The Crisis in Korea: Rapid Military Escalation, Dangers of an All Out War
by Alliance of Scholars Concerned about Korea
December 9, 2010
ASCK Steering Committee Statement
The armed forces of North Korea, South Korea, and United States stand poised to wage a war that could destroy the Korean peninsula and engulf the world in a nuclear holocaust. It is a war that can and must be avoided.
Last week, a joint U.S-South Korean military exercise escalated into artillery exchange between the two Koreas. North Korea’s artillery bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island killed four and wounded many more. South Korea’s response left an as-yet unknown number of casualties in the North. Now the United States and South Korea have begun joint war games in the Yellow Sea. U.S. forces include the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit based in Okinawa, the 7th Air Force stationed in Osan, and the aircraft carrier USS George Washington based in Yokosuka. U.S. and South Korean marines will stage a combined amphibious landing exercise on the west coast of Korea.
These massive military maneuvers are escalating tensions and threaten to trigger general armed conflict. We appeal to all sides to desist immediately from warlike actions and stop this cycle of ever-increasing threats and shows of force. All parties must back down before sparking a conflict that would threaten millions of lives.
Background to the Rapid Military Escalation
On November 22nd, the South Korean and American armed forces began annual military exercises involving 70,000 soldiers deployed throughout the South, including the West Sea. Fifty warships, 90 helicopters, 500 warplanes, and 600 tanks were being mobilized for the war simulation exercises, scheduled to last until the end of the month.
Amidst the tension heightened by the exercise, South Korean marines on Yeonpyeong Island, just seven miles from the North Korean coast, fired an unknown number of artillery shells into waters claimed by both Pyongyang and Seoul. Hours later, the North Korean military began shelling Yeonpyeong, an island with military bases as well as a fishing community of 1,300 residents. The South Korean military responded by firing its own artillery at North Korean bases.
North Korea’s attack on Yeonpyeong Island left two soldiers and two civilians dead and over fifteen wounded. Most of the civilians have had to flee the island. The number of casualties and the level of destruction in the North are not known but could be higher, given the technological superiority of the South’s artillery.
Immediately following the artillery exchange, President Barack Obama dispatched the George Washington, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, and President Lee Myung-bak announced that the rules of engagement for the South Korean armed forces have been changed, allowing for an asymmetrical response to a North Korean attack. The North ratcheted up the tension with the statement that it “will wage second and even third rounds of attacks without any hesitation, if warmongers in South Korea make reckless military provocations again.” As the US-South Korea joint military exercises get underway, tensions are rising yet higher.
The Imperative for Negotiations