Guest Author - Debora Dyess
Live ammo war games will continue as scheduled this week in South Korea, in spite of protests and warnings from North Korea. The Korean Peninsula has been under an unusually high level of tension since last month, when the North dropped as many as 600 shells and rockets on Yeonpyeong Island last month. The island is recognized as South Korean territory, although North Korea claims the island belongs to them.Four people, two marines and two civilians, were killed during the barrage in November.
North Korea threatened war with the South if Seoul (the capital of South Korea) goes on with their scheduled war games, which include land, air and sea manoeuvrers. The South Koreans will be using live ammo. While the war games are being held in South Korean territory, they are within 200 km of the disputed border between the two countries. Naval games began December 20, with helicopters and ships practicing close to the boundary between the two countries. Land and air games begin today.
The Korean Conflict officially ended in 1953, but neither North nor South Korea signed a peace treaty. The war ended in a truce, not a treaty and tensions have been high on the Peninsula ever since. While the US and her allies side with South Korea, North Korea’s only ally is China. The border runs along the 38th parallel, and is marked by rusted, aging signs. A ‘demilitarized zone’ (DMZ) extends 1.25 miles on either side of the border, patrolled on both sides by soldiers. The US has bases in Korea to ensure peace there. Even with all the precautions, there have been several skirmishes over the years between the two countries.
November 23, 2010 saw something new – that’s when the missiles began to fall on Yeonpyeong Island. Because North Korea claims the island, they stated it was war games gone bad. South Korea stepped up to take care of the damage, and tensions grew.
North Korea backed down on their statement that they would attack if South Korea continued its war games. This may be due, in part, to a visit from New Mexico’s governor Bill Richardson. He was in North Korea to talk about their uranium processing plant, which South Korea fears is being used to fuel a nuclear missile program. North Korea denies that, stating that their uranium processing is low-level, good only to fuel a civilian power plant. Richardson spoke to North Korean officials and felt hopeful about international inspections being allowed, although the North has refused such examinations since 2002 and refused inspectors as recently as April, 2010. "The specifics are that they will allow IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) personnel to go to Yongbyon to ensure that they are not processing highly enriched uranium, that they are proceeding with peaceful purposes," Richardson said in Beijing, referring to the North's main nuclear site. "The specifics are that they will allow IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) personnel to go to Yongbyon to ensure that they are not processing highly enriched uranium, that they are proceeding with peaceful purposes," Richardson said in Beijing, referring to the North's main nuclear site “The specifics are that they will allow IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) personnel to go to Yongbyon to ensure that they … are proceeding with peaceful purposes,” Richardson said after his negotiations with North Korean leaders. While this sounds good, the country has a long history of refusing to follow through on deals made with others.
They have, however, apparently decided that South Koreans war games, even with live ammo, are not a matter of concern. They plan to allow the practice to go on without intervention.