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Thursday, Nov. 25, 2010


North Korea's provocation

North Korea's artillery attack on South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island on Tuesday is a dangerous provocation that must be condemned. The international community should unite and pressure North Korea to refrain from carrying out further provocations. Both Pyongyang and Seoul should exercise self-restraint to prevent escalation.

According to South Korea, on Tuesday afternoon the North fired about 170 shells in the direction of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) set by South Korea in the Yellow Sea. Some 80 shells struck Yeonpyeong Island, killing two South Korean Marines and injuring 10 others. Several dozen houses were destroyed by fire and a number of local residents were injured, two fatally. This is the first time that the North has attacked South Korean land and caused casualties among civilians since the signing of the 1953 armistice that halted the Korean war.

The North launched its attack a day after the South began military drills in the area, which included the firing of artillery in a southerly direction, away from North Korea. The North does not accept the NLL and has set its sea border south of the line.

Pyongyang appears to be ratcheting up tension in the Korean Peninsula to give itself an advantageous position in its dealing with the United States, South Korea and other members of the six-party talks on its nuclear weapons programs. Similarly, in mid-November, the North revealed a new uranium enrichment plant to U.S. nuclear scientists.

One of Pyongyang's motives is to convince the U.S. to engage in direct talks with it and to get Washington to accept the present North Korean regime and guarantee its continuation. But the North should realize that as long as it tries to achieve its goals through military means, its attempts will fail.

Pyongyang also should realize that its provocative behavior runs counter to the interests of China — on which it heavily relies for political and economic support — because China wants stability on the Korean Peninsula. China should do its utmost to pressure the North to behave in accordance with international norms.

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