Thursday, November 25, 2010

Brinkmanship in the Koreas

A U.S. aircraft carrier group involving the USS George Washington, which carries 75 warplanes and has a crew of over 6,000, left Tokyo, Japan for “joint exercises” with South Korea in Korean waters one day after North Korea shelled a South Korean island.

Two civilian bodies and two South Korean Marines were found on the island after the artillery attack, which has increased tension between North and South Korea.

President Barack Obama said the U.S. will “stand shoulder to shoulder” with South Korea.

“This exercise is defensive in nature,” U.S. Forces Korea said in a statement. “While planned well before yesterday’s unprovoked artillery attack, it demonstrates… our commitment to regional stability through deterrence.”

North Korea claims the incident was in self-defense and accused South Korea of firing shells into its own waters, and said that South Korea was driving the peninsula to the “brink of war.”

This is the same area in which the North sunk a South Korean warship in March, killing 46 soldiers. But this is the first time civilians have died since the bombing of a Korean Air passenger jet in 1987.

China, which has long supported Pyongyang as a protection from American dominance in the peninsula, called for “restraint,” while stating a retired Chinese military officer who works in another branch of government now, said that “China will not welcome the U.S. aircraft carrier joining the exercises, because that kind of move can escalate tensions and not relieve them.”

In the attack, houses of people living on the island also destroyed as 170 people were evacuated. “‘We are concerned that a war might break out,’ said Oh Duk-man, who was walking in downtown Seoul.”
“In Young-joo, another pedestrian, called for a strong response. ‘Our government has to react very strongly against North Korea after they invaded us in such a daring way,’ she said.”

Despite the rhetoric, regional powers have made clear they are looking for a diplomatic way to calm things down. Some analysts think that the attack was an attempt by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to strengthen his bargaining position ahead of disarmament talks as he has done in the past.

Jesus predicted that in the last days, “Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom…”