2/21/2011 01:34:00 p.m.

North Korea Prepares For Third Nuclear Test

A source in the ROK government has stated that North Korea will be ready to carry out its third nuclear test in April 2011.

A new tunnel is currently being dug at the North Korean Punggye-ri nuclear test centre, where North Korea conducted nuclear bomb tests in October 2006 and May 2009. The L-shaped tunnel is currently 800 m deep and, since it must be 1 km deep before it will be ready for a nuclear test, should be ready for testing by April 2011.

The DPRK's nuclear testing has been a source of huge contention in the Korean Peninsula, with implications not only for North-South relations but also international security. In January US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said that North Korean would possess the ballistic missile capabilities to threaten the United States. Japan is particularly threatened by the DPRK's nuclear proliferation due to their geographical  proximity and lingering bitterness over Japan's pre-1945 occupation of Korea.

2003 saw the initiation of the Six-party talks - a series of meetings aimed at addressing and finding a resolution to North Korea's nuclear proliferation. However, due to North Korea's lack of cooperation and brazen continuation of testing - particularly the very public launch of two long range Taepodong-2 missiles in 2006 - mean the talks have yet to make any significant progress.

2/16/2011 11:31:00 p.m.

North Korean Defector Crosses DMZ On Foot

The DMZ is constantly guarded and under heavy surveillance by both sides
A North Korean man has successfully crossed the Demilitarized Zone and defected to the South.

The man, judged to be in his early 20s, crossed the border around 120 miles northeast of Seoul before he was spotted by South Korean soldiers at a DMZ guardpost.

This marks the first defection across the border since March 2010, when a KPA soldier crossed the border to the South.

No doubt the question on the KPA generals' minds is how the man managed to walk across one of the world's most heavily guarded and militarized borders in the world without being caught.

2/15/2011 08:03:00 p.m.

Kim Jong-il Turns 69 and 70

Today is 16th February Korean local time and Kim Jong-il celebrates both his 69th and 70th birthdays. However with inter-Korean diplomacy continually breaking down; the recent major incidents regarding the ROKS Cheonan and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island; as well as his deteriorating health, it is unsure what the next few years will bring for the North Korean dictator.

Kim Jong-il was born on 16th February 1941, but this was officially changed to 1942 for publicity reasons to keep an even 30 year age difference between him and his father, Kim Il-sung.

There has been much speculation over the dictator's health, as he had heart surgery in 2007 and has suffered several strokes in the last 4 years. A statement released by Wikileaks in 2010 also reported that he suffers from epilepsy. Kim himself, likely aware of his age and deteriorating health, has apparently already appointed an heir-apparent - Kim Jong-un, his youngest son, who is a general in the KPA.

Despite his probable frailty, it is certain that Pyongyang in particular will be a source of much merriment tonight as the Kim and his acolytes celebrate lavishly in private while festivals are thrown for the North Korean public to demonstrate their respect and joy for their Dear Leader.

2/09/2011 04:08:00 p.m.

Peace Talks Break Down

The Joint Security Area within the Korean DMZ
After two days of talks within the DMZ Joint Security Area near Panmunjeom, North Korean officials walked away from negotiations at 2:40pm with little progress made. North Korea has continued to deny responsibility for the sinking of the Cheonan, and no date been set for further negotiations.

These talks arranged after a letter was sent from the North Korean government to the South Korean government last week proposing the initiation of talks on 8th February between the two states.

Ever since the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan in March 2010, relations between the DPRK and ROK had broken down. Although the ROK government was adamant that the success of the negotiations would revolve around North Korea admitting responsibility for the Cheonan sinking, the talks represented what many saw as a chance for a fresh start for diplomacy in the Korean Peninsula.

2/07/2011 12:14:00 a.m.

North Koreans Arrive at Yeonpyeong Island

Yeonpyeong Island was the site of yet more North Korean 'arrivals' today

However this time it was not artillery shells that were landing, but people.

31 North Korean civilians arrived at Yeonpyeong Island via fishing boat on Saturday, Korean local time. The new arrivals were all promptly transported to Incheon, mainland South Korea, for questioning.

Early reports from an anonymous source within the ROK government suggested that the North Koreans wished to defect. However, the government later released an official statement declaring that the North Koreans had not expressed any desire to defect.

How the North Koreans managed to travel across the Northern Limit Line unscathed is currently a topic of great interest for South Korean authorities.

2/05/2011 06:18:00 p.m.

N. Korea Proposes Fresh Diplomacy

2010 was certainly a notable year for North-South Korean tensions:

In March, South Korea accused the North of sinking the ROKS Cheonan. Then in November North Korean forces bombarded the South Korean settlement on Yeonpyeong Island.

After the sinking of the Cheonan, North Korea responded to the South's sanctions by severing all communication between the countries, and revert back to a de facto state of military stand-off along the border. In May the North announced its decision to disregard an inter-state agreement aimed at avoiding naval clashes with South Korea.

So really it's little wonder that there hasn't been much dialogue between the two states these past few months...

However, today Pyongyang sent a letter to Seoul proposing the initiation of fresh diplomacy between the two countries. North Korean sources state that mutual trust and reconciliation are vital in order to "defuse the acute situation of the Korean Peninsula".

The South Korean government has stated that the success of the talks will revolve around whether or not North Korea will accept responsibility for not only the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, but also the contested sinking of the ROKS Cheonan

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on 8th February within the DMZ's Joint Security Area.

2/04/2011 05:06:00 p.m.

Coming Soon

Daily political/military updates coming soon, I promise.

In the meantime, check out the new pages on the history of the conflict up until now.

I also included a glossary for the educationally inquisitive and the downright dumb...

2/04/2011 02:32:00 p.m.

North-South Korean Relations 1953-2010

February 1958 - A South Korean airliner is hijacked by North Korean agents and flown to Pyongyang. 28 crew and passengers were released in March, though 8 passengers stayed in the North.

April 1965 - A US reconnaissance plane is attacked and damaged by two North Korean MiG-17s in the Sea of Japan, just 50 miles from the North Korean shore.

1966-1969 - The Korean DMZ Conflict/Second Korean War: Numerous skirmishes in the DMZ result in 299 ROKA, 397 KPA and 43 US soldiers killed.

17th January 1968 -The Blue House Raid: 31 North Korean commandos secretly cross the DMZ on a mission to assassinate ROK President Park Chung-hee. While attempting to infiltrate the presidential residence, The Blue House, a firefight broke out with South Korean police and the commandos retreated back to the DMZ. 66 South Koreans, 3 Americans and 28 North Korean commandos were killed.

January 1968 - US Navy Research ship USS Pueblo is illegally captured by the North Korean navy in the Sea of Japan. One US sailor is killed during the attack. The remaining 83 crew members were later released in December, though the USS Pueblo remains in North Korean custody.

October-November 1968 - Around 130 North Korean commandos land on the eastern shore of South Korea with the intention of attacking the ROK government. After being discovered around 110 were killed, 7 were captured, and 13 escaped back to North Korea. 20 South Koreans were also killed.

March 1969 - A South Korean police officer is killed during a KPA coastal raid in Gangwon-do. Seven US soldiers are also killed in the DMZ.

April 1969 - A US reconnaissance plane is shot down 90 miles east of North Korea, killing 31 crew members.

November 1969 - Four US soldiers are killed in the DMZ.

April 1970 - In Geumchon, south of the DMZ, three KPA soldiers are killed and five ROKA soldiers are wounded in a shootout.

June 1970 - The North Korean navy seizes a broadcast vessel from the South near the border. Its 20 crewmembers are captured.

February 1974 - Two South Korean fishing vessels are sunk and 30 crewmembers are captured by the North Korean Navy.

June 1976 - An incursion south of the DMZ in Gangwon-do leaves three dead from the North and six from the South.

18th August 1976 - The Axe Murder Incident: Two US soldiers are murdered by KPA soldiers in the DMZ Joint Security Area while attempting to cut down a poplar tree. The US later cut down the tree with massive troop presence as a show of force in Operation Paul Bunyan. As a result KPA, ROKA and US troops no longer walk among each other in the JSA, but must keep to their sides of the Demarcation Line.

July 1977 - An American Chinook helicopter is shot down after crossing over the DMZ into North Korea. Three US crewmen were killed, while the one survivor was captured and later released.

October 1979 - Three North Koreans enter the eastern DMZ. One is killed.

December 1979 - US soldiers accidentally enter a North Korean minefield in the DMZ, leaving one dead and 3 wounded.

March 1981 - Three North Koreans try cross the DMZ into South Korea. One is killed.

July 1981 - Three North Koreans are killed while trying to enter the South via the Imjin River.

May 1982 - Two North Koreans are caught on the east coast of South Korea. One was killed.

November 1984 - Vasily Matusak, a Soviet defector, sprints into South Korea in the Joint Security Area while being pursued by KPA troops. The ensuing firefight leaves three KPA soldiers and one ROKA soldier dead.

May 1992 - Three North Korean infiltrators in ROKA uniforms are shot dead in Cheolwon, Gangwon-do.

December 1994 - A US helicopter crosses into North Korea and is shot down.

May 1995 - North Korean forces attack a South Korean fishing boat, killing three crewmembers.

October 1995 - Two North Koreans are attacked while crossing the Imjin River. One is killed.

April 1996 - Several hundred KPA soldiers cross into the DMZ and Joint Security Area.

May 1996 - Seven KPA soldiers cross the DMZ then retreat when fired upon.

May 1996 - A standoff ensues around the Northern Limit Line between the North and South Korean navies. This happens again a month later.

April 1997 - Five North Korean soldiers cross the eastern DMZ and fire on ROKA positions.

June 1997 - Three North Korean vessels attack South Korean vessels two miles south of the Northern Limit Line.

July 1997 - Fourteen KPA soldiers cross the DMZ leading to an extended firefight with ROKA forces.

June 1999 - The First Battle of Yeonpyeong: A series of clashes between North and South Korean vessels occur near the Northern Limit Line west of the peninsula. One North Korean vessel is sunk, killing around 20-30 Northern sailors.

October 2000 - Two US aircraft accidentally cross the DMZ during a military exercise.

2001 - North Korean vessels briefly cross the Northern Limit Line no less than twelve times.

November 2001 - KPA and ROKA troops exchange fire in the DMZ.

June 2002 - The Second Battle of Yeonpyeong: Further clashes between North and South navy vessels Northern Limit Line result in the four South Korean sailors killed, one North Korean vessel sunk, and an unknown number of North Korean deaths.

November 2002 - A Northern vessel crosses the Northern Limit Line, but withdraws after coming under fire from South Korean forces.

February 2003 - A North Korean fighter jet crosses the Northern Limit Line. It retreats after being intercepted by South Korean fighters.

March 2003 - A US reconnaissance plane is intercepted by North Korean fighters over the Sea of Japan.

July 2003 - KPA and ROKA soldiers briefly exchange fire in the DMZ.

November 2004 - Several North Korean vessels cross the Northern Limit Line and are attacked by South Korean forces before withdrawing.

May 2006 - Two KPA soldiers cross the DMZ into South Korea. They return to the north after ROKA forces fire warning shots.

July 2006 - KPA and ROKA soldiers briefly exchange fire at a South Korean outpost near Yanggu.

October 2006 - KPA soldiers briefly cross the DMZ but retreat after ROKA soldiers fire warning shots.

October 2010 - An ROKA outpost exchanges several shots with KPA soldiers in the DMZ.

November 2009 - The Battle of Daecheong: Northern and Southern naval vessels exchange fire around the Northern Limit Line. Several North Korean sailors are killed when their gunboat is hit.

March 2010 - South Korean corvette Cheonan is sunk near Baengnyeong Island. 46 sailors are killed. Although North Korea denies involvement, an international investigation concludes that the Cheonan was likely sunk by a North Korean torpedo.

November 2010 - Following a South Korean military exercise, North Korean forces bombard Yeonpyeong Island with artillery. Two ROK marines and two South Korean civilians were killed. The attack destroys numerous houses and causes widespread fires across much of the island. ROKA forces return fire with artillery, killing an unknown number of North Koreans.

2/03/2011 05:23:00 p.m.

The Korean War: A Brief History

The Korean War began on 25th June 1950, with the North Korean invasion force (KPA) quickly pushing back the South Korean army (ROKA).

US Army Task Force Smith was dispatched from Japan to aid in the South's defence, but was defeated at Osan on 5th July and joined the ROKA in its retreat.

By August 1950 the KPA had conquered most of South Korea, with the ROKA controlling only 10% of the country - the city of Pusan and the area around it up to the Nakdong River. All hope seemed lost until General MacArthur, the US military commander, proposed a daring counter attack far behind enemy lines at Inchon, just west of the capital Seoul.

On 15th September 1950, over 40,000 U.S. soldiers made an amphibious landing at Incheon and reclaimed Incheon, Seoul, and most of the northern part of South Korea. The KPA was therefore trapped between the coalition forces in Incheon and Pusan. The coalition forces soon drove the KPA out of South Korea and back across the 38th Parallel.

This part of the war marked a critical moment in US foreign policy – the decision had to be made whether to settle for successfully defending South Korea from communism, or to invade North Korea as well to defeat communism once and for all in the Korean peninsula. The possibility of a decisive victory in the fight against communism was indeed tempting to the U.S. government, as it would serve to show America’s power and dedication to halting communism in the Cold War. Also, if communism was successfully defeated in North Korea, then U.S. foreign policy in the future could potentially shift from containing communism, to actually causing it to regress.

So in October 1950, coalition forces crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded North Korea. By 19th October, the North Korean capital of Pyongyang was in coalition hands, and the coalition was quickly driving the North Korean Army further and further north towards the Yalu River – the border between North Korea and China. The US government advised MacArthur to not provoke China into entering the war by violating their border, though MacArthur argued that Chinese bases just beyond the Yalu River were important supply points for the North Korean Army, and should therefore be destroyed. This signaled the start of a major turning point in the Korean War.

This provoked the Chinese forces in Manchuria to cross into North Korea and make first contact with coalition forces on 25th October 1950. Although almost 70% of the Chinese forces were from the People’s Liberation Army (China’s official military organisation), they were named the Peoples Volunteer Army (PVA). The reason for the Chinese forces all being ‘volunteers’ instead of regular army was to avoid the possibility of open war with the US and its allies.

Chinese forces succeeded in continually driving the coalition back beyond the 38th Parallel. This marked the longest retreat of American military forces in history. Fortunately for coalition forces, the PVA stopped their advance after recapturing Seoul on 4th January 1951, due to supply issues – all Chinese supplies were carried by bicycle or on foot from the Yalu River. This gave the coalition forces the time they needed to regroup, and by 14th March 1951, they had recaptured Seoul from Chinese forces and driven the PVA back just beyond the 38th Parallel where a stalemate effectively existed for the remainder of the war until an armistice was signed on 27th July 1953.

The war ended, restoring the border between the Koreas near the 38th Parallel. The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) was created to act as a 2.5 mile wide buffer zone; along with the Joint Security Area (JSA) where both sides could meet on neutral ground for diplomatic reasons. Despite this, there have been numerous clashes over the years - ranging from military warfare to political assassination.

2/03/2011 12:03:00 p.m.

Korea Before 1950: A Brief History

At the start of the 20th Century both Russia and Japan held imperial ambitions towards Korea and China, resulting in the Russo-Japanese War. Japan triumphed in 1905, and Korea became a protectorate of Japan shortly after. However, due to opposition from the Korean people, Japan forcably annexed Korea in 1910. Korea remained part of the Japanese Empire until 1945, when Japan surrendered at the end of the Second World War.

Soviet Russia accepted the surrender of Japanese forces north of the 38th Parallel, which straddles the middle of Korea, while America accepted the surrender of the Japanese in the South. Because neither the Soviets or US could agree on how to set up an independent Korean government, the country was split into two states along the 38th Parallel.

The North became the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) - a Soviet satellite under a communist government led by Kim Il-sung - referred to throughout North Korea as "Great Leader".

The South became the Republic of Korea (ROK) - a pro-US dictatorship headed by Syngman Rhee.

Both heads of state were nationalists intent on reunifying Korea, and from 1948-50 there were numerous border clashes. US forces departed Korea in 1949, and the South Korean army was rife with disillusionment towards Rhee's hardline government - leaving South Korea poorly equipped to fight a war.

After border clashes intensified, the North Korean army invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950.