe harbor for North Korean defectors fleeing the communist state in the past.

South Korea’s military is prepared to carry out aggressive counterattacks against any new strikes.

Intelligence analysis of the Nov. 23 artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island, which killed four people and wounded 17, indicates that the surprise bombardment is connected to the ongoing leadership succession of Kim Jong-il’s third son, Kim Jong-un, as well as to the recent disclosure by the North Koreans of a covert uranium-enrichment program.

Kim Jong-un was recently promoted and has aligned himself with North Korean generals involved in artillery forces, according to the intelligence sources. Reports from North Korea indicated that both Kims visited the 4th Corps, whose unit carried out an artillery barrage before the Yeonpyeong attack.

Gay training

The Pentagon working group on open gays in the military sets out an ambitious training program to ensure that troops treat their colleagues, gay or straight, with dignity.

The group, led by Army Gen. Carter Ham and Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson, appears to shy away from what some might call “sensitively training.”

The report’s implementation plan states that “service members are not expected to change their personal religious or moral beliefs; however, they are expected to treat all others with dignity and respect, consistent with the core values that already exist within each service.”

But objections to homosexuality are not grounds to request a transfer, reports special correspondent Rowan Scarborough.

Says the report: Service “members do not have the right to refuse duty or duty assignments based on a moral objection to another’s sexual orientation. Service members remain obligated to follow orders that involve interaction with others who are gay or lesbian, even if an unwillingness to do so is based on strong, sincerely held, moral or religious beliefs.”

And it states that “harassment or abuse based on sexual orientation is unacceptable. All service members are to treat one another with dignity and respect regardless of sexual orientation.”

Gay survey

While the Pentagon working group concluded the negative impact on the force would be “low” if gays serve openly, its survey results present a different story.

Republicans likely will cite some of these numbers in arguing in the Senate, where a vote on repeal is pending, that now is not the time to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, as two wars are being fought.

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