Monday, March 31, 2014

The New (and Dangerous) Normal in Korea


As my colleague J.T. reported earlier today, North Korea and South Korea exchanged fire across their maritime border, the Northern Limit Line (NLL).
As J.T. explained:
“South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency said that the North fired approximately 500 shells into the water near the Northern Limit Line (NLL) between noon and 3:30 p.m. on Monday. After an estimated 100 rounds landed on the south side of the NLL, the South Korean military responded with 300 shells fired from its K-9 self-propelled howitzers. F-15 fighter jets were also sent to patrol the southern side of the border.”
This should be deeply concerning to everyone, not only because of the dangers of this particular incident but also because this is likely the new normal on the Korean Peninsula. As is well known, in 2010 North Korea sunk a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, and shelled the Yeonpyeong islands, which is near where North Korea’s artillery landed on Monday.
South Korea exercised commendable restraint during these twin provocations in 2010. At the same time, it pledged to never be caught flat-footed in the future.
One consequence of this decision was the development of South Korea’s “active deterrence” policy, which I have discussed previously. As South Korea’s Defense Minister, Kim Kwan-jin, explained it, the military is developing “an active deterrence and will build an attack system to swiftly neutralize North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, while significantly improving our military’s capability of surveillance and reconnaissance.”

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