North Korea continues its war of words with the United Nations and the United States, warning against “provocations”. As the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong tries to recover from the artillery attack from the North on Tuesday, more sounds of artillery could be heard. No shells landed on the island.
General Walter L. Sharp, commander of U.S. Forces Korea and the United Nations military commander, visited Yeonpyeong on Friday, November 26, to review the damage and inspect troops positioned there. He was accompanied by his staff and members of the United Nations Military Armistice Commission.
The USS George Washington carrier strike group is en route to the Yellow Sea to participate in exercises with the South Korean Navy November 28 through December 1. Along with the carrier will be the USS Cowpens (CG 62), USS Lassen (DDG 82), USS Stethem (DDG 63) and the USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62). The exercise was planned in July and is not considered a response to the attack Tuesday.
The Korean War, or more properly “police action”, was never ended by a peace treaty. Instead, an armistice was signed and a demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea established. The zone followed the 38th parallel roughly on land but the line at sea has been disputed since the beginning of the armistice. Since 1953 there have been a multitude of incidents in and around the DMZ, landings from the sea and incursions across the zone.
GlobalSecurity.org lists dozens of incidents for the period 1967 through 2001. One of the most famous is the capture of the USS Pueblo on January 23, 1968 by the North Koreans. Another would be the “tree trimming incident” of August, 1976, where two American officers were beaten to death by North Korean troops while supervising a work detail trimming a tree in the DMZ. In that 34 year period, at least 62 American soldiers and 257 South Korean soldiers were killed by enemy action. Hundred, if not thousands, of North Korean soldiers were killed while engaged in actions south of the DMZ.
At least two Americans have been awarded the Silver Star for heroism in combat in and around the DMZ. Ernest D. Reynolds was killed in action November 2, 1966. Bert K. Mizusawa received his Silver Star for his valor on November 23, 1984.
The Korean peninsula remains one of the world’s most volatile regions. The North Korean shelling of the island of Yeonpyeong makes the future even more tense for Koreans and for their American allies.