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NightWatch 20101125

NightWatch

For the Night of 25 November 2010

South Korea: Two civilians were found dead Wednesday on Yeonpyeong Island, the first civilian deaths recorded from the shelling, the coast guard said. Their deaths brought the number of victims in Tuesday's attack to four, including two marines. Eighteen others, including three civilians, were wounded.

South Korea's National Defense Minister resigned over the North Korean artillery attack. The South Korean government announced on 25 November that President Lee accepted the resignation of Kim Tae-young. President Lee appointed is aid Lee Hee-won to replace Kim Tae-young.

The president vowed to boost troops there and on the four other offshore islands. About 4,000 troops are stationed on Yeonpyeong Island.

Comment: Press reports suggest that the island's garrison was not ready, despite its proximity to North Korea. Two self-propelled guns were inoperable. This would be the second serious lapse in readiness that produced loss of life and property under Minister Kim Tae-young. The investigation into the sinking of the Cheonan also found the crew and ship to be unprepared.

North Korea: On 26 November, the Korean Central News Agency published a government warning that US-South Korean military exercises planned to start this weekend would bring the peninsula to the brink of war.

On 25 November, Kim Jong Il, general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea and chairman of the National Defense Commission of the DPRK, gave on-the-spot guidance to newly-built apartment houses and the reconstructed Pyongyang University of Dance.

Comment: The significance of this report is that North Korea continues to project that it is not interested in escalating the offshore islands confrontation and does not expect escalation. Its continuing threats, however, indicate it will fire more artillery if it thinks the South is violating the North's territorial waters.

One of the ironies of North Korean "tough" behavior is that it backfires much of the time. It serves to rivet international attention, but also draws US military forces into a region the Chinese are trying to establish as their sphere of influence and want US out, the Yellow Sea where the exercises, thus far, are to be held.

In the final accounting, bellicose behavior has not saved North Korea from economic collapse and being unable to feed or provide medical care for its people since 1988. Its attempts at extortion have failed.

The aid it obtained from South Korea since 2000 was provided under a deliberate policy to overlook the North's behavior in the interest of stability and eventual reunification. The South has ended that policy, but the offshore islands confrontation shows that the Seoul government does not have an effective substitute for handling the North's bullying.

North Korea yesterday terminated Red Cross contacts, the day after South Korea suspended them. In announcing the termination, the North said the South had closed the last open door between the two countries. This means the North is not interested in talks at this time and especially about the offshore islands.

End of NightWatch for 25 November.

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