NORTH KOREA – SOUTH KOREA

Korean Crisis: China calls for restraint as North bombards South, killing four

The North Korean army bombarded the small South Korean island of Yeonpyeong on Tuesday in retaliation for a South Korean military training maneuver.  Our Observer in South Korea told us about the extremely tense climate in her country since the attack.

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The North Korean army bombarded the small South Korean island of Yeonpyeong on Tuesday in retaliation for a South Korean military training maneuver.  Our Observer in South Korea told us about the extremely tense climate since the attack.

On Tuesday morning, the North Korean army demanded that South Korea halt a military drill on Yeonpyeong, a small island in the Yellow Sea near the disputed maritime border between the two countries. After Seoul refused, Pyonyang launched an artillery attack that killed at least two soliders and two civilians. Dozens of homes destroyed. South Korea responded by firing 80 shells at North Korea and by flying military airplanes into North Korean airspace.

 

Yeonpyeong has been the scene of tensions between the two countries in the past.  But this is the first time since the 1953 armistice that North Korea has actually attacked the South.

 

The international community strongly condemned the attacks. And China, one of North Korea’s few allies, called for “restraint from all parties concerned.”

The attack on Yeonpyeong island filmed by security cameras

Video posted onYouTube by androo2300

“Shifting focus on external tensions allows Kim Jong-il to rally divided North Koreans around a common cause”

Eun Kyoung Kwon is an editor at the "Daily NK," a newspaper written by South Korean NGO activists, journalists and North Korean defectors exiled in South Korea.

 

I was very shocked when I heard the news of the attack. I hoped the South-Korean president would quickly adopt a reponse which would be firm, but wise. He didn’t. [Lee Myung-bak decided to continue military drills in Yeonpyeong, all while “boosting South Korea’s military preparation” with the United States.

 

Retaliation against South Korea was obviously just an excuse for the North Korean regime. Tensions were already high in the area, which is just along the maritime border called “Northern Limit Line” (the black dotted line on the map) that was established after the 1953 armistice. However Kim Jong-il began disputing the line in 1973. He is demanding the establishment of a new border, following the red dotted lines on the map. As usual, Pyonyang is using this type of incident to push the United States to sign a “peace treaty” [a treaty that would lift the economic sanctions on North Korea, set up after it carried out nuclear tests in 2006].

 

At the moment Kim Jong-Il is facing several different problems, the most important being organizing his own succession. He has designated his third and youngest son, Kim Jong-un, as his heir, but some high-ranking party officials and generals are opposed to his nomination. In this context, shifting focus to external tensions allows Kim Jong-il to rally divided North Koreans around a common cause. Moreover, launching the attack at a time when he wants to bring his son into the spotlight is a way of imposing Kim Jong-un’s leadership.

 

Meanwhile, the tensions are fueling divisions within the South Korean society. The spectre of war may weaken the current president ahead of upcoming elections, and allow dissident factions who support the North Korean regime to gain momentum.”