Foreign Affairs Scope: Tensions rise between North and South Korea

NBR reporter Nathan Smith breaks down the big stories in foreign affairs on NBR Radio and on demand on MyNBR Radio.

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A land mine exploded inside the South Korean section of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) on August 4, maiming two South Korean soldiers. Earlier this week, tensions rose again as South Korea responded to a North Korean rocket attack with dozens of its own artillery rounds.

The heightened tensions come as South Korea and US forces conduct their annual military exercises. Incidents similar to this year’s occur in a cyclical pattern aligning with those exercises. Presently, the two Koreas are negotiating to ease tensions.

However a change in South Korean rhetoric since President Park Geun-hye took power suggests it will continue to respond more assertively to North Korean provocations, potentially increasing the chances of miscalculation in future skirmishes.

Further west, a spate of bombings in the Kabul district in Afghanistan continue this week as two truck bombings exploded near the capital. NATO forces were targeted, but the government is also under threat from elements of the Taliban militant groups.

The attacks underscore a breakdown in peace negotiations following revelations last month that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar has been dead for two years. The news scuttled the talks.

It is unclear now who speaks for the Taliban. And in a surprising change of position, Pakistan – a friend to both Kabul and the Taliban – has been criticised by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

In France, a potential terror attack was stopped by train passengers before the perpetrator could kill any victims. Despite wounding three people, the Moroccan man’s weapon malfunctioned and he was eventually detained by French authorities.

The attack highlights the threat of returning fighters to home countries after fighting in conflict zones. It also shows the difficulty authorities face in stopping terror attacks.

However, the quick thinking of train passengers also highlights the importance of the proper mindset of good situational awareness and the ability to take advantage of poor terrorist training to stop further bloodshed.

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