[23rd of November 2010] North Korea has fired artillery shells into the Yeonpyeong island which is recognised by the UN as a South Korean territory. Though the North does not recognise this even though agreed by them in the 1953 armistice. In a firing exchange which involved usage of both nations artillery pieces a confirmed 2 South Korean marines have been killed with over a dozen civilians injured during the exchange with some estimated 200 artillery shells fired with the South firing some 80 shells into North Korea.
North Korea accuses the South of firing first, however South Korea dismisses this and states that they only fired shells in military exercise away from the direction of North Korea. North Korea then fired artillery shells onto the Yeonpyeong island to which the South responded in-kind. Tensions have been growing since the sinking of the warship, ROKS Cheonan (PCC-772) on the 26th March 2010 which a torpedo suspected of North Korean origin fired on the corvette which split it into two and killed 46 sailors. North Korea on the 17th April 2010 denied involvement in the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan. An international panel confirmed the origin of the remnants of the torpedo and concluded it was of North Korean origin.
There has never been a military attack like this fired on land since 1953 since the Armistice Agreement, when on the Korean peninsula when major fighting ended between both Korea’s. There has been international condemnation with Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper stating, he has “strongly condemned” the artillery attack on South Korea on Tuesday while also urging the North to cease in “reckless and belligerent actions.”. The US President, Barack Obama has responded to the attacks by stating in an ABC televised interview, “We strongly affirm our commitment to defend South Korea as part of that alliance”. Furthermore the US President called on China to communicate to Pyongyang “that there are a set of international rules they need to abide by”. The US presently has 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) has quoted military figure heads in saying, “The North will strike back if South Korea dares to invade our sea territory by 0.001mm”, the North has stated. President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea has stated further attacks if North Korea continues to attack South Korean territory.
The US carrier group with the Nimitz class carrier, USS George Washington are to be doing military exercises inside South Korean waters along with South Korean naval ships, such as destroyers, frigates, anti-submarine aircraft and support ships.
North Korea responded in saying it would not allow and would “deliver a brutal military blow” if North Korean territory is violated. (Source: KCNA) China has warned for these exercises to be exceeded with extreme caution and not to stray too close to North Korean territory which might be the trigger that escalates things.
The residents which live on the island (Yeonpyeong) all but around 20 have stayed out of a population of 1,700. South Korea has also stated for journalists to leave the island since it cannot assure their safety especially if relations with both the North and South Korea’s escalates.
China who have not apportioned any blame but have asked for calm, has had Dai Bingguo, the Senior Chinese foreign policy adviser has met with President Lee of South Korea. These talks have come out positive with Mr Bingguo stating that China would try to prevent the situation coming out of hand.