POLITICS - The island of Yeonpyeong is on the South Korean side of the border, but that didn't stop North Korea from attacking it with an artillery barrage that killed two soldiers and wounded 20 people. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called the attack "an invasion" of South Korea.
If that is an invasion, what do we call North Korea's other actions from the past year and a half? They have test-detonated nuclear weapons, launched long range missiles across the Pacific Ocean towards the USA and torpedoed the South Korean warship Cheonan, killing 46 sailors.
The increasingly belligerent North Korea seems to be bent on war and many analysts believe nuclear war with North Korea is now inevitable. The only question remains is who will strike first, and where.
The Yeonpyeong Attack on November 23rd
The tiny island is home to a military base and a local residential population of farmers and fishermen. Both North and South Korea have a string of military bases near the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) that is the border between the two nations.
North Korea claims South Korea fired first, something South Korea denies, but its not impossible they did indeed fire first because tensions on the Peninsula are the highest they've been in the 57 years since the 1st Korean War ended in 1953. What is known is that North Korea fired approx. 200 large artillery shells at the island. At the time South Korea was conducting a military drill in the region, but the firing was not [supposed to be] directed at North Korea.
The first sign of trouble was when on the morning of November 23rd, at 8:20 AM local time, North Korea sent a wire message warning South Korea not to conduct drills close to the border.
At 10 AM South Korea began conducting their military drill.
Hours later, at 2:34 PM local time, North Korea began shelling the town of Yeonpyeong and destroying anything it hit. A few of the artillery shells (like the one in the photo above) did not explode. North Korea stopped firing at 2:55, but resumed firing at 3:12 and doesn't stop until 3:41.
Since then many of the residents of the island have been evacuated, leaving only the military presence on the island and clean up crews sorting through the rubble. South Korea is now trying to determine when residents can return to their homes.
The 2nd Korean War?
For months now the USA and South Korea (and a few others) have been conducting military exercises in preparation for what they believe will be a combined invasion and nuclear attack from North Korea. The North is becoming desperate and the leadership from their frail and ill leader Kim Jong Il (and the handover of power to his 27 year old son Kim Jong-Un) is fraught with danger for the rest of the world.
#1. Kim Jong Il might decide to go out in a blaze of glory (or because of his illness, might allow his generals more control).
#2. His son Kim Jong-Un is a mere 27 years old, far too young to have his own arsenal of nuclear weapons. He was chosen to replace his father because his older brothers were considered to be too friendly towards foreigners and the military leadership wanted someone who absolutely hated the USA.
The more time North Korea has, the more nuclear missiles they will build. They've already determined they have enough missile power to reach Hawaii or Alaska from North Korea. Launching from a submarine or ship off the coast of the USA would drop the distance significantly.
For South Korea, Japan, China and the USA the issue is very complicated and dangerous.
Analysts say there is two ways this war could pan out...
#1. North Korea launches a sudden blitzkrieg invasion of South Korea, its military abandoning North Korea entirely and fighting guerrilla style in South Korea, combined with a volley of nuclear missiles directed at Seoul, Pusan, Tokyo, various military bases and American cities. The USA has missile interceptor ships currently standing by in the region, but the city of Seoul is mere a mere 30 km from the DMZ.
#2. A tit-for-tat war until South Korea/USA decides to launch a pre-emptive strike to try and remove North Korea's nuclear arsenal, a task most analysts see as impossible because they would not be able to remove all of North Korea's missiles at the same time.
Regardless, the end result would be a full scale nuclear war, something which hasn't happened yet and the whole world would be watching to see how the USA / Barack Obama handles such a problem.
According to an American scientist who visited North Korea's facilities on November 12th in a "disarmament for food aid" deal North Korea has thousands of centrifuges for enriching uranium. Their nuclear arsenal could already be in the hundreds. The facility was described as modern and very new, suggesting it is not the first but one of several such facilities.
Stanford University scientist Siegfried Hecker told U.S. officials he was “stunned” by the “sophistication” of the facility which was operated by “an ultra-modern control room.”
This game of brinkmanship however is difficult to estimate how it will unfold. Who will blink first? Who will get an itchy trigger finger?
South Korea’s population is very vulnerable to attacks from the North, over 50% of the South's population lives within 80 km of the DMZ.
We've been warning for years now that North Korea is deliberately escalating the threat they pose. The younger generation in the North is hungry for war and think it is a solution to their problems... worse, they actually think they can win.
Nobody wins in a war.
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