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Daily View: North Korea attack

Clare Spencer | 09:08 UK time, Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Destroyed houses are seen after they were hit by artillery shells fired by North Korea on Yeonpyeong Island.


Commentators consider what could have triggered North Korea's artillery attack on South Korea.

Senior lecturer in international relations at the University of Cambridge, John Swenson-Wright says in the Independent there may be an internal reason for the attack:

"[A]t a time when the North has been grappling with weak economic conditions, food shortages brought about by flooding and the uncertainty surrounding the succession process for the young heir Kim Jong-un, the government may be looking to a foreign crisis as a means of shoring up support at home. Conflict abroad can mobilise domestic opinion, reinforcing the position of the military and legitimising a leadership in transition."

In the Times Bronwen Maddox says [registration required] the latest artillery attack comes at a time when the Kim regime struggles to maintain its isolation:

"Life in the North continues to be harsh, plagued by shortages of food and energy. But those living there can now compare their lives with the South, as television and film from south of the border are increasingly available. Those governments who protest - in vain, so far - at the flood of counterfeit DVDs from China washing around the globe might take comfort from their effect in North Korea. Even that regime cannot keep them out, and the films show North Koreans that another life could be - and should be - theirs."

The English language South Korean newspaper the Dong-A Ilbo points the blame squarely at Kim Jong Il, saying the attack was planned:

"The North attacked Yeonpyeong Island after unveiling new uranium enrichment facilities to an American nuclear expert as recently as two weeks ago. Obviously, Pyongyang thoroughly planned and prepared to launch Tuesday's attack.
"The North staged the aggression by protesting the joint 'Patriotic Drill' conducted by the South Korean armed forces from Monday. The South Korean military simply carried out artillery exercises in South Korean waters west of Baeknyeong Island and south of Yeonpyeong Island inbetween the two islands Tuesday morning. Having tried to find an opportunity to blame the South, the North launched the attack."

The International Herald Tribune's editorial says it is difficult to tell why the conflict has come about now:

"It is nearly impossible to know what is going on there, but these outbursts are almost certainly tied to the struggle over replacing the ailing leader, Kim Jong-il."

While Simon Tisdall is more confident in the Guardian, saying there is no mystery behind North Korea's actions as their demands have been clear for years:

"First, the regime wants respect, through recognition of its legitimacy, however distasteful that idea may be. Second, it wants a peace treaty - finally ending the Korean war - that guarantees its territorial sovereignty and banishes the spectre of regime change (they watched the Iraq movie, too).
"Third, Kim wants an end to international sanctions and diplomatic isolation - the monicker of America's chief bogeyman is no longer for him. Fourth, he wants food aid, electricity, financial assistance, investment, trade. Finally, the ailing dictator wants backing for the postulated dynastic succession of his youngest son, a scheme that could yet collapse amid acrimony or worse."

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