Tensions Rise in Korea

Daily News Article   —   Posted on May 24, 2010

Note: This article is from the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

Wreckage of the South Korean naval ship Cheonan is salvaged by a giant offshore crane.(by Peter Foster in Beijing and Julian Ryall in Tokyo, Telegraph.co.uk) – Tensions have escalated sharply on the Korean Peninsula, where the sinking of a South Korean warship [by the North Korean military] has created a “highly precarious” situation, increasing the risk of a flare-up in the 60-year old conflict, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, warned on Monday.  [Photo at right:  the wreckage of the South Korean naval ship Cheonan is salvaged by a giant offshore crane.]

Her remarks came hours after South Korea announced it was cutting off all trade with the North in retaliation for the deliberate sinking of the [South Korean naval ship] Cheonan in March and vowed “immediate” retaliation if North Korean attempted further provocations.

“We are working hard to avoid an escalation of belligerence and provocation,” Mrs. Clinton said while on a two-day visit to China. “This is a highly precarious situation that the North Koreans have caused in the region.”

In Washington, President Barack Obama threw his full support behind Seoul’s decision and ordered his military commanders to work closely with their South Korean counterparts to “ensure readiness and deter aggression”.

In Beijing, Mrs Clinton engaged in “very intensive consultations” with the Chinese government in a bid to win international support for punitive measures against Pyongyang.

As tensions in the region rose, the US was reported to be forward-deploying a unit of its state-of-the-art F-22 Raptor ground-attack aircraft to Japan before the end of the month, which could be over North Korea within minutes in the event of conflict.

It is also understood that Japan was persuaded to change its mind over the closure of a controversial U.S. air base in Okinawa in part because of Washington’s arguments that the base was essential for deploying US marines to North Korea’s nuclear facilities in the event of the regime’s collapse.

Less than a week after an international inquiry found North Korea responsible for torpedoing the [South Korean warship] with loss of 46 lives, South Korea’s president Lee Myung-bak, announced a package of reprisals in a sombre televised address from the country’s war memorial.

“From now on, (South) Korea will not tolerate any provocative act by the North and will maintain the principle of proactive deterrence,” Mr Lee said in a nationally televised speech delivered from the country’s war memorial.

“If our territorial waters, airspace or territory are violated, we will immediately exercise our right of self-defense.”

Mr Lee, who last week said the sinking was a breach of the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War, confirmed that Seoul will now refer the matter to the United Nations.

North Korea’s near-bankrupt economy is already reeling from the impact of UN sanctions imposed last year after the illegal testing of a ballistic missile and a second nuclear device, with defectors reporting rising food shortages and growing discontent among the population.

Analysts said that Mr Lee’s response – which exempted the joint Kaesong industrial complex and aid for North Korean children – appeared to be carefully calibrated, avoiding direct mention of Kim Jong-il himself.

However, Mr Lee said the South was no longer prepared to turn the other cheek in the face of North Korean provocations, as it had in the past after a 1983 bombing in Myanmar aimed at Seoul’s then-president and the downing of a South Korean airliner in 1987, which killed 115 people.

“Now things are different. North Korea will pay a price corresponding to its provocative acts,” said President Lee. He added: “North Korea’s goal is to instigate division and conflict. It is now time for the North Korean regime to change.”

The South’s capital and stock markets dipped slightly on the news, with the won [Korean currency] falling more than two per cent to an eight-month low in early trading, though later recovered a little, as traders appeared to signal that the situation was not yet sufficiently grave to trigger capital flight.

Information appearing on telegraph.co.uk is the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium without licence. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from the Telegraph. Visit the website at telegraph.co.uk. 

Questions

1.  Define the following words as used in the article:

precarious (para. 1)
provocations (para. 2)
belligerence (para. 3)
deter, aggression (para. 4)
punitive (para. 5)
reprisals (para. 8)
proactive, deterrence (para. 9)
defectors (para. 12)

2.  Name the capitals and the leaders of North Korea and South Korea.

3.  What action is South Korea taking against North Korea because of North Korea’s deliberate torpedoing of a South Korean naval ship?

4.  What is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attempting to do in Beijing?

5.  What military preparations is the U.S. military making?

6.  What warning did President Lee give about North Korean aggression?

7.  Watch the video under “Resources” below.  What do you think of Forbes’ Gordon Chang’s comments about North Korea?


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Background

North Korea on Sunday threatened to “crush” South Korea and said the report was an “enormous fabrication” designed to justify an invasion of the North in collaboration with the U.S. (from an AP article at the Washington Times, 5.24.10)

ON KOREA: (from the CIA World FactBook)

  • An independent kingdom for much of its long history, Korea was occupied by Japan in 1905 following the Russo-Japanese War. Five years later, Japan formally annexed the entire peninsula. Following World War II, Korea was split with the northern half coming under Soviet-sponsored Communist domination.
  • After failing in the Korean War (1950-53) to conquer the US-backed South Korea (Republic of Korea – ROK) by force, North Korea (DPRK), under its founder President Kim Il Sung, adopted a policy of ostensible diplomatic and economic “self-reliance” as a check against excessive Soviet or Communist Chinese influence.
  • North Korea demonized the US as the ultimate threat to its social system through state-funded propaganda, and molded political, economic, and military policies around the core ideological objective of eventual unification of Korea under Pyongyang’s control.
  • Kim’s son, the current ruler Kim Jong Il, was officially designated as his father’s successor in 1980, assuming a growing political and managerial role until the elder Kim’s death in 1994.
  • After decades of economic mismanagement and resource misallocation, North Korea since the mid-1990s has relied heavily on international aid to feed its population while continuing to expend resources to maintain an army of approximately 1 million.
  • North Korea’s history of regional military provocations, proliferation of military-related items, and long-range missile development – as well as its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs and massive conventional armed forces – are of major concern to the international community. [Kim Jong-il is an oppressive dictator who forces his people to call him “Dear Leader”]

Resources

Go to worldatlas.com for a map of Asia.

Read more about North Korea and South Korea at CIA World FactBook. (NOTE: Both countries are listed under Korea.)

For a clear explanation of the history of North Korea’s nuclear program, read John Podhoretz’s commentary at NYPost.com.

Watch a news report on the North/South Korean conflict below: