Joe Biden, October 2008:
Remember I said it standing here if you don’t remember anything else I said. Watch, we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.”
North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells onto a South Korean island on Tuesday, killing one person, setting homes ablaze and triggering an exchange of fire as the South’s military went on top alert.
In what appeared to be one of the most serious border incidents since the 1950-53 war, South Korean troops fired back with cannon, the government convened in an underground war room and “multiple” air force jets scrambled.
The firing came after North Korea’s disclosure of an apparently operational uranium enrichment programme — a second potential way of building a nuclear bomb — which is causing serious alarm for the United States and its allies.
Some 50 shells landed on the South Korean border island of Yeonpyeong near the tense Yellow Sea border, damaging dozens of houses and sending plumes of thick smoke into the air, YTN television reported.
Obama’s red phone rang early this morning. According to CBS News reporter Mark Knoller: “We’re told Pres. Obama was awakened shortly before 4AM to be informed of the North Korea attack on the South Korean island.”
The South Korean military went to “crisis status,” and fighter planes were put on alert but did not take off.
South Korean artillery units returned fire after the North’s shells struck South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island at 2:34 p.m., said Mr. Kwon, adding that the North also fired numerous rounds into the Yellow Sea. Television footage showed large plumes of black smoke spiraling from the island, and news reports said dozens of houses were on fire.
The official North Korean news agency said in a brief statement Tuesday night that the South had started the fight when it “recklessly fired into our sea area.”
“Generated crisis,” indeed: “A North Korea expert at Beijing’s Central Party School, Zhang Liangui, told the Herald that Kim Jong-un was deliberately destabilising the environment in order to mobilise the military and consolidate his power.”
Jim Geraghty on the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s fail: “I can’t believe the president’s personal letter to Kim Jong Il didn’t work.”
This is not the first time the North Koreans have threatened South Korea in the Yellow Sea (also called the West Sea). In August, the North fired 110 artillery shells near Yeonpyeong and another island. And in March, 46 sailors were killed when a North Korean torpedo sunk the Cheonan. Today’s artillery shelling furthers North Korea’s tactical objectives of asserting sovereignty over the West Sea Area. But, more importantly, it furthers the North’s strategic escalating pattern of provocations designed to force the United States and South Korea to abandon pressure tactics, including sanctions on the regime. The White House must not give into these tactics.
Pyongyang’s actions, including this weekend’s revelations of a covert uranium enrichment facility, are designed to weaken U.S. and South Korean resolve and force the U.S. back to Six Party Talks on nuclear negotiations; which is exactly what China called on the U.S. to do after today’s incident. So far the U.S. and South Korean governments have properly resisted North Korean demands and they must continue to do so. That the Chinese continue to abet the North Korean’s tactics should also make us think long and hard about the sort of partner/competitor we face with China.
But this incident is also another reminder of the White House’s misplaced priorities. While Obama spends every waking second using Chicago-style tactics to press for ratification of the New START nuclear deal with Russia, North Korea is running amok. New START offers the US no new tools to deal with Iran and North Korea which are the clear and present danger. Instead, all New START does is tie our military’s hands by limiting our capacity to build the missile defense systems necessary to deal with these regimes. The President should spend less time hawking flawed treaties to justify his Nobel Peace Prize and invest more time in fighting for peace against America’s enemies.