"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." -- Theodore Roosevelt


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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

North Korea Shells South Korean Island


"North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells onto a South Korean island on Tuesday, killing one person, setting homes ablaze and triggering an exchange of fire as the South's military went on top alert.

"In what appeared to be one of the most serious border incidents since the 1950-53 war, South Korean troops fired back with cannon, the government convened in an underground war room and 'multiple' air force jets scrambled.

"The firing came after North Korea's disclosure of an apparently operational uranium enrichment programme -- a second potential way of building a nuclear bomb -- which is causing serious alarm for the United States and its allies.

"Some 50 shells landed on the South Korean border island of Yeonpyeong near the tense Yellow Sea border, damaging dozens of houses and sending plumes of thick smoke into the air, YTN television reported.

"One South Korean marine -- part of a contingent based permanently on the frontline island -- was killed and 13 other marines were wounded, the military said. YTN said two civilians were also hurt.

[...]

"Sporadic firing by each side continued for over an hour before dying out, the military said.

"The shelling began at 2:34 pm (0534 GMT) after the North sent several messages protesting about South Korean naval, air force and army training exercises being staged close to the border, a presidential spokesman said.

[...]

"Yeonpyeong lies just south of the border declared by United Nations forces after the war, but north of the sea border declared by Pyongyang.

"The Yellow Sea border was the scene of deadly naval clashes in 1999, 2002 and last November.

"Tensions have been acute since the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, which Seoul says was the result of a North Korean torpedo attack. Pyongyang has rejected the charge.

[...]

"'This is an intentional provocation to heighten cross-border tensions,' Dongguk University professor Kim Yong-Hyun told AFP.

"'The North made a series of gestures but there has been no response from South Korea and the United States. It is now using its brinkmanship aimed at forcing Seoul and Washington to take action and agree to dialogue.'

"Kim said the North would try to use the clash to promote solidarity among its people during the leadership succession.

"'It is also sending a strong message to the United States and the international community that the peninsula urgently needs a peace regime.'"

North Korea has been reduced to resorting to this sort of extreme brinkmanship. Economically, the place is an absolute wreck, the people living in a world of food shortages, corruption, and bizarre government provided misinformation.

While this action is worrisome, it's not quite the beginning of the end that so many people are claiming. It is very likely that this is another attempt (although an extreme one-- more evidence of their frustration) by North Korea to extort concessions and funds from the US, South Korea, and the West.

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