A few days ago I received a warning from the U.S. Embassy in Seoul as part of their emergency warning system to U.S. citizens who are enrolled in the program. The email’s subject line is “Announcement of One-Day Military Firing Exercise in Northwest Islands Off the Coast of Korea Between Dec. 18-21, 2010.”
Yes, it seems that South Korea is going to conduct live-fire exercises on the same island that was attacked by the North a few weeks ago. The email goes on to say:
This warden message is being issued in response to the announcement on December 16, 2010, by the Government of the Republic of Korea that it will “hold a one-day live-fire drill on Yeonpyeong Island between Dec. 18 and 21.” The Embassy does not assess that there has been an increase in the threat environment in South Korea.
Given the increased tensions since the North Korean shelling of Yeonpyeong Island on November 23, 2010, it is understandable that U.S. citizens would be concerned regarding the security situation on the Korean Peninsula. However, the Embassy reminds U.S. citizens in the Republic of Korea that military training exercises are routinely conducted throughout South Korea throughout the year, to include civil defense drills normally held eight (8) times a year. U.S. citizens should stay informed through local media about upcoming military exercises and civil defense drills that sometimes occur at short notice and for which the Embassy will not routinely provide advance notification. The Embassy continues to closely monitor the current situation. Should the security situation change, the Embassy will update this warden message.
Now, South Korea, which claims the island as part of its territory, has every right to conduct the drill, but I thought at the time that it would be a very provocative action. Sure enough, there are many reports, including this one from the Wall Street Journal, that quote North Korean officials as saying that it will “attack South Korea more violently than it did last month if Seoul proceeds with plans to test-fire artillery from the island Pyongyang shelled.” Most South Korean and American officials are downplaying the likelihood of that happening, but who knows about the crazies up north.
Since today is the 18th, we’ve got about 4 days to see how this plays out. Stay tuned for more.