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A 'recipe' for war in Korea

South Koreans who were evacuated from Yeonpyeong Island watch a TV broadcast of President Lee Myung Bak’s news conference at a temporary shelter in Incheon on Monday.

Associated Press

South Koreans who were evacuated from Yeonpyeong Island watch a TV broadcast of President Lee Myung Bak’s news conference at a temporary shelter in Incheon on Monday.

U.S., other nations balk at China's request

The United States, South Korea and Japan are all balking at China's request for emergency talks with North Korea over the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, as high-profile military exercises between South Korea and the United States in the Yellow Sea continued in a show of force. Obama administration officials said that a return to the table with North Korea, as China sought this weekend, would be rewarding Pyongyang for provocative behavior, including the North's deadly artillery attack on a South Korean island and its disclosure of a uranium enrichment plant.

New York Times

YEONPYEONG ISLAND, South Korea — The view from this South Korean island takes in the undulating hills of North Korea just 7 miles away and the seafood-rich waters all around — a region of such economic and strategic importance to both countries that one expert calls it a recipe for war.

Violence often erupts in this slice of sea claimed by both countries. Boats routinely jostle for position during crab-catching season, and three deadly naval clashes since 1999 have taken a few dozen lives.

The South's president, Lee Myung Bak, took responsibility Monday for failing to protect citizens from a deadly North Korean artillery barrage on Yeonpyeong Island on Nov. 23. The origins of the attack can be traced to a sea border drawn at the close of the Korean War, nearly 60 years ago.

As the conflict ended in a truce, the U.S.-led U.N. Command divided the Yellow Sea without Pyongyang's consent, cutting North Korea off from rich fishing waters and boxing in a crucial deep-water port, a move that clearly favored the South.

North Korea has bitterly contested the line ever since.

"It is the perfect recipe for 'accidental' warfare," Erich Weingartner, editor-in-chief of CanKor, a Canadian website focused on North Korean analysis, wrote recently.

"The outbreak of hostilities is less surprising to me than the fact that for 60 years these hostilities have been contained," he added.

The Nov. 23 attack hit civilian areas in Yeonpyeong. Two civilians and two marines died, and many houses were gutted.

Normally home to about 1,300 civilian residents, the island was declared a special security area Monday, which could pave the way for a forced evacuation of those who did not flee last week. Military trucks carrying what appeared to be multiple rocket launchers were seen heading to a marine base on the island.

Associated Press

YEONPYEONG ISLAND, South Korea — The view from this South Korean island takes in the undulating hills of North Korea just 7 miles away and the seafood-rich waters all around — a region of such economic and strategic importance to both countries that one expert calls it a recipe for war.

Violence often erupts in this slice of sea claimed by both countries. Boats routinely jostle for position during crab-catching season, and three deadly naval clashes since 1999 have taken a few dozen lives.

The South's president took responsibility Monday for failing to protect his citizens from a deadly North Korean artillery barrage on Yeonpyeong Island on Nov. 23. The origins of the attack can be traced to a sea border drawn at the close of the Korean War, nearly 60 years ago.

As the conflict ended in a truce, the U.S.-led U.N. Command divided the Yellow Sea without Pyongyang's consent, cutting North Korea off from rich fishing waters and boxing in a crucial deep-water port, a move that clearly favored the South.

North Korea has bitterly contested the line ever since, arguing that it should run farther south. But for Seoul, accepting such a line would endanger fishing around five South Korean islands and hamper access to its port at Incheon.

"It is the perfect recipe for 'accidental' warfare," Erich Weingartner, editor-in-chief of CanKor, a Canadian website focused on North Korean analysis, wrote recently. "The navies of both sides protect their respective fishing vessels. Mischief and miscalculation does the rest," he added. "The outbreak of hostilities is less surprising to me than the fact that for 60 years these hostilities have been contained."

The Nov. 23 attack hit civilian areas in Yeonpyeong (pronounced yuhn-pyuhng), marking a new level of hostility along the contested line. Two civilians and two marines died, and many houses were gutted in the shelling.

Normally home to about 1,300 civilian residents, the island was declared a special security area Monday, which could pave the way for a forced evacuation of those who did not flee last week. Military trucks carrying what appeared to be multiple rocket launchers were seen heading to a marine base on the island.

Long-range artillery guns and a half-dozen K-9 howitzers were also on their way, the Yonhap news agency reported, citing unidentified military officials.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, in a nationally televised speech, vowed tough consequences for any future aggression, without offering specifics.

After his speech, Yeonpyeong officials announced new live-fire drills f or today, warning residents to take shelter in underground bunkers. Another announcement later in the evening said there would be no exercise; marines on the island had failed to get final approval from higher authoriti es.

A 'recipe' for war in Korea 11/29/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:25pm]

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