In an official statement, government spokesman Hong Sang-pyo called the North's action a "clear military provocation." In the United States, a White House spokesman said President Obama was "outraged" by North Korea's "provocative" action, adding that the nation stands by South Korea.Fortunately, the rhetoric has deescalated from earlier today, when it was more indicative of war than not.
The latest conflict comes at a particularly tense time on the Korean Peninsula, just days after the reclusive government in Pyongyang revealed to a visiting American scientist the existence of a new uranium-enrichment facility, and just weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong Il began laying the groundwork for his youngest son to succeed him.
Over at Night Watch they tell us that this is not such a big deal.
A review of diplomacy, international relations and leadership activities confirms that North Korea is not preparing for war. Its volleyball team just advanced to the quarter finals at the Asian Games in Beijing. Senior officials are receiving foreign diplomats as usual. Kim Chong il and his son were reported on 23 November visiting a plant together and Kim visited two others without his son.I trust this analysis.
The number and detail of the activities show that the North does not expect the shelling incident to escalate. There also are no reports of increased civilian or military alerts in North Korea, which would be mandatory precautions if the North expected or intended an escalation.
But, to the long run, an anonymous analyst had this to say:
The problem is not that Kim JI and his advisors are idiots.And there you have it.
Rather, it is that we have trained them improperly.
Since the 1968 "Assault on the Blue House," when North Korean commandoes tried to assassinate the ROK President Park Chunghee, through various attacks such as the axing of two US servicemen at the DMZ and the bomb that wiped out the ROK cabinet in Burma, to the recent sinking of the ROK frigate, the US and the ROK have not responded.
We have protested, we have corraled international condemnation, we have said mean things to the DPRK, but we have not made it clear that such actions have meaningful consequences.
Indeed, as Tim Hoyt noted, we have even sent food aid (which was promptly seized by the military and the Party leadership, aka Kim Jong-il and family).
If you were the North Korean leadership, and your track record of assassinations and other such actions were met w/ such responses, would you believe that your opponents were going to respond forcefully? Or that they would capitulate, if you were to push hard?
In this regard, it is worth noting how, in one year, we have seen an attack on a South Korean warship, open announcement of a uranium enrichment program, and now an attributable attack w/ land-based artillery. The DPRK is being more and more brazen, not even bothering to try and provide plausible deniability.
I would submit this is an unhealthy trend.
But, for a news cycle it looked terrible.
Regards — Cliff