World News Brief, Tuesday December 21

South Korea still on "high alert" after military exercises (+ analysis); Bill Richardson claims deal with North Korea to return nuclar inspectors; Iraqi government draws closer, but debates go on; Democrats look to sure up votes on new START; Thousands protest election in Belarus; and more

Top of the Agenda: South Korea Holds Drill amid Pressure

In the face of mounting international tension, South Korea went ahead with scheduled live-fire drills from Yeonpyeong Island (NYT), the target of shelling by the North last month that killed four South Koreans. North Korea condemned the training exercises, but did not respond with military force despite threats of retaliation. South Korean military officials say the country remains on “high alert."

On Sunday, fears of escalation moved Russia to request an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council (WSJ) aimed at averting potential conflict. Member nations were unable to reach a consensus on language regarding the dispute. The Council's failure to reach a compromise stemmed from disagreement over whether to directly condemn North Korea for the crisis. China, in particular, objected to condemnation of the North.

Observers say South Korea was determined to proceed with the drills after facing a wave of domestic criticism (FT) over a perceived weak response to the North's attacks last month. Ahead of the maneuvers, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson held high-level talks with North Korea's military and, according to CNN, reached an accord that would allow UN nuclear inspectors (CNN) back into the country. There has been no official comment on this.


Robert Haddick at asks whether North Korea could be the next Afghanistan.

This Contingency Planning Memo from CFR's Paul Stares suggests further provocations by North Korea as well as other dangerous military interactions on or around the Korean peninsula remain a serious risk and carry the danger of unintended escalation.

In this recent interview, Leon V. Sigal calls for the United States and South Korea to support a peace process and political and economic engagement with North Korea.


PACIFIC RIM: South Korea Holds Chinese Fishermen

South Korea detained eight Chinese fishermen (FT) after their boat struck a patrol ship and capsized in Korean waters. Experts suggest the incident will harm relations with China at a time when the US is urging the country to play a larger role in mediating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.



- New Delays in Forming Iraqi Government
- Republican Opposition to New START
- Election Sparks Mass Protests in Belarus


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