(Bloomberg) -- South Korea’s spy agency said it sees North Korea launching military and cyber provocations next year as Kim Jong Un’s regime seeks to raise its profile during election campaigns in the US and South Korea.

North Korea in recent months appointed players in previous provocations to key positions, indicating Pyongyang will look to shine a spotlight on its military might as voters in South Korea select members for a new parliament in April and the US holds presidential elections, the National Intelligence Service said in a statement late Thursday.

South Korea’s spy agency rarely releases public statements about the security threat from its neighbor and its assessment comes as Kim is presiding over a policy-setting meeting of his ruling party where he has pledged to expand his country’s nuclear weapons arsenal.

“Considering North Korea’s past behavior and the level of its recent threats against South Korea, we are making every effort to establish early warnings and preparedness with related ministries as Pyongyang’s provocations are expected early in the year,” the NIS said in the statement.

North Korea has a habit of conducting tests of ballistic missiles and nuclear devices to coincide with elections, as it rails against conservative politicians who take a tough stance on Pyongyang. North Korea has called current conservative President Yoon Suk Yeol “a puppet traitor” and threatened to turn the Pacific Ocean into a firing range in response to greater military cooperation among the US, South Korea and Japan.

North Korea has been able to win concessions from progressive leaders in South Korea with pledges of cooperation. But those promises can often be short-lived.

In a period of rapprochement under the previous government of President Moon Jae-in, North Korea went on to brand Moon a meddlesome mediator. Pyongyang ignored his calls for talks and blew up a $15 million liaison office north of the border that had symbolized the South Korean leader’s moves to improve relations.

Kim has tested more than 100 ballistic missiles over the past two years under the governments of Moon and Yoon. This has enhanced North Korea’s ability to deliver a nuclear strike on the US and America’s allies in the region. 

Kim’s weapons program has made significant gains that included a test this month of a new missile designed to deliver a warhead to the US mainland and the apparent commissioning of a long-stalled nuclear reactor that could significantly add to plutonium production.

--With assistance from Seyoon Kim.

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