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November 24, 2010

Tension in the Koreas

Yesterday, November 23rd, North Korea fired scores of artillery shells at the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, killing at least four (two soldiers, two civilians), wounding 18 more, destroying several houses, and setting numerous fires in one of the most serious clashes between the two countries in decades. North Korea claimed it was a response to earlier shells fired by South Korea - which the South acknowledged had been fired, but as an exercise, and not into North Korean territory. 70,000 South Korean troops were beginning an annual nationwide military drill called "Safeguarding the Nation" in the area, near the spot where a South Korean naval vessel was sunk in March, killing 46 sailors - which Seoul also blamed on North Korea. This attack coupled with recent revelations about the North's nuclear capabilities and escalating threats and counter-threats have raised tensions around the region - even as athletes from both Koreas continue to compete on a world stage, against each other and other nations, in the Asian Games in China. [Editor's Note: I will be out for the Thanksgiving holiday. Next entry will be published on 11/29] (33 photos total)

This picture taken on November 23, 2010 by a South Korean tourist shows huge plumes of smoke rising from Yeonpyeong island in the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea on November 23, 2010. North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells onto a South Korean island on November 23, 2010, killing four people, setting homes ablaze and triggering an exchange of fire as the South's military went on top alert. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

A picture of smoke rising at Yeonpyeong Island after it was hit by dozens of artillery shells fired by North Korea, is shown on a mobile phone of a resident of the island November 23, 2010. (REUTERS/Kyodo) #

A resident attempts to extinguish a house fire during North Korea's artillery shelling of Yeonpyeong Island November 24, 2010. (REUTERS/Yonhap) #

Smoke billows from a brushfire on a mountain on Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010. (AP Photo/Yonhap) #

Fire fighters extinguish a fire on Yeonpyeong island in the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea on November 24, 2010 after North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells the day before. (Incheon Fire and Safety/AFP/Getty Images) #

Smoke billows from multiple locations on Yeonpyeong island near the border between North Korea and South Korea on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT #

Destroyed houses are seen on Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea, following artillery exchange between North and South Korea on November 24, 2010. (Korea Pool/Getty Images) #

An aerial view shows destroyed houses on Yeonpyeong island, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010, one day after North Korea's artillery attack on the island. (AP Photo/Yonhap, Kim Hyun-tae) #

This handout picture taken and released on November 24, 2010 by the Ongjin County Office shows the badly damaged interior of a house on Yeonpyeong island in the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea a day after North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells. (Ongjin County office/AFP/Getty Images) #

Destroyed houses on Yeonpyeong island in the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea after North Korea fired artillery shells at the island, seen on November 23, 2010. (Ongjin County office/AFP/Getty Images) #

Residents are seen at an air-raid shelter after being evacuated in Yeonpyeong Island following an artillery attack by North Korea November 23, 2010. (REUTERS/Ongjin County) #

A shell fired from North Korea is seen on Yeonpyeong Island November 24, 2010. (REUTERS/Park Jong-Sik/Hankyoreh) #

Residents wait to get aboard a ship before they leave Yeonpyeong island November 24, 2010. (REUTERS/Park Jong-Sik/Hankyoreh) #

South Koreans take a moment of silence for South Korean marines killed in a North Korean bombardment during a rally against North Korea's recent attack, in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) #

South Koreans read extra edition newspapers in downtown Seoul on November 23, 2010 after North Korea earlier in the day fired dozens of artillery shells onto a South Korean island. (KIM JAE-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images) #

Members of the South Korean Coast Guard evacuate residents from Yeonpyeong island in the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea after North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells the day before, on November 24, 2010. (Korea Coast Guard/AFP/Getty Images) #

South Korean survivors arrive as they are surrounded by relatives and media at a port in Incheon, west of Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010. (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man) #

Survivors of the artillery exchange between North and South Korea arrive at Incheon port from Yeonpyeong Island on November 24, 2010 in Incheon, South Korea. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images) #

Members of the media interview local residents from Yeonpyeong island as they arrive at the port in Inchon, west of Seoul, on a police vessel on November 24, 2010. (KIM JAE-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images) #

The mother (right) of South Korean marine Seo Jeong-Woo who was killed during North Korea's attack on Yeonpyeong Island, cries in front of a memorial altar at a military hospital in Seongnam, south of Seoul on November 24, 2010. (DONG-A ILBO/AFP/Getty Images) #

A partially illuminated bridge to nowhere sits in the middle of the the Yalu River, which separates the North Korean border town of Siniuju (opposite bank, in darkness) from Dandong in northeast China's Liaoning province on November 24, 2010 in Dandong. The Yalu River bridge, also known as the no-name bridge, remains standing reaching only halfway across the river after it was bombed by the U.S. in 1950 during the Korean War and eventually dismantled from its own side by North Korea shortly after the Korean War armistice. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images) #

South Koreans look at military controlled areas at the Imjingak pavilion, near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, about 55 km (34 miles) north of Seoul on November 24, 2010. The United States-led U.N. Command in Seoul said on Wednesday it had called for talks with North Korea to seek ways to ease tensions on the peninsula after Pyongyang's deadly artillery shelling on an island in the South. (REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak) #

A North Korean soldier stands guard on the banks of the Yalu River, near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong on November 23, 2010. (REUTERS/Stringer) #

A border area of North Korea's west coast, dotted with artillery bunkers and a sign reading "Long live Great leader Kim Il-Sung and his revolutionary ideology!", as seen from South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island in the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea on January 28, 2010. (KIM JAE-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images) #

South Korean protesters, with defaced portraits of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il and his son Kim Jong Un, shout slogans during a rally against North Korea's attack on Yeonpyeong island, in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010. The letters on a flag read "Shatter". (AP Photo/Bang Sung-hae) #

Protesters trample a portrait of North Korea leader Kim Jong Il in front of the Defense Ministry, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010 in Seoul, South Korea. South Korea's troops were on high alert Wednesday as their government exchanged threats with rival North Korea following a frightening military skirmish that ratcheted tensions on the peninsula to new extremes. (AP Photo/Wally Santana) #

Stanford University scientist Siegfried Hecker speaks about his recent trip to North Korea, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010, at the Korea Economic Institute of America in Washington. Hecker gave a report on his trip to the North's main Yongbyon atomic complex and a small, industrial-scale uranium enrichment facility. Calling the efforts of the North Koreans "stunning", he and his colleagues observed what they estimated to be over 2,000 centrifuges capable of producing low-enriched uranium in a very modern facility. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) #

This DigitalGlobe Satellite handout image received on November 22, 2010 and taken on November 4, 2010 shows a satellite image of construction at North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear site. North Korea has unveiled a secret new uranium enrichment plant equipped with 2,000 centrifuges, US scientist Siegfried Hecker said, raising new fears on November 21, 2010 about Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. US officials accused North Korea on November 22 of flouting UN sanctions and seeking to destabilize the region amid the latest claims that the secretive state has built a sophisticated, new uranium enrichment plant at Yongbyon. (DIGITALGLOBE/AFP/Getty Images) #

In this undated photo released on Monday, Nov. 22, 2010 by Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, center, inspects a duck farm during an inspection trip in Ryongyon, North Korea, facing the Yellow Sea. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service) #

Yang Chun Song of North Korea (right) and Kim Dai-sung of South Korea fight for the 1/8 final men's Freestyle 66kg wrestling competition at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou on November 24, 2010. The bout between the two athletes comes one day after after North Korea rained a deadly artillery barrage on the Yellow Sea island of Yeonpyeong that belongs to South Korea. Yang Chun Song of North Korea later won the match. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images) #

South Korea's Hwang Ye Sul, right, smiles after judges awarded her a win over North Korea's Sol Kyong during their women's judo -70kg gold medal match at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) #

North Korea's Pak Myong Jin, right, shakes hands with South Korea's Lee Seung-jun after their men's basketball game at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, Friday, Nov. 19, 2010. (AP Photo/Greg Baker) #

An elderly South Korean man wipes his tears as a North Korean relative (in the bus) waves to say good-bye after a luncheon during a separated family reunion meeting at the Mount Kumgang resort on the North's southeastern coast, near the border on October 31, 2010. North Korea criticized South Korea on November 24, 2010 for scrapping planned talks on family reunions, and repeated claims that Seoul provoked this week's deadly artillery attack on a South Korean island. (KOREA POOL/AFP/Getty Images) #

 
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