In a very sharp escalation of tensions, North Korea has attacked South Korea. Both North and South Korea confirm that Yeonpyeong Island was shelled this morning, though there is debate over which country shot first. At least 16 people, including civilians, have been injured in the skirmish, and several buildings continue to burn.
Yeonpyeong Island in Yellow Sea as flashpoint
The Yellow Sea has long been a flashpoint of conflict between North and South Korea. North Korea claims ownership of Yeonpyeong Island in the Sea, though it is generally recognized as a part of South Korea. The South Korean military has been holding military drills in the area. At about 2:30 p.m. local time, North Korea lobbed about 200 heavy artillery shells at the island. The South Korean military responded with scrambled fighter jets and about 80 rounds. Both North and South Korea claim that the other side started bombing first.
Homes set ablaze by North Korean bombs
Several homes and at least one military building were set on fire by the North Korean bombs. South Korea issued a statement calling the attack on civilian areas “inhumane.” In 1953, an armistice was called that halted the Korean War. A peace treaty was never formally signed, though, so the Korean War is technically still ongoing. Lee Myung-bak, President of South Korea, has asked officials to “make sure that the situation would not escalate” while at the same time asking for a “stern response.” This dual-sided response has left a lot of concern over what could actually happen.
Shifting power in the Korean Peninsula
The Korean Peninsula has lived in a state of perpetual tension since the Korean War. This latest volley has left concern that the skirmishes may spill over to the heavily-guarded Demilitarized Zone. In just the last few months, North Korea has been escalating their military and international saber-rattling, with the discovery of a uranium enrichment plant in the country. Kim Jong Il has also recently presented Kim Jong Un as his likely replacement. Either way, tensions between North Korea and South Korea remain high, with a very uncertain future ahead.