Two burnt bodies of civilians in their 60s have been found on South Korea’s island Yeonpyeong, shelled on November 23 by North Korea after South Korea test fired its arsenal as part of a military drill, according to South Korea. It has been reported yesterday that two South Korean marines have been killed and 17 were wounded apart from three civilians. Yesterday, South Korea said that at least 18 people were injured in the attack, as per BBC News.
Homes and mountains were set fire forcing civilians to flee the island for the mainland. The island is situated near the maritime border in the Yellow Sea, which is not recognised by North Korea, which claims the boarder was unilaterally imposed by the UN. North Korea says the island is disputed.
Some analysts are of the view that the recent aggressive posture by North Korea reflects internal political disputes. They say the rise in tensions has to be seen against the background of transition of power, political and military, from Kim Jong-Il to his son Kim Jong-Un.
They analyse that the show of North Korea’s aggressiveness is to appease the hardliners in the North Korean military establishment. It is meant to show that the recently introduced heir of the present leader is ready to show the military might of the North Korea and he is not inclined to budge under international pressures to stall its nuclear programme. If that is the case, the tensions may continue for some more months.
Advantage North Korea
There also significant views among international analysts that North Korea wishes to win some advantage in ongoing, but stalled, six-party negotiations to end the North Korean nuclear programme. This view is shared by many, and even proved by North Korea’s actions, whenever discussions take place. North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are also looked at as part of such a strategy.
It is also said that North Korea was angry at South Korea for postponing humanitarian aid promised to North Korea as part of agreements reached in past negotiations. South Korea had also said it was suspending flood aid to the North in retaliation to the North Korea’s attack. But North Korea said South Korea provoked the attack with its military drill and artillery firing into North Korea.
US’ Military Relocation
The US already has 28,000 military personnel stationed in South Korea. Although the US denied that it had ordered any relocation of its military relocation, a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, having a crew of more than 6,000, left a naval base in Japan for Korean waters on November 24. South Korea said the move was already planned prior to the Koreas’ exchange of fire and has nothing to do with the latest development.
Against the background of the series of developments taking place in the Korean peninsula over the past year, it may be expected that more incidents leading to continuous escalation of tensions will occur in the coming few months until the six-party negotiations are resumed.