Keep vigilance at seaThree years ago, North Korea fired hundreds of artillery shells and rockets at the inhabited frontline island of Yeonpyeong, killing four South Koreans. It was the first full-scale and blatant attack against South Korean territory since the 1950-53 Korean War, an escalation from the deadly skirmishes in the Yellow Sea in 1999 and 2009 and the Cheonan warship-sinking that claimed the lives of 46 sailors in 2010.
North Korea fired around 170 artillery shells, of which 80 hit the island, killing four and injuring 19, devastating residential and military facilities. The South Korean navy retaliated and killed about 10 North Korean soldiers. The sea border line in the Yellow Sea remains on high alert even today.
The South Korean military established defense command headquarters to protect the Yellow Sea and beefed up its military presence around the sea and coastal region with more K-9 howitzers, missile-equipped attack helicopters and new radar. Troops were also increased by 1,000. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has also kept up his vigilance, visiting and encouraging frontline army bases on the North Korean side across Yeonpyeong Island. North Korea added multiple rocket launchers, surface-to-ship missiles, attack choppers, air-cushioned landing craft and special-purpose submarines around the coastal border areas.
Tensions have escalated due to the heightened military presence and confrontations between the two Koreas. North Korea has even threatened to target and turn South Korea’s presidential office into a “sea of fire” after the South Korean military held a joint army, navy, air force and marine drill around the island to demonstrate assertiveness and defense capabilities in commemoration of the attack three years ago. A military clash may be inevitable if tensions lead to skirmishes.
In order to tone down the military tensions on the sea, it is best to minimize the possibilities of a confrontation and gradually reduce military presence. But North Korea has only heightened its provocations and belligerence over the last two decades. South Korea can only respond by reinforcing deterrence readiness until the North gives up on its provocations and arms race. It’s an inevitable security dilemma. Residents of Yeonpyeong Island still live in fear of bombardment. Our military must keep up its vigilance and at the same time we must continue diplomatic efforts to ease sea tensions.