The Korean Skirmish: How Bad Was It Really?

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Smoke rises from South Korean Yeonpyeong Island after being hit by dozens of artillery shells fired by North Korea November 23, 2010. Several South Korean civilians and soldiers were wounded and many others were being evacuated to bunkers on Tuesday, a Seoul television reported. The island is located near the western maritime border between the two Koreas, 11 km (7 miles) from the North and about 115 km (71 miles) northwest of Seoul. REUTERS/Yonhap

Over the decades, it’s proven to be quite difficult to decipher the motives behind Kim Jong Il’s decisions. But one thing’s for sure, experts agree that the North’s attack yesterday against the South’s Yeonpyeong island definitely falls into the spoiled-brat category.

Here, NewsFeed compiles the smartest next-day commentary on the unfortunate incident that took the lives of two South Korean marines.

The New York Times‘ Victor Cha: These provocations… are part of a deliberate strategy to show external strength to the world and its own people as it undergoes a shaky leadership transition. Regimes of this nature do not become passive or nice when they are internally weak. On the contrary, they show belligerence.

(See pictures of the Koreas exchanging fire.)

The Korea Herald: The North’s attack is an obvious act of war… The attack could be seen as the North’s desperate attempt to get the [six-party] talks started and secure economic aid from the South and the United States. North Korea is, for all intents and purposes, an economic basket case… Pyongyang leaders should realize that their blackmail strategy no longer works.

TIME’s Bill Powell: The likely message to Washington from the North is a familiar one: We’re still here, we’re still kind of crazy, and you still need to deal with us…  Beijing, nonetheless, apparently believes everyone should begin talking again anyway. Obama, in short, has no good options — which is pretty much the definition of the outside world’s relations with North Korea — and just how Pyongyang likes it.

(See pictures of a political anniversary in North Korea.)

The Guardian‘s Julian Borger: It’s true significance may have deeper roots in an unresolved conflict over sea borders. North Korean artillery targeted Yeonpyeong island, on the South Korean side of a maritime demarcation line in the Yellow Sea that Pyongyang has refused to recognize since it was imposed in 1953. Yesterday’s barrage was the latest and one of the most serious in a long series of skirmishes along this Northern Limit Line.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Peter M. Beck: Even by North Korean standards it was an audacious attack. South Korean civilians had not been targeted in this way since the North blew up a Southern airliner in 1987, killing 115… Pyongyang’s latest provocation appears to be an effort to rally the public around the regime, as well as a cry for attention from the Obama administration.

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