Having talked a couple of days ago about military restraint between prickly neighbours (in that case Cambodia and Thailand), and a day after we flagged the west coast of the Korean Peninsula as a possible flashpoint, North and South Korea have exchanged fire in the area, reports say.
North Korea says it was firing as part of an annual military drill, while an unnamed South Korean presidential official told the Yonhap news agency that the South Korean side fired back immediately.
Reuters has a useful snap analysis of whether North Korea really wants a fight:
‘It is trying to signal it is ready to return to the stalled nuclear talks, but on terms set by Pyongyang. The threats against the South, a U.S. military ally that hosts about 28,000 U.S. troops, serve as a reminder to global powers to pay attention to its demands because the North has enough military might to wreck the region’s economy, which is equal to about one-sixth of the global economy.’
The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, has an interesting op-ed by Chung Min Lee entitled ‘Pyongyang’s “Peace” Ploy’. The title speaks for itself:
‘If Pyongyang were genuinely interested in peace, it could abide fully by the nuclear dismantlement roadmap detailed in its Sep. 19, 2005 agreement in the six-party talks, return to multinational negotiations without preconditions, and pledge not to undertake additional nuclear or long-range missile tests.’
And this is a point I’ve raised before – North Korea simply isn’t interested in giving up its nuclear programme. The question now is whether the US and South Korea are willing to be led on another merry dance.