North Korea continues to threaten harsh retaliation towards South Korea if they continue with planned live-fire artillery drills on a front-line island the North bombed last month, saying it would hit back even harder than in the previous attack that killed four South Koreans.
South Korea has said it plans one-day, live-fire drills sometime between Saturday and Tuesday on Yeonpyeong, a tiny island that is home to fishing communities and military bases and sits just seven miles (11 kilometers) from North Korean shores. Seoul says the drills' timing will depend on weather and other factors and, despite the North's threats, the exercises will go ahead as planned.
A senior North Korean military official said in comments carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency that if South Korea goes ahead with more drills on Yeonpyeong, "unpredictable self-defensive strikes will be made."
"The intensity and scope of the strike will be more serious than the Nov. 23 (shelling)," the North said in the notice that was sent to South Korean military officials Friday. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's government has faced stinging criticism that his military was unprepared for the attack and reacted too slowly and too weakly. He has since replaced his defense minister and vowed to boost troops and weapons on islands along the Koreas' disputed western sea border.
South Korea's Defense Ministry said Friday that the North's threats wouldn't stop the planned drills. Seoul has said they are part of "routine, justified" exercises and has warned that it is prepared to deal with any North Korean attack. Representatives of the American-led U.N. Command that oversees the armistice that ended the Korean War will observe the drills.
The tough words from the Koreas came as a high-profile U.S. state governor visited North Korea on Friday.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has frequently been an unofficial envoy to the North, said he wanted to visit the North's main nuclear complex and meet with senior officials during his four-day trip, though details of his schedule were unclear. He said ahead of the visit that he expected to get some sort of message from the North.
"My objective is to see if we can reduce the tension in the Korean peninsula," Richardson said at the airport in Pyongyang, according to Associated Press Television News.
Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, voiced worry of a potential chain reaction of firing and counter-firing if the drill is misunderstood or if North Korea reacts negatively.
"What you don't want to have happen out of that is for us to lose control of the escalation," he told reporters at the Pentagon. "That's the concern."
My concern is that the Administration continues to fumble through this crisis, sending Bill Richardson to do their talking. Again, (see previous article below dated Dec. 13th) I ask-why Bill Richardson?
To me, this appears amateurish on the part of Obama & Co., and again I wonder what the North Koreans think of these lackadasical moves on the part of the Administration.
Moreover, I wonder what South Korea thinks?
Americans shed our own precious blood beside our South Korean allies in years of deadly combat against the North Koreans and Chinese.