Korean Tensions Heat Up

South Korea threatens "retaliation"

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Since North Korean artillery shelled a South Korean town without warning, tension on the Korean peninsula has been growing at a slow boil. The U.S. is leading the international effort to deter the two nations from escalating violence. But neither side has backed down from the confrontation, with both sides issuing threats and assuming increasingly aggressive postures. Here is where the conflict and the possibility for violence stand today.

  • Under Domestic Pressure, South Korea Threatens Air Strike  The Financial Times' Christian Oliver writes, "Seoul has vowed to use its jet fighters to strike North Korea if it attacks again, making its strongest threat to hit targets in the country for several years. South Korea’s government has faced severe criticism for its weak retaliation after the Pyongyang’s bombardment of a South Korean island last week in which four people were killed." Oliver notes that the threat was made by the brand-new defense minister.
  • Kim's Appearances Suggest No Escalation from North  NightWatch's John McCreary writes, "The Korea Central News Agency reported that leader Kim Jong-il made a guidance visit to three plants and facilities in Tanjon City on 2 December. ... This is Kim's second reported public appearance since the end of the US-South Korean naval exercises. ... The two reports of public appearances, albeit undated, reinforce the image that North Korea remains in a condition of normality and the leadership does not intend to escalate the confrontation over the North's shelling of Yeonpyeong Island."
  • U.S. and South Korea Successfully Keeping Peace  Matthew Yglesias writes that, based on what he's seen in the Wikileaks documents, "The governments of South Korea and the United States of America seem to have been doing a bang-up job for the past several years of managing a difficult situation. ... It;s not going to 'solve' the problem, but it’s protecting the relevant interests at a reasonable cost. And that, at the end of the day, is the job policymakers are supposed to do."
  • ...But Could Use China's Help  Reuters' David Alexander and Arshad Mohammed write, "China's push for new talks with North Korea is no substitute for action after Pyongyang's deadly attack on a South Korean island, and Beijing should use its influence to calm the situation, [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen] said. ... Mullen, speaking at a forum on the resumption U.S.-China military-to-military ties, said the United States looked forward to China 'assuming its responsibilities for global problem-solving commensurate with its growing capabilities.'"
  • Let South Korea Lead  Defense blogger Raymond Pritchett writes, "This public diplomacy approach by Kim Kwan-jin to prevent war will probably be more effective than China's private diplomacy 6-party talks approach given the politics on the Peninsula today. ... Remember, South Korea is leading the political response to address North Korea. There will not be 6-party talks until South Korea decides it is time for 6-party talks, our position on the issue will follow their lead. Because we are following their lead, I am uncertain whether the US will do anything unilaterally unless South Korea approves."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.