Escambray & Global Research & BBC World News & Washington Post – 2010-11-25 01:10:54
N Korea Responds to S Korean Military Provocation
(November 23, 2010) — The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea accused South Korea on Tuesday of firing dozens of artillery shells in its waters, a provocation to which it responded.
The KCNA news agency quoted a press release from the high command of the Korean People’s Army, which said South Korea carried out those actions in areas near the West Sea island of Yonphyong at 1300 hours local time Tuesday.
â€¨This military provocation comes from the sinister attempt of South Korea to maintain its Northern Limit Line sea boarder, sending its warships under the pretext of monitoring fishing boats, the note said.
â€¨It recalled that despite repeated warnings, South Korean authorities continued to aggravate the situation in the Peninsula by carrying out the military maneuvers dubbed Hoguk. The North Korean armed forces decided to respond with an immediate and strong physical strike.
â€¨The high command warned it would not hesitate to wage a counterattack if South dares to invade its territorial waters. In the West Sea, the only maritime limit line is the one established by the DPRK, the press release said.
Skirmish between North and South Korea: South Korea Fired the First Shot
Washington’s Blog / Global Research
(November 23, 2010) — While North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is a madman, and while North Korea was the first to kill anyone in today’s skirmish, it was actually the South Koreans who fired first.
â€¨â€¨As AP notes:
The skirmish began when Pyongyang [i.e. North Korea] warned the South to halt military drills in the area, according to South Korean officials. When Seoul [i.e. South Korea] refused and began firing artillery into disputed waters, albeit away from the North Korean shore, the North retaliated by bombarding the small island of Yeonpyeong, which houses South Korean military installations….
And see this.
In addition, the two South Koreans killed were marines, not civilians, stationed in a military town.
Obviously, firing artillery into the water and actually killing people are very different, and I am in no way defending North Korea or its crazy leader. I am simply trying to point out that the headlines can’t be taken in a vacuum.
North Korea Firing: Why Now?
BBC World News
North and South Korea have exchanged artillery fire across the disputed western maritime border. The BBC looks at what might have triggered the incident.
[Note: The critical information is buried in the 10th paragraph â€“ now highlighted in bold print.]
(November 23, 2010) — Some analysts believe that provocative acts by North Korea are closely linked to the leadership transfer under way inside the secretive country. Kim Jong-il — who is believed to be in poor health — is thought to be in the process of trying to hand over power to his designated successor, his son Kim Jong-un.
In September North Korea’s ruling party held a rare congress in which the younger Kim was given key roles in the party and the Central Military Commission.
Analysts say incidents such as the sinking of the Cheonan warship in March and the recent artillery firing are unlikely to be rogue actions by the North Korean military. Rather, they are aimed at bolstering Kim Jong-un’s standing.
“It seems inevitable that it is related to North Korea’s succession,” said Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “(Kim Jong-un) has no accomplishments to his record. But if he can appear to be in charge of a military that is achieving some kind of military success, it would probably aid his succession.”
Former US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill led the US delegation in the six-party talks aimed at resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis. He says the North Korean military is increasingly taking its own orders, and that this latest act was taken unilaterally by the military without “political cover”.
Mr Hill says there are increasing questions over civilian authority in North Korea.
“North Korea is going through a very difficult internal transition. It’s very clear the North Korean military is unenthused about the proposed succession from Kim Jong-il to his son. “There are a lot of problems there and I think we are seeing that manifest in the way they behave to the outside,” he says.
North Korea has in the past sought to raise tensions as a way of strengthening its negotiating position, particularly in relation to the nuclear issue.
Six-party talks involving the US, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear programme have been stalled since April 2009. Pyongyang agreed in 2005 to abandon its nuclear ambitions in return for aid and political concessions. But the deal fell apart over the issue of verification — and in particular over whether or not North Korea had a uranium enrichment programme, in addition to its plutonium programme.
US doubts proved well-founded; In November 2010 North Korea revealed a modern uranium enrichment facility equipped with more than 1,000 centrifuges to a visiting top US scientist. US official said they were stunned at the scale of the facility but not at all surprised that it existed.
Hours before the artillery fire incident occurred America’s top envoy on North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, said that the US could not “contemplate resuming negotiations while active programmes are under way”.
Communications have traditionally been fraught between the North and South Korean militaries and the two have clashed on numerous occasions in the past, particularly in the tense western border area. South Korea recognises the Northern Limit Line, drawn unilaterally by the US-led United Nations Command to demarcate the seas border at the end of the Korean War — but North Korea does not.
South Korea says the shelling began after North Korea sent several messages protesting against military exercises being staged near the island, which lies 3km (two miles) from the disputed maritime border. South Korea began an annual military exercise in the area on Monday.
The South Korean president’s stance on economic aid has led to a marked deterioration in relations between the two sides. Since Lee Myung-bak took office in 2008, the flow of aid has fallen to a trickle. He says that the provision of aid must be linked to progress on denuclearisation.
North Korea relies on aid to feed its people and under Mr Lee’s predecessor, Roh Moo-hyun, received regular cross-border shipments — so the move has hit hard.
North Korea has also been hit by flooding in recent years, damaging harvests, and both United Nations and US sanctions continue to bite, leaving its economy in chaos.
North Korea wants both economic aid and the attention of the US — and has in recent weeks called for nuclear talks to resume, albeit on its terms.
The country has in the past used high-profile actions such as missile launches to position itself higher on the international agenda and refocus attention on it.
North Korea Says 2009 Naval Skirmish Was ‘Planned Provocation’ by South
Blaine Harden / Washington Post Foreign Service
TOKYO (November 12, 2009) — North Korea, which took a beating in a naval skirmish this week, claimed Thursday that the clash was a “provocation” by South Korea to derail recent progress in regional diplomacy.
When naval vessels from North and South Korea exchanged fire Tuesday near a disputed border in the Yellow Sea, a North Korean patrol boat sustained major damage, the South Korean military said.
Repeatedly hit by cannon fire from South Korean speedboats, the North’s aging vessel retreated in flames, with one sailor killed and three injured, according to local media reports citing military sources. There were no South Korean casualties, although one of its boats was hit 15 times.
The North and South immediately blamed each other for violating a sea border known as the Northern Limit Line. But North Korea — an isolated dictatorship that earlier this year detonated a nuclear device, fired a flurry of missiles and repeatedly threatened the South with “all-out war” — is now seeing darker motives behind the skirmish that it apparently lost.
The principal newspaper in Pyongyang said Thursday that the shootout at sea was part of a South Korean “conspiracy” to sabotage “positive signs” for international diplomacy.
President Obama is scheduled to arrive Friday in Japan for an extended East Asian tour that will take him to South Korea, and the State Department announced this week that it will soon send an envoy to Pyongyang to try to persuade North Korea to return to nuclear disarmament talks. It would be the first direct one-on-one US talks with the North since Obama took office. There have also been efforts by the two Koreas in recent months to mend strained economic ties.
Still, North Korea said military forces in the South want to scuttle the progress.
“This armed clash in the Yellow Sea was not some simple, accidental incident but a deliberate, planned provocation by the South Korean military that contrives to escalate tension on the Korean Peninsula,” said a commentary in the Rodong Sinmun, a newspaper that speaks for the government of leader Kim Jong Il.
This face-saving account by North Korea, which reportedly had to tow away its damaged patrol boat, contradicts South Korea’s version of the skirmish. Its naval officers said a North Korean patrol boat crossed the sea border on Tuesday, ignored several warning shots from nearby South Korean naval vessels and fired its guns at a patrol boat from the South.
It was the first such naval clash in seven years. North Korea has complained bitterly for years about the location of the sea border, which was established by the US military when the Korean War ended in 1953.
For months, US and South Korean military analysts have been predicting that North Korea would provoke some kind of fight along this border.
In Tuesday’s skirmish, as in previous naval clashes in 1999 and 2002, South Korea’s navy demonstrated superior hardware and firepower. Its speed boats are equipped with computer-controlled cannons capable of hitting distant targets while bobbing around in heavy seas.
The North’s patrol boats, reportedly built in the 1960s, have cannons that are aimed manually and are considerably less accurate. The boats were about two miles apart during the clash, South Korea reported.
In the North, state media on Thursday said it was South Korea that sent naval ships into northern waters and started shooting. “Our unchanged principle is no forgiveness and merciless punishment for warmongers who infringe upon our republic’s dignity and sovereignty,” said the Rodong Sinmun newspaper. It did not specify how the North would punish the South.
Since the skirmish, South Korean military officials have reported seeing no signs of increased military activity in the North, which has about 1.2 million people in uniform and is often described as the most militarized state in the world.
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