Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Tension in the Korean peninsula rose again last Tuesday when North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells onto a South Korean island , killing two people, setting homes ablaze and triggering an exchange of fire with its southern neighbor.

In what appeared to be one of the most serious border incidents since the 1950-1953 war, South Korean troops fired back with cannon.

The artillery contact has caused concern around the world that the incident would trigger a new war as both Koreas were allied with big countries : North Korea with China and South Korea with the United States.

Russia as one of the members of the Six Party Talk on Tuesday warned against an escalation of tensions after North Korea fired artillery shells onto a South Korean border island, a foreign ministry official told Interfax.

"It`s important that this does not lead to an aggravation of the situation on the Korean peninsula," the official, who was not named, told Interfax.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Tuesday he had ordered his ministers to prepare for any eventuality after North Korea fired artillery shells onto a South Korean island.

"I ordered (ministers) to make preparations so that we can react firmly, should any unexpected event occur," Kan said.

Ties between Japan and North Korea have been tense for years, with Tokyo taking a hard line over Pyongyang`s military programs as well as the kidnapping of Japanese nationals during the Cold War to be trained as spies.

Indonesia`s stance

Unlike the US or China which have taken sides in Korea conflict, Indonesia has good relations with both South Korea and North Korea. Therefore, when commenting about Korean peninsula issue, Indonesia tends to be very careful.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Marty Natalegawa expressed deep concern over the armed clash between North Korea and South Korea on Yeonpyeong island that has claimed lives.
"Indonesia urges the two sides to immediately stop the hostility and to restrain themselves maximally to avoid increasing tension," Marty said.

He underlined the importance of resuming the six-party talks between South Korea, North Korea, the United States, Russia, China and Japan to discuss all aspects relating to the creation of peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula.

Marty also urged North Korea and South Korea to do their utmost to prevent the escalation of tension after they exchanged fire in waters off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula on Tuesday.

"We renew our call for the two parties to make maximum efforts to exercise self-restraint and prevent the escalation of tension," he said.

"Indonesia has been keeping abreast of developments taking place in the Korean Peninsula and is deeply concerned (by the latest developments)," he said.

He said Indonesia condemned any baseless act of violence which is against the principles of the UN Charter.

Meanwhile, prominent figures in Indonesia demand firmer action on the Korea peninsula issue. A member of Commission I from the House of Representatives Fayakhun Andriadi said Indonesia must use its neutral position to approach both Koreas directly.

"Indonesia must proactively gather support from Asian countries to help solve the conflict in the Korean peninsula," he said citing an example that former President Megawati Soekarnoputri a few years ago had tried to directly mediate the dispute between South Korea and North Korea.

Haryadi Wirawan, an observer of international relations from the University of Indonesia , said Indonesia had the capacity to mediate the conflict between the two Koreas directly.
"It will be hard for the Six Party Talks to find a solution to the conflict in the Korean peninsula since its members have their own private agendas," he said.

However, Haryadi emphasized that if Indonesia decided to take part in solving the Korean conflict, it must be conducted carefully without causing mistrust from either South Korea or North Korea.

South Korea`s Chairman of National Unification Advisory Council Kim Kwang Hyun asked Indonesia to state a firm action on the Korean peninsula issue. "Indonesia as the most important country in ASEAN should take a firm position on this issue," he said.

The international community should condemn North Korea`s attack clearly and strongly to prevent further provocation which could be a threat to peace and security in East Asia, he said.

Reasons behind the attack

Mark Fitzpatrick, a fellow of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London and formerly a senior official at the US State Department, said however that it was unlikely to lead to full-scale conflict.

"It`s hard not to draw the conclusion that this, like the Cheonan sinking, was related to the succession," Fitzpatrick told AFP, referring to a South Korean warship in March that Seoul said was hit by a North Korean torpedo.

Both incidents were ways to give North Korean heir apparent Kim Jong-Un "some accomplishments," he said.

"He has had little time to do anything at age 27, but given a general`s title the North would like to gird him with some military victories and this is one that will surely be ascribed to his military leadership," he added.

North Korea was, however, also trying to force South Korea back into talks on the disputed Yellow Sea border, said Fitzpatrick, the senior fellow for non-proliferation at IISS and ex-former US deputy assistant secretary of state.

"One reason North Korea took this provocative step is to get the South`s attention, to say: `Look, unless you`re willing to negotiate on this line of demarcation, you`re going to draw military consequences,`" he said.

North Korea fired artillery to Yeonpyeong island close to the maritime border between North and South Korea triggering a firefight.

North Korea did not recognize the border considering it as being determined unilaterally by the US after the 1950-1953 Korean War ended with a truce.

Three marine battles occurred in the region in 1999 and South Korea had blamed North Korea for its attack that had sunk a South Korean warship in March this year.

In its statement to North Korea`s state news agency KCNA as quoted by South Korea`s Yonhap, the North Korean supreme military command had accused South Korea of starting the tension by firing on the North.

Efforts to reduce tension between the two countries triggered by North Korea`s controversial nuclear program through the six-party talks ended in 2008.

North Korea left the forum in April 2009 and five months later it announced that it had reached the final stage of uranium enrichment program which is an important step toward making a nuclear bomb.
(Uu.AO51/HAJM/H-YH/P003)

Editor: Priyambodo RH

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