Pyongyang calling: Koreas exchange artillery fire

South Korea’s Navy has returned artillery fire towards North Korea after shells from the North fell close to the maritime dividing line in the waters of the Yellow Sea.

­A South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman, Kim Min-seok, has confirmed that South Korea’s army fired three shells after three North Korean artillery shells fell into waters near the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea

The shelling that occurred today near Yeonpyeong Island came as a real surprise to the international community, which truly hopes that there will be no escalation of violence between two Koreas this time, keeping in mind the good progress reached during talks between North an South Korea in Indonesia.

Relations between the two countries have been even more unstable since November 23 last year, when North Korea launched up to 200 shells on to the very same South Korean island, near the disputed border, killing four people, including two civilians.

Yeonpyeong Island lies to the south of demarcation line set by the UN in 1953, towards the end of the Korean War. Pyongyang has never recognized this demarcation line.

The domestic situation in North Korea remains complicated and North Korean authorities might want to show force to a discontented populace inside and the possible enemies outside.

The two countries technically remain at war following the end of 1950-53 Korean War, but the peace agreement has been evading the two sides since the conditions does not satisfy both sides.

The North Korean domestic economy is drastically down, to a great extent due to successive natural disasters, so times are now different and many things are possible, believes Professor Dr. Rudiger Frank from the University of Vienna.

Modern North Korea is also plagued by an air of uncertainty and insecurity as last year Communist leader Kim Jong-il started the succession process with his youngest son, but how exactly he is going to reign remains uncertain: will it be the third great leader or will he be more like a collective one, as is being done in China?

“These questions are being asked by people in North Korea and that creates a lot of uncertainty and insecurity. For such a monolithic system as North Korea is, such questions and insecurities are really dangerous,” warns Dr. Frank.

It is very unlikely that for the time being North Korea will quit its nuclear ambitions because “it is about the only thing they got to keep them involved in the international community, about the only success Kim Jong-il can show to his people since he took power.”

The international community should prevent nuclear proliferation from North Korea rather than further escalation of the process, the professor believes.

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