November 23, 2010

Korean War II?

Click to enlarge.
I haven't had a Dictator Watch posting in quite some time, but I probably should have been a little more attentive.  The threat of international pariahs like Kim Jong Il do not just go away because the United States and other Western economies have turned a blind eye.  Being busy with a faltering economy and being preoccupied with a midterm election does not stop foreign despots from busying themselves with suppressing their own people or aggressively attacking nearby nations.

No.  In fact it encourages them to do so.

AFP is reporting that North Korea appears to be flexing it's muscle with some aggressiveness not seen in decades;
SEOUL (AFP) – North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells onto a South Korean island on Tuesday, killing one person, setting homes ablaze and triggering an exchange of fire as the South's military went on top alert.
In what appeared to be one of the most serious border incidents since the 1950-53 war, South Korean troops fired back with cannon, the government convened in an underground war room and "multiple" air force jets scrambled.
The firing came after North Korea's disclosure of an apparently operational uranium enrichment programme -- a second potential way of building a nuclear bomb -- which is causing serious alarm for the United States and its allies.
Some 50 shells landed on the South Korean border island of Yeonpyeong near the tense Yellow Sea border, damaging dozens of houses and sending plumes of thick smoke into the air, YTN television reported.
One South Korean marine -- part of a contingent based permanently on the frontline island -- was killed and 13 other marines were wounded, the military said. YTN said two civilians were also hurt.
"A Class-A military alert issued for battle situations was imposed immediately after shelling began," a military spokesman said.
In what has been an escalation of bravery, Jong Il's regime has become more belligerent since even the incident last November;
The Yellow Sea border was the scene of deadly naval clashes in 1999, 2002 and last November.
Tensions have been acute since the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, which Seoul says was the result of a North Korean torpedo attack. Pyongyang has rejected the charge.
With a visible non-response on Iran from the Obama administration and a seeming disinterest from them on bi-lateral talks (preferring instead the multi-lateral approach of the past), North Korea seems frustrated to the point of trying to fight it's way back into negotiations on its own terms.  Either that or the regime has become emboldened by the lack of response from the United States, figuring they can get away with it now, with a timid or at least reticent President.

What is important now is how the administration will respond.  Responding to an attack is like negotiating with terrorists - it gives them incentive to do it again.  However a non-response will be seen as weakness or disinterest and also encourage more attacks because there will be no repercussions.  Probably the smartest thing for the President to do would be to put pressure on China to pressure the North Korean regime into behaving.  Now if only the President hadn't borrowed all that money from China...

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