North Korea arrests American; continues shelling near disputed border
Analysts and diplomats are scratching their heads as to why North Korea continued firing artillery shells into its disputed maritime border with the South for the second day in a row.
North Korea has arrested an unidentified American for illegally entering its territory, reports said Thursday, as Pyongyang kept up its military provocations by firing artillery shells for a second day near a disputed maritime border with the South.Skip to next paragraph
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As recently as last month, observers were cautiously optimistic about reduced tensions between the United States and North Korea. Now, with the arrest and the continued artillery firing, Pyongyang's mixed messages have analysts and diplomats scratching their heads. "North Korea 'has been blowing hot and cold,'" Wi Sung Lac, the South’s chief nuclear envoy, told the Monitor.
North Korea's state-run news agency reported that the unidentified American had illegally crossed into North Korea from China on Monday, and was now being interrogated, according to The New York Times. The American is now the second man in Pyongyang's custody, the Times said, after another was seized last month for also illegally crossing into the reclusive country from China.
He [the first detained man] is believed to be Robert Park, an American missionary who South Korean activists say crossed the frozen river border on Christmas Day carrying a letter urging the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, to shut down prison camps.
Washington has no diplomatic ties with North Korea and is working through the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang to seek consular access to Mr. Park, 28.
Pyongyang for the second day fired artillery rounds from coastal batteries near the so-called "Northern Limit Line," a de facto maritime border between North and South Korea waters (see the Monitor's coverage here.) Pyongyang does not recognize that line, and insists on a different maritime border (see map from Stratfor.)
South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper cited experts speculating that the firing was motivated by several factors, including a bid to get a US response to Pyongyang's January 11 offer of peace talks to formally end nearly 60 years of hostilities.
Experts say the North is simply trying to attract attention from the United States with a view to expediting discussion of a peace treaty, as well as seeking to boost the morale of the military and punishing South Korea for perceived threats to the regime. ... "Pyongyang wants to stress the need for a peace treaty with provocations around the NLL, which is a product of the armistice," commented Yang Mu-jin, a professor at Kyungnam University.