South Korea said it fired tens of artillery rounds toward North Korea on Thursday after the North launched a shell toward a South Korean loudspeaker that had been blaring anti-Pyongyang broadcasts, as tension escalated on the peninsula.
North Korea did not return fire but later warned Seoul in a letter that it would take military action if the South did not remove the loudspeakers within 48 hours, the South's defense ministry said.
I'm a little shocked that the North Koreans would risk conflict on the DMZ--even a single round--given that the North Korean military has deteriorated so much that a successful invasion of the south is highly unlikely.
And South Korea did not respond with a single round.
North Korean provocations at sea along the de facto border off the west coast seemed like a safer place to push South Korea, preventing an escalation on the mainland. Especially since South Korea has warned the north that they are done with just sitting and taking attacks.
Because if the North Koreans act on their 48-hour warning, and if shooting escalates, at what point might South Korea attempt to carve out a no-launch zone north of the DMZ to protect Seoul, where a quarter of South Korea's population lives dangerously close to North Korean artillery?
And rescuing potential South Korean hostages at the Kaesong Industrial Region could come into play.
And how far might we go?
UPDATE: More. First, North Korea fired 4 rounds while South Korea responded with 29. And both sides apparently didn't aim at anything.
But North Korea ordered its armed forces on to a war footing. Which may mean that their officers break out the war reserve candy bars.
I don't mean to make light of this since North Korea could bombard Seoul and cause a lot of death and destruction, even in a spectacular defeat.
But for a North Korean offensive to work, they'd have to use nukes and poison gas in sufficient quantities that the South Korean army disintegrates to allow the North Koreans to virtually road march all the way south, pausing only to loot shopping malls.
Yet something seems like it will happen--perhaps shooting at the annoying loudspeakers:
The nature of the latest ultimatum was unusual, said John Delury, North Korea expert at Yonsei University in Seoul.
"North Korea is a constant font of generalized threats, but putting a time stamp on it is a little bit different," he said.
But given that we are currently carrying out military exercises with our South Korean ally right now, it is bad timing to start something big enough to draw us in.
UPDATE: Huh. On Friday we have this:
U.S. defense officials say America's annual military exercise with South Korea has been halted as tensions with North Korea spike and Pyongyang issues threats of war.
But on TV, they say the exercises have resumed.
Did we halt them long enough to draw live ammo, or something? Are only some units back on exercise?
UPDATE: North Korea turns it to 11:
North Korea put its troops on a war footing on Friday as South Korea rejected an ultimatum to stop propaganda broadcasts or face military action, prompting China to voice concern and urge both sides to step back.
But what does that mean? Unless North Korean troops are drawing ammo and moving into the field from their bases, this is meaningless.
I assume it is all in the spirit of chest beating and flinging poo since we resumed our exercises--perhaps stopping long enough to determine that North Korean units are not, in fact, going on a war footing.
UPDATE: The deadline passed without incident and the two sides are talking at the DMZ.