Almost four weeks after North Korea shelled a South Korean island and killed a number of civilians, they have threatened to retaliate even further if South Korea proceeds with a military exercise. The threat heightens tensions on the Korean Peninsula and may put even more pressure on China to rein in its client state:
North Korea said on Friday it would strike again at the South if a live-firing drill planned by Seoul on a disputed island went ahead, with an even stronger response than last month’s shelling that killed four people.
North Korean official news agency KCNA said the “intensity and scope” of its retaliation will be worse if the Seoul goes through with its announced one-day live-fire drills sometime between Saturday and Tuesday on Yeonpyeong Island.
Pyongyang responded to similar drills on November 23rd with the shelling of the same island. North Korea claims the island as its own, although it has been internationally recognized as part of the Republic of Korea. The difference comes from the UN-brokered demarcation line in the Yellow Sea and a 1999 declaration by Kim Jong-il’s regime that moved the line significantly to the south. That allowed Pyongyang to claim ownership of Yeonpyeong as well as two other islands internationally recognized as under the sovereignty of Seoul.
The question will be what China does about its tinpot-dictatorship client. The Wikileaks cables suggest that China has lost enthusiasm for Kim and his regime, but they also don’t want to precipitate a collapse that will send millions of refugees across the border, either. China has already responded that the US needs to partner with them to “reduce tensions,” but it’s Kim that is firing the shells, not the US or Seoul.
That may not last much longer, either. After the previous attack, the first in decades on the South, Seoul promised an “enormous retaliation” against Pyongyang, which sets the stage for a war that may well go nuclear. No one but Kim wants that outcome, but if he keeps raining shells on the South, a war may be inevitable. Since China will suffer the most consequences from such a war (after the two principals, of course), they should be pressed to use their influence and power to upend the Kim regime as soon as possible and find someone else to run the benighted northern dictatorship.