Monday, August 24, 2015

The Next Korean War


Here we go again.

After another war of words, and an exchange of fire across the world's most fortified border, the two Koreas appear to be set on a collision course.

South Korea is angry at its unpredictable neighbor's provocations, while Kim Jong Un has placed his front-line forces on a war footing. But haven't we seen this before?

On Thursday, the two sides traded artillery fire over the demilitarized zone -- though no casualties were reported by either side.

Pyongyang hasn't explained its part in the incident, but a statement last week from the state-run KCNA new agency accused South Korea of committing a "military provocation."

Seoul, meanwhile, has accused the North of planting landmines deliberately in the path of its patrols in the demilitarized zone after two soldiers were seriously wounded earlier this month. North Korea has denied the allegation.

And if this wasn't enough, a massive military exercise involving South Korea, the United States and a host of other allies is underway, which North Korea says it views as a prelude to an invasion. It has threatened to retaliate against the U.S. "with tremendous muscle."

This time around, North Korea appeared to shoot at loudspeakers the South had set up along the DMZ blaring out propaganda in the wake of the landmines incident, prompting a retaliation from South Korean forces. Pyongyang had previously threatened to blow up the speakers and warned of "indiscriminate strikes."

North Korea usually responds to "provocations" such as military drills with angry rhetoric and perhaps a weapons test. Messages of impending doom and the firing of short-range rockets or missiles into the sea tend to become routine as the military exercises approach. "Their response is carefully calculated to convey a particular message," said Kwon.

And that message is not always intended for its enemies abroad.

Predicting the secretive North Korean regime's next move is a notoriously difficult game. Though tensions may not reach 2013 levels when long-range rocket tests and its third nuclear test earned it tougher United Nations sanctions. Pyongyang responded by ramping up its threats of nuclear war against South Korea and the United States.

One North Korean government website even uploaded a YouTube video showing an imaginary missile attack on Washington.