As if there wasn’t already enough bat snack crazy stuff going on for you to worry about on a holiday weekend, amirite? It was only this weekend when we learned that things were getting back to whatever passes for “normal” on the Korean Peninsula with the reemergence of a very much alive dictator Kim Jong-un. (Well, either that or they built a very convincing, Westworld-style robot to replace him.) But just as that situation began calming down, we started getting reports of gunfire breaking out on the Korean border. Fortunately, it was limited to a single location and didn’t escalate beyond small-arms fire. (Associated Press)
South Korea says its troops have exchanged fire with North Korea along their tense land border.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul says North Korean troops fired several bullets at a South Korean guard post inside the heavily fortified border between the countries on Sunday.
The military says in a statement South Korea fired two rounds in response after issuing a warning broadcast.
Barring some major, unanticipated escalation, this is probably one of those headlines that sounds a lot worse than the actual details of the story turn out to be. North Korean state media still hasn’t commented on the incident, but if the South Korean press is to be believed, this was more of a random event than anything ominous.
First of all, the South Korean border guard post that the North Koreans were shooting at wasn’t even occupied at the time. When the South Korean guards returned fire, they intentionally aimed out into some unoccupied farming fields. The entire area was covered in thick fog at the time, so nobody could really see what they were shooting at anyway. No casualties or injuries of any sort have been reported by either side.
As it turns out, gunfire breaking out along the border isn’t really all that unusual. Back in 2017, Oh Chong Song defected from the North and was shot five times by border guards before making it to safety. (The whole thing was caught on video.) For his part, the defector said he didn’t blame the guards for shooting him and that he would have done the same thing if he were in their shoes.
At other times, the soldiers on both sides of the border have exchanged gunfire for no apparent reason at all. Of course, that sort of duty can get boring after a while so you’ve got to find something to do to pass the time.
As long as these incidents are confined to localized exchanges of rifle fire, we probably don’t need to be too concerned. A more significant matter will be when Kim resumes his ICMB testing. Almost exactly one month ago, Kim supervised the launching of two short-range missiles believed to be of a more advanced variety, using solid rocket fuel rather than liquids. That demonstration came on the heels of some artillery testing on the border.
Kim Jong-un clearly loves to be the center of attention, particularly if he can use these demonstrations to rally the support of his citizens. Now that he’s firmly aligned with China (and increasingly with Russia), he doesn’t need to worry quite so much about the stalemate he’s reached in negotiations with President Trump. In fact, with the world’s attention largely focused on the novel coronavirus pandemic, it’s believed that China has been helping the North Koreans violate the sanctions placed on them by the United States and the UN. In just the past month, Chinese cargo ships have been seen transferring coal and oil from North Korean vessels.
North Korea sharply stepped up trade in coal and oil products last year in defiance of UN sanctions through the apparent help of China’s shipping industry, a UN panel has said.
The annual report to the UN Security Council by sanctions experts went online on Friday and inexplicably disappeared later in the day, with the text itself noting China’s reservations about the findings.
In this depressing era of pandemic madness, it’s nice to see that some things never change, isn’t it? Neither North Korea nor the Chinese Communist Party can be trusted further than you could throw them and we should always keep that in mind.