South Korea has determined its ship, the Cheonan, was torpedoed by a North Korean submarine. 46 South Korean sailors died. In most people's minds, that was an overt act of war.
Yesterday, NoKo severed all ties with South Korea. Of course, technically, they're still in a state of war, but this is a significant step in the wrong direction. Said NoKo:
"The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea... formally declares that from now on it will put into force the resolute measures to totally freeze the inter-Korean relations, totally abrogate the agreement on non-aggression between the North and the South and completely halt the inter-Korean cooperation," KCNA reported.
That certainly ratchets up the tensions between the two countries. In fact, many are saying they are at the lowpoint since the war. It makes you wonder, as if anyone could figure him out, what the Elvis-loving tin pot dictator of NoKo is up too. As mentioned, these are significant steps in the direction of war, and you have to be wondering what is going on internally in NoKo to drive this sort of provocation.
South Korea and the US will be holding some naval exercises off the coast to emphasize their unified position and status as allies, but other than that, there's not much that can be done but wait and see what Kim Il Jung has up his sleeve. In the meantime, this is about all SoKo has available to it:
South Korea has also said it will drop propaganda leaflets into the North to tell people about the sinking, as well as setting up giant electronic billboards to flash messages.
I'm not sure how it intends to drop leaflets, but the giant electronic billboards will only be seen by those NoKo trucks in every morning to work the model farms that can be observed from the DMZ. South Korea is also resuming propaganda broadcasts to the North and using loudspeakers on the DMZ.
It has also said it will take its case to the UN Security Council where China has a veto. Any action (not that long time observers would expect much more than a strongly worded resolution) therefore is dependent on convincing the Chinese to go along with whatever the rest have planned.
Analysts say China's attitude is key, because it holds a veto in the Security Council and has in the past been reluctant to impose tough measures on Pyongyang.
So - State Department - your mission is to get China to the table and on the team. Additionally, seeing that NoKo seems to be on a path to some sort of military action, whatever is decided should be aimed at lessening tensions, not heightening them. That doesn't mean giving in, necessarily, but it does mean devising a strategy that cools NoKo's jets. That's what you get paid the big bucks to do. It would be nice if you remembered we have 28,000 American troops there, and their fondest desire is not to be involved in a third simultaneous US war. And trust me, if NoKo decides "to hell with it" and launches across the South Korean border, we're not talking about casualty counts trickling in - we're looking at a flood.