On Tuesday November 23, 2010 at 2:30 PM (14:30) North Korea’s aggressive move led to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to call for an “enormous retaliation,” however the international community has urged restraint. North Korea launched a deadly attack Tuesday on Yeonpyeong Island in the disputed waters along the border of the two Koreas killing two South Korean Marines, two civilians, while injuring 18 others. The artillery attack against the civilian population of Yeonpyeong (an Island of 1,500-1,800 people) has reportedly set fire to between 60 to 70 homes and sent people seeking shelter in underground bunkers. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency has quoted President Lee Myung-bak as saying, “The provocation this time can be regarded as an invasion of South Korean territory,” as he address his Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Clip Courtesy of CNN.
Initial reports stated the skirmish lasted about an hour with the North firing 200 artillery rounds, however later reports state that between 80 to 100 rounds were fired. South Korean forces retaliated with at lease 80 artillery rounds and scrambled two F-16 fighter jets to counter the attack, but the extent of damage in North Korea is unknown. North and South Korea are technically still at war due to a very weak armistice and not an actual peace treaty. Under the armistice the rules of engagement limits South Korea’s reaction in order to avoid being pulled further into a full fledge conflict with the North. According to the Yonhap news agency the South Korean military has been under fire by politicians for the “slow and inadequate” response to Tuesdays attack. The death of two civilians has been the first since the end of the Korean War in 1953 and has leaders in the south taking another look at the current rules of engagement because there has been no plan for reaction in the event civilians are attacked. Proposed new rules of engagement would require the South Korean military to immediately launch a counter strike with the same class of weapons used by the North in the event an attack occurs on a civilian population. Such changes to the combat manual are subject to a consultation with U.S. forces based in South Korea.
Clip Courtesy of CNN.
There are roughly 28,000 American military personnel stationed in South Korea and they would be greatly affected by any such changes in the rules of engagement. In a video conference call with Gen. Walter Sharp, the top commander of U.S. forces in the region, President Lee expressed his concerns and the need to revise the current rules of engagement. The response from around world has been that of disappointment of North Korea’s actions. Japan’s Chief Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said in a statement “The artillery attack carried out by North Korea today was unpardonable and the Japanese government strongly condemns North Korea.” Indonesian Foreign Minister R.M. Marty M. Natalegawa expressed his nation’s concerns in the following statement, “Indonesia calls on both sides to immediately cease hostilities, exercise maximum restraint and avoid further escalation of tension.” According to CNN, Russia’s Interfax news agency said Russia condemned the attack in the following statement, “those who initiated the attack on a South Korean island in the northern part of the inter-Korean maritime border line assumed enormous responsibility.” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei took the light-footed approach and said “Relevant facts need to be verified and we hope both parties make more contributions to the stability of the peninsula.”
Clip Courtesy of CNN.
Many are on edge after Tuesdays attack and In light of recent events such as North Korea’s uranium enrichment program and the March 26 sinking of the South Korean “Cheonan” warship, which killed 46 sailors. As South Korea strengthens it’s military posture in the region, the North has vowed more attacks if the South continues military provocation. The aircraft carrier USS George Washington has left Japan and will engage in joint military exercises with South Korean forces as a display of force, which will hopefully deter further escalation in the region.
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