Korean war tensions high as South rejects talks

North Korea threatened to inflict "a merciless military blow" if the naval war games the US and South Korea launched on the Yellow Sea border Sunday, Nov. 28 encroached on its waters. Hours later, for good measure, artillery fire echoed from the North Korean mainland on the island shelled last Tuesday – apparently from military practices. This added to the jitters in Seoul over the worst incident between the two Koreas in more than 50 years.

Overnight, too, Pyongyang deployed ground-to-ground and anti-air missiles on the border.

Later Sunday, South Korea rejected China's call for urgent Six-Power consultations in Beijing early next month (among North and South Korea, Japan, China, Russia and the US) to help resolve the escalating crisis on the Korean Peninsula. The time isn't right, said President Lee Myung-Bak, refusing to back down – almost certainly after consultations with Washington.

Lee has warned of possible "provocative actions" in the course of the four-day war games, in which 10 warships are taking part including the USS George Washington with 75 bomber-fighters aboard. The South Korean defense minister Kim Kwan-jinis urging a tough response to any attacks by the North  – "We need to hit back multiple times as hard" – and street protesters in the South have demanded action in revenge for the four people killed when North Korea shelled the border island of Yeonpyeong last Tuesday, Nov. 23.

On paper, US-South Korean armed strength on the peninsula outguns North Korea's, especially with regard to high-tech weaponry. The 10,000 sailors, flight crews and Marines aboard the US carrier augment the 28,000 US troops permanently stationed on the peninsula, while South Korea can field 700,000 soldiers backed by more than three million reservists.
North Korea maintains more than a million troops in uniform – half of them women – and 8 million reservists.

It has emplaced 70,000 heavy guns in sites pointing straight at the South Korean capital of Seoul and close enough to flatten the city in hours.
debkafile's analysts stress that Washington and North Korea's neighbors cannot hope to change the way North Korean political and military leaders behave. It is not in the nature of these despots to adapt themselves to Western norms. And they have no compulsion to do so. After all, North Korea is no East Germany to disintegrate and be swallowed up by the South. Pyongyang is propped up by Beijing which will not allow the Democratic Republic of North Korea to fall. 
Therefore, to confront North Korea, it will be necessary to first deal with China, which far from declining, is going from strength to strength, compared with the weakened states of Washington and Seoul.

Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff, offered the view Friday that Kim Jong-II's aggression is motivated by his ambitions to continue to develop nuclear weapons and attract attention as a world player rather than any power struggle in Pyongyang.

Big gun diplomacy is therefore in line with the North Korean dictatorship's mode of conduct and must therefore  be expected to continue.
Its nuclear test of May 2009, the submarine torpedo which sunk the South Korean Cheonan on March 26 causing 46 deaths and the artillery attack on Yeonpyeong represent the tools and norms of Pyongyang's foreign policy, for which it enjoys Chinese support.  In keeping with those norms, North Korea is bound to respond forcibly to the US-South Korean war game, unless held back by Beijing. Not knowing how or when this will happen is putting many world capitals on edge.

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