At an afternoon press briefing in Washington early August this year, one senior US diplomat was asked to respond over reports of North Korea's artillery drills in the Yellow Sea.
He said, I'm sure it resulted in a lot of dead fish and we certainly hope that PETA will protest.
It's unclear to us exactly what North Korea feels it is trying to achieve through this ongoing chest-thumping that it has engaged in, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley added.
Six months since, the American humor seems to be fading away. Fish-killing, as officials call it, has rather been a regular practice and the chest-thumping looks to have caught on as an addiction. Nobody is really sure if the latest of North's attacks on Seoul's isles of Yeonpyeong last month killed any fish. But indeed the firing led to the death of two South Korean soldiers along with two civilians.
Seoul wasn't far behind, bent on seeking revenge. On Wednesday it announced yet another 'mega drill' which could perhaps lead to bloodbath, at the least in the waters of the seas. Almost every day, over the past three weeks, the South's armed forces along with US military personnel fired artillery into the waters close to North's borders.
Observers worldwide have urged restraint and domestic opposition has demanded immediate halt to the exercises. Analysts maintained that the South's war maneuvers, which come wrapped as self defense tactics, could push the Korean Peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war.
Yet, in what seems to be a statement to the North and to woo the nationalists rallying for bitter hostilities, South Korea's hard-line government has decided to parade attack helicopters, F-15 jets, K-9 self-propelled guns, multiple launch rocket systems, anti-aircraft guns and flaunt an 800-odd soldiers at Pocheon, 20km south of the North Korean border. Officials stated that the drills would demonstrate South's 'solid military preparedness'.
Pyongyang, in response to the South's parade of arsenal, warned of deadlier retaliatory attacks and the communist regime termed the drills as 'provocations'. But while any drills by the North as seen as chest-thumping, exercises that of the South are dubbed as perfectly legitimate.
The US state department, which probably underwent a massive transformation since beginning of autumn, maintained that Pyongyang 'should not' see Seoul's military activities as provocations.
Spokesman Crowley said last week: These are routine exercises. There's nothing provocative or unusual or threatening about these exercises.
Moderately rephrasing the diplomat's words in August could in fact add sense to the current state of the crisis zone. 'Yes, it is truly unclear to what exactly South Korea feels it is trying to achieve through these ongoing drills.'
The North is in desperate need of aid, while the South would like to intimidate the communist dictatorship undergoing a transition. Both have begun a propaganda war and the world's reactions over what happened in Yeonpyeong still remain poles apart. Even as Russia and China urged dialogue to ease the escalating tensions, the United States and South Korea refused to come to the table. The US-led bloc including Japan and Australia also consider that only showcasing the military strengths would deter Pyongyang from carrying out any further attacks. They maintained that Pyongyang should halt nuclear activity before it could return to talks. The communists however, seem to have responded as early this week, they announced that nuclear inspectors would be welcomed in the country.
Yet, with a continual military activity, the coming months could only witness a deteriorating situation in the Peninsula, unless both sides are pressured to engage in a dialogue. But with Koreans seemingly hell bent on war, fish population in the Yellow Sea is definitely at a heightened risk, while land exercises could terrorize the cattle.
Amid such reports, the United States could predictably issue a statement that the culling is rather Seoul's 'perfectly legitimate' plan to contain foot-and-mouth disease in the countryside. Will the PETA and other animal rights activists have a case then?