Another War in Korea?

I've had three people so far email me, expressing concern over North Korea's "attack" on South Korea yesterday, with a limited southern response. It was the most serious military confrontation between the two countries since the armistice ending the fighting in the Korean War was signed in 1953. The island that was struck by over 200 North Korean missiles is not very far from the English Village where I work; perhaps 50 miles.  We are in the northeastern corner of South Korea, and can see North Korea across a nearby river. The EV administration has already sent us an email saying "business as usual;" they are in contact with Korean officials who are obviously trying to stave off concern and panic. At the moment (Wednesday morning in Korea), that's where things stand.

I don't know why, of course, North Korea launched these missiles; they claim the South fired first (not an impossibility), and they are upset that South Korea continues to hold military exercises in the area (something the South has been doing for years). Kim Jong-il is near death; perhaps he wishes to do more, before he dies, than just spit at the South. But, there is greater concern than that. The recent launching of a missile close to the California border is suspicious; are the Chinese (who, in effect, control North Korea), testing the will and strength of the Obama administration? Mr. Obama responded to the attack yesterday, saying he was “outraged.” Only time will tell if he intends more than just words. Or if more than just words are needed. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has replied with some restraint; he warns of strong measures if the North Koreans continue their aggression. We’ll all have to wait and see what happens. I’ll keep you informed from this end, but there is no mass panic yet over here.

Hopefully, the thing will blow over soon. As I mentioned, the Chinese might be testing Obama; I have no doubt that they would be willing to fight to the last North Korean soldier, much as the Soviet Union used the Cuban military at will. But I’m still not convinced the Chinese want a war. They are winning the economic battle with America now, and I can see no advantage to a war. And I don’t think that’s what they want—even a war on the Korean peninsula would gain them nothing, especially since they would have to supply much of North Korea’s military material. But a more frightened America, weakened American markets and currency, the United States taken down a notch—the latter Mr. Obama himself has, in effect, been preaching around the world. Maybe the Chinese are asking him if he really means it. I have no answers at the moment.

Stay tuned.