North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells onto a South Korean island across their border, killing two and spurring South Korean marines to return fire. See video of the attack here. The incident comes within days of North Korea revealing that it has resumed enriching uranium and in the midst of dictator Kim Jong-Il's gradual transfer of power to his 26 year-old son Kim Jong-Un. The succession process is expected to bring out the worst in North Korea's leadership as it attempts to re-entrench itself. It's unclear how the world will respond but leaders are on high alert. National Journal's Marc Ambinder reports that President Obama was awakened at 3:55 a.m. to be briefed on the incident. Here's what reporters and analysts say about what happened and what comes next.
- Most Serious Military Clash in Decades The New York Times' Mark McDonald writes, "While skirmishes between the two countries have not been uncommon in recent years, the clash appeared to have been the most serious in decades and came amid heightened tensions over the North’s nuclear program. ... The attack on the island came as 70,000 South Korean troops were beginning an annual nationwide military drill called Safeguarding the Nation. The exercise has been sharply criticized by Pyongyang as 'simulating an invasion of the North' and 'a means to provoke a war.'"
- South Korea Threatens Counterattack Yonhap News Agency reports, "[South Korean] President Lee Myung-bak ordered his military Tuesday to strike North Korea's missile base around its coastline artillery positions if it shows signs of additional provocation, his spokeswoman said." The South Korean president ordered a "multiple-fold retaliation," elevating the risk that violence could spiral out of control if the two countries exchange increasingly violent volleys.
- North Korea Looking for External Concessions, Internal Security The U.K. Spectator's Daniel Korski sums up the two likely explanations. "More likely, the North Koreans are trying to set favourable ground for any talks that may begin (so they can extract concessions), while telling external and internal audiences that despite Kim Jong Ill having unveiled his youngest son Kim Jong Un as his heir apparent, succession will not weaken the North."
- Return to Endless Crises of 1993 Nightwatch's John McReary contextualizes this with the unveiled nuclear program and North Korea's offer to negotiate its termination. "The sequence of three significant developments in 72 hours suggests a plan to switch international attention back to North Korea. The North's behavior during the long nuclear crisis that began in 1993 is punctuated with provocative spikes of this nature. They occurred whenever the leadership judged North Korea was not receiving the attention they thought it deserved and when their initiatives were not generating the cash and aid commitments they expected and which they need for regime survival. The periods of tension have been of varying duration, but they invariably ended with talks and promises of aid and cooperation. That is the usual pattern."
- Specter of Violence Will Slow Economy Worldwide Time's Michael Schuman writes, "What does all this mean for the fragile world economy? North Korea's dangerous behavior comes at a terrible time, just as global markets are already jittery about Europe's woes after Ireland sought a bailout for its debt-plagued economy over the weekend. Traders and analysts are already predicting North Korea's actions will only make investors more risk averse, likely leading to a strengthening dollar (still seen as a safe haven) and weakening stocks around the world. And with Asia acting as the engine of world growth, anything that undermines Asia's outlook would be a big, big problem for the global rebound from the Great Recession."