North and South Korea Exchange Artillery Fire

Posted by Reading Time: 3 minutes

Nov. 23 – North and South Korean forces traded artillery fire today, jacking up diplomatic tension across the region and sending the South Korean won downwards.

Two South Korean marines were killed and 15 South Korean soldiers and civilians were wounded after North Korean forces fired about 100 rounds of artillery at Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea, South Korea authorities said.

South Korean units returned fire and Korean television footage showed large plumes of smoke from the island.

North Korea issued a brief statement accusing the South of starting the fight when they “recklessly fired into our sea area.”

South Korean forces acknowledged conducting artillery drills near the North Korean border but denied that any shells had crossed the sea boarder between the two countries that are still officially in a state of war following the 1953 cease fire that brought an end to the Korean War.

In terms of the financial implications as a result of the shelling, the Asian markets on Wednesday are likely to be volatile, especially in Japan, which is closed today. Seeking to boost confidence, Finance Minister Yoon Jeung Hyun said the shelling would have limited impact on the economy, according to Yonhap News.

North Korea has previously fired missiles over Japanese territory and several Japanese cities remain within close reach of North Korean artillery. The South Korean cabinet are also meeting at present in secure bunkers to discuss the likely impact of the skirmishes on the Korean Won, which is steadily losing value, and the KOSPI 100, South Korea’s benchmark stock index. China and Hong Kong are also likely to take a beating as China is wary of any escalation resulting in a flood of refugees across the border with North Korea should matters continue to deteriorate.

“I suspect this is a one-off action designed to attract attention to North Korea,” said Chris Devonshire-Ellis, a member of the business advisory council for the Greater Tumen Initiative, the United Nations body responsible for the region. “The country fears it is being ignored and wants the United States to return to six party talks over disarmament. It may be trying to accomplish this by creating problems with the South near its borders as we saw earlier with the sinking of the South Korean naval ship Cheonan earlier in the year. North Korea has a habit of utilizing confrontational behavior to gain attention and this latest incident appears to be following that pattern. I would be surprised if this escalates further, although the South Koreans must be feeling rather vulnerable right now.”

One of the immediate effects, although probably recoverable, will be a weakening in the stock markets. The South Korean won may remain depressed for a while, a fact that will almost certainly be noticed by the North Koreans. China meanwhile is urging restraint, and no doubt will be in high-level discussions with the North Korean leadership over this latest skirmish. Such incidents do not tend to sit well with the Chinese either, although their own policy is patience, rather than aggressiveness.

China would almost certainly be called into a conflict with the South, Beijing not especially favoring a reunited Korea backed by the United States, as it brings the United States up against its borders. Neither however does Beijing want to be pressurized by North Korea to provide military support as it would end up in a position against the United States. How China plays its hand with the North Koreans has extensive repercussions for the country.

The likely outcome to all this will be a resumption of the six party nuclear talks, and the provision and resumption of previously suspended aid.

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7 thoughts on “North and South Korea Exchange Artillery Fire

    Chris Devonshire-Ellis says:

    China’s reaction will be one of concern, although the conspiracy theorists may see advantages for China in this action by bringing the US back to the negotiating table. However it seems that isn’t going to happen, at least not just yet. Its a dangerous game of brinksmanship thats being played out here. If the DPRK continue to feel ignored, they may yet provoke further. So far we have a count of
    1 sunken ROC naval vessel with 46 lives lost
    The first shelling of ROC territory since 1955.
    The signs are not good if the DPRK wish to further state their ‘claim’ for being listened too. – Chris

    Name: Mark says:

    I think the countries in the region should develop a common strategy to end North Korea’s missile development programs. What is needed is a concerted effort because the war on the Korean Peninsula would produce massive casualties. Everyone knows that the stakes are very high since the two countries possess technologies with the potential to threaten the rest of the world.

    Chris Devonshire-Ellis says:

    An emergency session of the United Nations Security Council is being held. I can imagine that China’s envoys will find it very difficult on this occasion to again limit sanctions following their role in watering down criticism after the torpedoing of the South Korean warship in March.
    Having supported North Korea for so long, it will be very difficult for Beijing to continue that stance. Yet on the other hand, they want to continue to support the regime as well.
    Apparently North Korea did not inform Beijing that the shelling would take place, however China will be keen to see this is classified as a ‘domestic’ Korean dispute and to try and downplay any significance.
    That however doesn’t seem to wash with either the United States or South Korea, who have announced they will be holding joint military exercises near the North/South border, which is also close to the Chinese mainland . Whether or not that includes a US aircraft carrier or not will be something to note. China has requested that the US does not send such ships so close to its own borders, however given the seriousness of the situation they may be forced to accept this as a result of what the rest of the world appears to see as a failing Chinese strategy and relationship with North Korea itself. If the US do send in a warship so close to China that will make the Chinese military extremely nervous unless the Americans can persuade them otherwise. – Chris

    Chris Devonshire-Ellis says:

    Additional news, the South Korean President’s spokeswoman Kim Hee-jung said after his meeting today with the countries military leaders: “President Lee has instructed [the military] to strike North Korea’s missile base near its coastline artillery positions if necessary … if there is an indication of further provocation”. – Chris

    Chris Devonshire-Ellis says:

    …and the White House has just confirmed it will be sending the aircraft carrier USS George Washington to join Naval exercises off the coast of North Korea (close to China, and against Chinese wishes) from this Sunday. – Chris

    Chris Devonshire-Ellis says:

    Stocks Plunge, Listings Cancelled, Immediate Financial Losses of USD1 Trillion…

    We’ve moved coverage of this issue to our 2point6billion Emerging Asia platform here:

    http://www.2point6billion.com/news/2010/11/25/stocks-plunge-and-listings-canceled-as-korean-artillery-exchange-hits-markets-8061.html

    Heather says:

    This kind of strategy is not very fortunate if the country wants to return to six party talks. On the other hand the United States is aware of the fact that it was a huge mistake to stop talking to North Korea which caused that its leaders were able to develop material in order to create nuclear weapons. Anyway the return to talks over disarmament in the current situation is not very likely to happen.

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