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Koreas Clash

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Tagged As: DPRK, Foreign Affairs, Military, North Korea, and South Korea

The Korean War never officially ended, it has merely been in a perpetual state of ceasefire owing to the 1953 armistice. Despite numerous skirmishes over the years, Tuesday's artillery shelling of Yeonpyeong Island was the first time the two Koreas exchanged artillery fire since the armistice.1 North Korea fired an estimated 100 artillery rounds at the island killing Korean marines and wounding civilians to which South Korea responded with 80 artillery shots of its own.2 Despite the response, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is challenged to not let such an affront against his country go quietly. North Korea has always saber rattled about the annual exercises conducted by South Korea (for decades) but this time, in conjunction with their artillery barrage, are declaring Korea is on the brink of war.

All of these actions come only days after American scientist Siegfried Hecker was given access to the disputed Yongbyong nuclear facility where he reports high quality centrifuges that are currently configured for a lightwater reactor's uranium needs but easily convertible for weapons grade uranium production. The attack on South Korea is likely correlated to the coming accession of Kim Jong-Un as Kim Jong-il's replacement. Other than being progeny, Kim Jong-Un has no mystique about him (to the North Korean citizens) so the attack is probably being used as a demonstration of defiance against the ROK and USA to establish his bona fides. There are many armchair warriors that believe North Korea's backwardness will make them a military pushover but there is much to be said for the DPRK's ability to stand toe-to-toe and unleash massive devastation before they eventually fall.

1 A fried of mine has an amusing anecdote about that island. We were both 2LTs stationed at CP Carroll when the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong went down and our unit provided communications support to the recovery effort. He rolled up there to check on his platoon in a civilian vehicle with his Korean girlfriend (as a translator of course) instead of a KATUSA. Needless to say, the LT got lost and ended up at the wrong checkpoint to the DMZ where ROK soldiers drew machine guns on him. His girlfriend froze up in fear and stopped talking altogether making her quite the useless translator when it mattered most ... needless to say, he sweet talked his way out of it and used official KATUSAs (I think) going forward.

2 It's highly unlikely the DPRK suffered any significant damage or casualties as a result of the counterstrike due to the nature of their embedded defenses.

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