By Polina Chernitsa
South Korean military exercises carried out close to the border with North Korea have ended without serious incidents. There were artillery salvoes in the disputed waters of their common sea border. The commanders of South Korean military say that the exercises are a standard regular practice, but experts point to the fact that they are held in the region of Yeonpyeong Island, shelled by North Korea in response to the military drills by South Korea in 2010. Four people were killed and 20 other citizens of South Korea were wounded.
The latest exercises lasted for about two hours. A spokesman of the South Korean army has said that the aim of the exercises was to find out the state of combat readiness in that region, as well as how quickly the country’s marines can swing into action in an emergency. He stressed that the drills were routine and were held on the territory of Seoul, adding that any statement by Pyongyang should be considered as baseless. As usual, Pyongyang announced a state of combat readiness of its army, vowing to repel any attacks. The North Korean Committee for a peaceful reunification even spoke about the country’s readiness for a local conflict and a large scale war. Pyongyang usually reacts to the military exercises by South Korea as though the latter is preparing for an invasion. There is a good reason for North Korea to behave like that, says Constantine Asmolov, an expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for the Far East. He spoke in an interview for VOR.
“To a large extent, Pyongyang’s rhetoric is for internal consumption, but it is not a rhetoric of war but that of deterrence. However, South Korea’s military exercises are dangerous. They are not only for the protection of the citizens, but also for other purposes which North Korea interprets as preparations for an attack”, Constantine Asmolov said. North Korea is also concerned with the fact that current exercises are just a prelude to larger ones planned for February 27, in which 20 thousand South Korean servicemen and 2 thousand American soldiers will take part. There was information about a possible postponement of the February 27 drills after the death of former president of North Korea, Kim Jung Il, towards the end of last year, but that has not happened. It is possible that the U.S. and South Korea are using the drills to find out the attitude of the new leader in Pyongyang, says Alexander Zhebin, Head of the Center for Korean Studies.
America and South Korea carry out dozens of different military drills every year . The U.S., South Korea and a number of other countries would like to find out who is holding the reins of power in North Korea now, and one way of doing that is to irritate Pyongyang.
Experts believe that North Korea is not ready for a full scale war at the moment, despite its warlike statements. It is not because it’s weak economically or is afraid of isolation. Beijing and Moscow will not support Pyongyang in an attack on Seoul and besides, the North Korean army lacks the necessary military hardware to execute a full scale war.
Seoul has carried out military exercise ahead of the planned talks between North Korea and the U.S. on February 23 in Beijing, over the nuclear problems on the Korean peninsula.