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Narky Norks

February 2, 2010

South Korean navy's floating base.

It seems those zany Norks were at it again recently. The disputed sea border, the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea, was once more the scene of a clash between North and South Korean forces. This particular exchange was a far more muted affair than the naval skirmish of November last year (see here) when a North Korean vessel crossed the NLL, answered South Korean warning shots with direct return fire of its own, and was promptly lit up by the South Korean response before returning home ablaze with one sailor dead and three injured. This time there were no casualties reported. The incident occurred last Wednesday, January 27th, when North Korea fired artillery rounds in the direction of South Korea but which fell into the sea on the North side of the border. South Korea responded with warning shots fired from its coastal artillery and reports suggest these were simply fired into the air with no casualties or damages being reported.

The North said the firing had been part of an annual military drill and firing would continue, but Seoul said the action was “provocative”.

A statement carried by the official North Korean Central News Agency says its drills “will go on in the same waters in the future, too”.

Reuters has a report indicating that (surprise, surprise) the incident is just another means of North Korea attempting to dictate how and when it gets the international attention it demands and for what purposes.

“North Korea may want to return to the six-party talks, but only to ease pressure on itself and gain more economic assistance, which it really needs now,” said Zhang Liangui, who is an expert on North Korea at the Central Party School, a prominent institute in Beijing.

“So North Korea wants to control the pace of contacts with South Korea and the United States. Incidents such as this are a way for it to show that it can control how and when there is any progress,” Zhang said.

Ah, those wacky, attention-seeking bastards. What would we do without them? The Reuters article also mentioned that the recent exchange of fire shat up the markets in South Korea but they quickly recovered. The North’s economy, on the other hand, is thoroughly fucked and more so than usual. There was some comment a few weeks ago of it having “plummeted” but the choice of words there denotes a fall from a great height. “Stumbled the last few steps down” is probably more appropriate.

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