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the not-so-demilitarized zone
Scary Signs from the Korean Peninsula

This is not business as usual: South Korea and the U.S. have called off joint military exercises due to soaring tensions between Seoul and Pyongyang. As we reported yesterday, North Korea and South Korea fired artillery shells at one another this week across the DMZ. The North started the shelling, saying it was provoked by loudspeakers placed at the border to blast anti-Pyongyang propaganda into its territory, a tactic Seoul once employed regularly but hadn’t used in 11 years.

South Korea, which argues that it was merely responding to the deaths of two of its soldiers earlier in August by allegedly North Korean landmines, then counter-volleyed with dozens of shells. Nobody on either side is reported to have been killed or injured, but in response to the artillery exchange, Kim Jong-un pronounced the North Korean military on the front to be in “a quasi-state of war.”

As far as any two Asian countries shelling one another goes, this incident is comparatively unsurprising. Tempers, especially on the Northern side, flare up pretty regularly. Incidents of the DPRK firing shells across the border or at South Korean islands, not to mention its provocative missile and nuke tests and its wildly hyperbolic threats, are par for the course.

But this sort of thing does represent a real danger, and Washington and Seoul, neither of whom are particularly apt to bend to North Korea’s whims, are clearly taking the situation quite seriously; the decision to call off the military exercises, which could be antagonizing Pyongyang, makes it look like people in the know think this is more than your average DPRK snit.

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  • Nevis07

    Normally, I’d say just ignore them, but I think there’s more going on than the public is aware. Not that I’m that confident in our intelligence in NK’s activities, but I’ll agree siding on caution may be best – the regime is scared of it’s own shadow, so it’s hard to understand their mindset. Still, you can’t let NK get away with blatant threats even if it mean holding some other type of training drill down the line at some point..

    It would be best if we had a couple dozen electromagnet devices ready to go in case some border guard gets overly anxious.

    • dj

      I’m thinking NK and Iran have those devices about ready for the US. When the US is as weak as we’ve shown the last 7 years, someone will take advantage of that before that “weakness” leaves office in 1 1/2 years.

  • Fat_Man

    Weakness is provocative.

    • Rich Vail

      …and Obama is a fundamentally weak man.

  • Fat_Man
  • JM

    I doubt that the cancellation, or suspension of the exercise is weakness or signaling to North Korea that the US doesn’t want to provoke them. Rather, it’s likely a signal that the US isn’t happy with the way South Korea has handled this whole thing or that they do take it seriously and are repositioning forces as necessary.

    • rheddles


      Chose dishonor again. Bad choice.

  • Kevin

    Kim wants his $150 billion dollars. Why should the Iranians sponsor a couple of wars and then get a payday and not him? It’s disrespectful.

  • valwayne

    North Korea looks at how week and incompetent Obama is, and the way he has surrendered to and appeased Putin and Iran and they figure they can do as they please. Let’s hope South Korea is made of stronger stuff than Obama. However, they need to realize that they are on their own. They can’t trust Obama to do anything but appease and run.

    • FriendlyGoat

      You and the families of 28,000 troops in SK “hope” Obama is weak (or sensible.)

    • ThomasD

      It’s not so much North Korea making an independent assessment of Obama, as it is the Chinese saying to Kim “now might be a good time to rattle the imperialist running dog’s cage.”

  • FriendlyGoat

    The exercises were more normal and needed than loudspeakers absent for 11 years. Somehow SK got a “snit” SK might have avoided.

    • dawnsblood

      Yes. The SKs got in a ‘snit’ after the Norks killed two of their soldiers. How dare they take offense to that and reinstall a few loudspeakers? I can totally see how the North is correct to see those speakers as a total overreaction to the mere deaths of two SKs. We all know they just should have shrugged it off and done absolutely nothing.

      • FriendlyGoat

        It’s not SK that’s in a snit. SK is receiving a snit from NK. The question is why.
        Loudspeakers are a strange response to two deaths.

        Don’t imagine I’m any fan of Kim. But SK either needs to manage him or have a big war. The management of this doesn’t sound right.

  • dj

    Obummer will draw a red line for NK.

  • InklingBooks

    Notice all the trouble spots around the world: ISIS, Syria, Iran, the Ukraine, Eastern Europe, China’s island-building in the South China Sea, and this trouble North Korea. Quite frankly, the world would be better off with Neville Chamberlain in the White House than our current weak and ineffective president.

    And one of those troubles could well be one that’ll lead to a big war. As Winston Churchill said of Chamberlain after Munich, “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.”

    Over and over, Obama keeps choosing dishonor.

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