South Korea Postures, Threatens “Enormous Retribution” Against North Korea

The damage caused by North Korean artillery fired against South Korean island of YeonPyeong.

North Korea claims that South Korea fired shells into North Korean waters during a routine military drill earlier this morning, although I haven’t seen any verification from non-North Korean press of this claim. Regardless of the inciting incident, North Korea responded with a blistering artillery barrage of the South Korean island of YeonPyeong; the attack appears to have killed two and wounded an additional eighteen, mostly South Korean military personnel.

What’s frightening, if understandable, is that South Korea responded with very strong language. South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak issued a statement calling for South Korea’s military forces to “unite and retaliate against [the North’s] provocation with multiple-fold firepower.”

“As for such attacks on civilians, a response beyond the rule of engagement is necessary. Our military should show this through action rather than an administrative response” such as statements or talks, he said.

North Korea, not surprisingly, responded with equally belligerent statements, that can essentially be boiled down to a Christian Bale’s Batman growl of “Bring it on!”

As expected, United States and China are condemning North Korea’s actions and are trying to reduce tension between the North and the South so that the incident doesn’t escale further. Yet, I’m worried and pessimistic that this will remain an isolated incident given the highly combative tone of both the North and the South’s recent public statements. Thankfully, the United States hasn’t yet altered their military presence or positioning in South Korea, which might further exacerbate tensions.

Basically, I’m worried that this latest incident will devolve further, given the North’s recent demonstration to an American scientist of their nuclear capabilities. The North has always taken the position of attempting to bully the outside world with their military might; they may feel the need to “demonstrate” their military force with openly violent hostile actions against the South, which will necessitate military retribution.

I really, really hope I’m wrong on this. I hope that third party diplomatic interests can talk both the North and the South down from their respective ledges, and to find a peaceful solution. More than 30,000 U.S. troops, hundreds of thousands of Korean troops, and millions of Korean civilians lost their lives in the Korean War. We cannot allow a return to violence and bloodshed in that area.

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