Dispatch: North Korea Shells a South Korean Island

4 MINS READNov 23, 2010 | 17:52 GMT
Analyst Rodger Baker examines North Korea's military action against South Korea on Nov. 23, and looks at the potential reasons for such a strike now. Editor's Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy. North Korea and South Korea engaged in an exchange of artillery fire on an island in the West sea this afternoon. The incident came in some ways a surprise to the South Koreans, it came at the same time the two countries were discussing the exchange of Red Cross officials. Also though at a time when North Korea has been ramping up tensions by revealing its uranium nuclear enrichment programs and a satellite photos are showing potential activity around North Korea's nuclear test sites. The attack happened along the so-called Northern limit line this is the extension of the demilitarized zone into the West Sea. It's a line that the North Koreans have never accepted. What the line does it runs along a series of five islands that basically hems in North Korea and hems in its southern ports particularly the deep water port of Haeju. The attack took place while South Korea was carrying out exercises in the area exercises that the North Koreans claimed were provocations. It's not entirely unusual for the North Koreans to carry artillery exercises in the area and fire into the seas, it's extremely unusual for the North Koreans to actually fire on the South Korean islands. There were at least two deaths, several injuries both of military officials and of the civilians who live on the island were mostly fishermen. South Korea's carried out a somewhat measured response. President Lee Myung-bak has told South Korean military officials that they should respond firmly but not escalate the situation. The South Korean military has suggested that if North Korea continues to carry out activities of this sort it may result in South Korean strikes against North Korean missile facilities in the southern coast and then we would be moving into a new area of escalation between the two Koreas. There's a lot of questions as to why North Korea decided to escalate to this level. Similar to the sinking of the ChonAn we now have them shelling directly onto South Korean islands, onto South Korean territory. This is a change in behavior, it's activity that we haven't really seen since about the 1980s in what North Korea does. A some of this may be linked to the ongoing leadership change when Kim Jong-Il finally consolidated power North relaunch the Tapedong and that was the way of Kim displaying to the world that he was strong and coming into power from a position of strength. There's been some expectation that Kim Jung-Un as heir apparent is going to do something similar. Although most of that is focused on a potential nuclear test. These types of military escalations may reflect some disagreements within the North Korean leadership. As to how best to engage with the South, they may reflect a concern within some element of the North Korean leadership that as you have a transition some individuals are going to be losing power. One of the things when Kim Jung-Il took over was we saw massive purges we're already hearing reports of purges with Kim Jung-Un taking over and there may be some sort of power play going on.

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