The Korea Times does a straight-up reporting job on the events, including a photograph and nice map:
They have pretty good blow-by-blow details, a quote or two from a South Korean general, and background on recent episodes that have more-or-less inflamed inter-Korean relations. In today's fracas, the North fired a salvo of 30 artillery shells toward, but short of, the NLL (Northern Limit Line). The South responded with 100 Vulcan cannon rounds as "warning shots". Considering that this weapon can discharge 6000 rounds per minute, they showed considerable restraint. From the Times:
The North began firing again at 3:25 p.m., with a dozen more shells landing north of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto western sea border. But the South did not respond.
This is the first time that the North has fired artillery into the NLL in the West Sea, though the navies from both Koreas have exchanged gunfire near the border before.
Korea Herald goes for analysis, titling it's most read entry on the story as NK firing part of two-track strategy, the pull-quote being this, from Kim Yong-hyun, professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University: "North Korea is exercising a two-track policy of aggressively seeking economic cooperation and humanitarian aid on one hand while heightening military tension on the other."
While the cash-strapped North strives to revive business with South Korea, it seeks to gain international leverage in future multilateral talks through saber-rattling moves.
"By firing (rounds of artillery) in the West Sea, the North seems to have intended to demonstrate that it can always act on its words," said professor Kim.
"Such military actions may have two purposes. One would be to highlight the dispute over the NLL and stress the importance of a peace treaty ahead of six-party talks and the other to strengthen national solidarity as it prepares for a post-Kim Jong-il system."
Well, this last begins to get at the truth, which I think is more about what's happening inside DPRK than any other factors--wagging the dog, as it were. Of course, the North can't actually go to war, since it will lose big-time, but it can try to provoke retaliatory action to rally the people against the bad, bad world outside.
Maybe then they will forget the disastrous monetary devaluation that has destabilized the already tenuous economy and squandered whatever goodwill for Dear Leader the people have left. Dong-A Ilbo covers this story, without linking it to today's military exercises:
Good Friends, a group fighting for human rights in North Korea, said, “The price of rice is reaching a new high every day,” adding, “Chongjin in North Hamkyong Province saw the biggest rise in rice prices. The price of a kilogram of rice there based on the (North’s) new currency tripled to 650 won Jan. 22 from 240 won a week before, and rose again to 1,100 won Sunday in the city’s Sunam Market.”
Before the North’s currency revaluation last year, rice went for 2,200 won in the old currency. Given the ratio of the old and new currency is 100 to one, the value of 1,100 won in the new currency is 50 times that of 2,200 won in the old currency.
Wow! Rice costs 5000% more in NK than it did 3 months ago! This is the beginning of hyperinflation, which as we see in Zimbabwe (full disclosure: I lived there a long time ago) is bound to lead to the demise of an evil dictatorial regime. Oh, wait, never mind. Turns out it doesn't ...
Well, I am sickened and saddened by the news from the North just as I am appalled by what has happened in Zim (scroll down for the pics I posted of my old school). For that matter, I'm not thrilled with what's going on in the USA, where it seems being against everything is way more popular than being for anything. No one seems to be for health care reform anymore, or for privacy rights, or even for change. They're not for the status quo, either. It's probably a good thing I'm not in the States right now, because I'd be threatening to leave.