Smoke billows from South Korea's Yeonpyeong island near the border against North Korea. North Korea fired artillery shells onto the populated South Korean island near their disputed western border Tuesday. Photo: AP / Yonhap / SKANPIX

Bildt: North Korea's actions are "very worrying"

North Korea is "behaving like a spoiled child"
3:47 min

After Tuesday's maritime border skirmish between North and South Korea, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bidlt wrote on his blog that the news was troubling, and that the situation might worsen, depending on how the international community reacts.

Bildt wrote that the attack "is leading to new and serious questions about the nature and intention of the North Korean regime." He also wrote that China's influence on the regime is crucial and must be used to its full extent, or the situation for the Korean peninsula could become grave.

It was during an annual South Korean military drill when North Korea fired shells at the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, which has seen bloody battles have occured before. Tuesday's attack left at least two marines dead, wounded 16, and set dozens of buildings ablaze. South Korea returned fire.

The Americans immediately condemned North Korea for the attack, saying it is firmly committed to the defence of its ally. Meanwhile, North Korea warned it might lash out again. All this hinted at a possible escalation, especially after North Korea recently boasted of its new uranium enrichment facility.

Kent Härstedt is a Social Democratic member of Parliament who serves in the committee on foreign affairs. He's also a board member of the Olof Palme institute in Sweden which works for democracy, human rights and peace and has been to both North and South Korea several times in both political and development capacities. He told Swedish Radio news that Tuesday's attacks are extremely serious, but believes that South Korea exercised important restraint in their response.

Härstedt said that there are still a lot of questions behind this "act of violence." But one reason he suggests may have been that North Korea wants to unite the country behind the recently presented heir apparent to leader Kim Jong-Il. By attacking South Korea, the nation might remind its citizens that they have an external enemy, he said.

Ashok Shwain is a professor of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University. Unlike Härstedt, he does not see today's events as particularly serious, when viewed as part of the decades-long conflict between these two nations. He told Radio Sweden that with actions like this North Korea is trying to get the attention of the U.S. for economic aid and political acceptance.

But Shwain says North Korea is "behaving like a spoiled child" in order to capture the attention of the international community, but that this is not a very effective method of doing so.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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