North Korea has told its southern counterpart to stop propaganda broadcasts sent across the border, or face war. South Korea hasn't stopped. South Korea has broadcast across the border between the two countries before, but hasn't done so since 2004. Landmines wounded two South Korean soldiers, which led to the return of the broadcasts. During an exchange of artillery fire on Thursday, North Korea fired four shells and South Korea fired 29 back. Now the North Korea military is on the move.
North Korea requested that the UN Security Council discuss the ongoing conflict, but they refused to meet. Even China, normally considered an ally of North Korea, urged both countries to step back and discuss the situation without military interference that may escalate the tension there. And while North Korea is fond of bombastic rhetoric towards both the south and the United States, even going so far as to declare potential military action as recently as 2013, the wounded soldiers hint this may become something more.
The escalating conflict comes only a few days after what would seem to be a hopeful sign: on Wednesday, a Slovenian band named Laibach were the first western rock band to play in the isolated country. (The band played selections from the movie The Sound of Music, one of the few western films allowed in North Korea, and said the crowd was subdued but seemed pleased by the performance.)
Technically, neither North or South Korea would be going to war so much as resuming it. The Korean War from 1950 to 1953 was only stopped by a truce, and not a declaration of peace, so the countries have been at war for all the years since. Serious conflict hasn't occurred since then, but the recent conflicts have involved heavy artillery and rocket fire rather than machine guns. Right now there are 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea as well.
Any war between North and South Korea may escalate into a dreaded nuclear conflict: North Korea has several small range missiles given to them by Egypt in the 80's. And it's hard to tell who might win. By numbers, North Korea has the edge; there are far more troops ready for battle there. However, South Korea has the edge in technology. Since China is not supporting the recent actions, that would leave North Korea without allies in any upcoming war. That is a big minus.
The current deadline North Korea has given for the halt of the broadcasts is Saturday at 5 p.m. Until then the world will have to wait and see.
(Photo by South Korean Presidential Blue House via Getty Images)