North and South Korea Exchange Missiles Over Naval Dispute

international politics, Politics

Elizabeth Boyle, Staff

         On Monday, Oct. 23, missiles were fired by North and South Korea. The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said that they fired in response to North Korea’s recent and continual missile testing. South Korea also reported a North Korean merchant ship entered South Korean waters on Monday.  Concurrently North Korea fired ten rounds of artillery shells as a warning to South Korea, because North Korea claims a South Korean Navy ship entered into North Korean waters on Monday.

         Vice President Kamala Harris spoke out about the ongoing missile firing by North Korea and expressed the U.S.’s support for South Korea. Harris said, “I talked with the President about it, and it is clearly a provocation, and it is meant, we believe, to destabilize the region and we are taking it seriously, and everyone should.” She continued, “It is destabilizing the region and that is one of the reasons why the visit that I have made to Korea, to the Republic of Korea, is important because it is a statement about the strength of our alliance and our dedication, The United States’ dedication to the alliance in terms of security, prosperity, stability.”

         This conflict arose over the Yellow Sea to the west coast of the Korean peninsula. Since the Korean partition in 1945 there have been many disputes in and around the area. Technically, North and South Korea are still at war and tensions remain strong. In 2010 there were two attacks on Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea and 50 South Koreans were killed.

         The U.S. has military personnel stationed all over the world, including in South Korea. South Korea and the U.S. conduct regular military training exercises and do missile testing to deter North Korea. North Korea states that it does not see joint South Korean and American military cooperation and exercises as a drill. North Korea believes that the two counties are working together to practice a potential invasion of North Korea.

For its part North Korea does very little to dissuade the US and South Korea from continuing their close cooperation. CBS News reported that, as of Oct.23, North Korea had conducted 24 missile tests in 2022. These tests continue to concern South Korea, the US, and other countries in Asia, most notably Japan.

         Isaac Stone Fish, the CEO of Strategy Risk, which is a program that helps corporations and non-profit organizations minimize their risk of exposure to China, talked about how concerned the U.S. citizens should be with the rising tensions between North and South Korea. Fish said, “I don’t think we need to be that concerned. As always for North Korea, the most costs go to the North Korean people. For Americans, the biggest risk is mostly to the 28,00 American troops stationed in South Korea, the troops in Japan and the possibility of an attack on either South Korea or Japan.” Fish speculates that North Korea could be trying to draw attention to themselves knowing that the U.S. has midterm elections coming up.

Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst at the Sejong Institute in South Korea speculated that North Korea knows that the US has a complicated relationship with Russia and China which would make it difficult for the U.S. to work with those two regional powers to find a potential solution for the issues with North Korea. Seong-Chang said, “The South Korean military needs to make thorough preparations to prevent fresh skirmishes from happening on the West Sea and prevent them from causing the worst-case scenario like the North Korean military’s artillery bombardments on the South Korean Border.”         While there is currently no direct threat to the continental U.S. posed by North Korea, US citizens should still be aware of the rising tensions in Korea as South Korea and Japan are valued US allies, and potentially a miscalculation in missile trajectory could cause a North Korean missile to impact on South Korean or Japanese territory. Such a mistake, whether an error or purposeful by North Korea could cause the US and its allies to enact additional economic sanctions or military retaliation against North Korea, igniting a conflict which could potentially injure or kill hundreds of thousands of people

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