Mark Linnhoefer – On Thursday South Korea shot a few dozen shells into North Korean territory in response to a projectile aimed at the South Korean province Gyeonggi, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry.
The US believes that the projectile was aimed at a South Korean loudspeaker and that Seoul responded with 36 artillery shells. North Korea had threatened during the weekend that it would blow up the speakers which were put up by Seoul earlier this month when two South Korean soldiers were heavily injured in the demilitarized zone by tow landmines. The South accuses the North of having planted these mines. US officials were quoted as saying that the United States government also believes that North Korea purposefully planted the mines. Pyonyang denies these allegations and states that the South Korean loudspeakers constitute a “direct action of declaring a war”.
Since the Korean War in 1950, the two parts of Korea have technically been at war as there was only a rather unsuccessful truce and no treaty. There have been armed conflicts to greater or lesser extent in regular intervals since the fifties, with three deadly naval battles in 1999, 2002, and 2009. The latest altercations took place in two strategically important points: In November 2010, an island both countries claim ownership to was attacked by North Korea, killing two South Korean marines; and in October 2014, two patrol boats in the Yellow Sea exchanged fire, followed a few days later by a shoot-out on land as North Korean troops tried to blow up Sputh Korean communication balloons.
As Pyongyang has announced that “indiscriminate strikes” will follow and Seoul has said that “harsh” measures will result from the landmine incident, the Pentagon is keeping a close eye on the escalating situation in Korea, hoping that it will not deteriorate to bloodshed.