Instead of the endless speculation about those reforms that are supposed to be just around the corner, Western media might be more profitably employed reporting on what's actually happening with North Korea now. For instance:
On Friday, South Korean patrol boats fired warning shots toward six North Korean fishing vessels that crossed the so-called Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the latest of a series of incursions in the tensely guarded Yellow Sea. All North Korean boats retreated upon the warning shots.
"When the Navy fired warning shots, a joint force was standing ready and an F-15K fighter jet was deployed as part of the force," the source, said asking for anonymity as he is not allowed to talk about military information. "If North Korea's military launches provocations near the NLL, we will operate the joint forces to promptly and sternly respond."
The F-15K fighter was equipped with air-to-surface and air-to-air missiles, the source noted.
That was last week. This is today:
Yet another North Korean fishing vessel has crossed the Northern Limit Line in the West Sea and been ordered to return to North Korean waters by the ROK Navy.
According to the military official who released the news this lunchtime, “A single North Korean fishing vessel crossed the NLL to the east of Yeonpyeong Island at 9:38PM last night and travelled 0.4 nautical miles south. One of our naval speedboats was immediately dispatched, and the vessel retreated as soon as it was issued with a warning.”
Seven similar violations of the NLL by fishing vessels have occurred this month alone. However, it is the first such violation to occur at night.
“We think that they may have been testing our nighttime naval readiness,” the official said. “It is rare for North Korean fishing vessels to cross the NLL at night, so we are watching what is going on in North Korea very closely.”
The latest case is particularly suspicious because it is currently the blue crab fishing season, and that is something that occurs almost exclusively in the daytime.As such, the military authorities wonder whether the fishing vessel was populated by soldiers rather than ordinary fishermen.
Are the North Koreans building up to some kind of provocation?
North Korean fishing boats crossed over the Northern Limit Line in the West Sea, the de facto maritime border between the two Koreas, six times from Sept. 12 until Saturday. On Friday, the South Korean Navy issued two warnings over loudspeakers to six North Korean fishing boats and was forced to fire warning shots when the boats refused to turn back across the NLL. The fishing boats finally retreated 30 minutes after hearing the warning shots.
Some 13 North Korean fishing boats crossed over the NLL on Sept. 12, 13 on Sep. 14, eight on Sept. 15, and two on Thursday. Even on Saturday, a day after the South fired the warning shots, another fishing boat crossed the NLL into the South Korean waters.
North Korea added that any acts against it would lead to "strong responses."
Seoul believes that Pyongyang is ordering its fishing boats to cross over the NLL to provoke the South so that it can have an excuse to launch an attack. North Korea readied coastal artillery positions and patrol boats for action each time the fishing boats crossed the NLL....
It seems North Korea has stepped up incursions to provoke an armed standoff in the West Sea that would divide public opinion and bring the NLL issue into focus less than three months before South Korean presidential election.
An armed stand-off would suit North Korea's songun military-first philosophy very nicely. Why spend all that money on the army, a starving population might want to know, if there's no fighting, no threat? There's history here too: Kim Jong-Un was rumoured to have been a key figure in the bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island back in 2010, in an attempt to establish his macho credentials, and some months earlier there was the sinking of the Cheonan.
Some form of aggression in the West Sea (what the Koreans generally call the Yellow Sea) looks like a reasonable bet given the escalating tension there. A safer bet, anyway, than economic reforms.