Wednesday, May 26, 2010

North Korea Mobilizes

I do not know what the next few weeks will bring, but assuming common sense will prevail in the North has always been scary.  These guys also know how to take brinkmanship to the wall and slightly over to extort value.

They seem to thrive on sitting eyeball to eyeball for months on end.

And how can you trust an old fool who may believe he can win a hundred meter sprint if he holds the starter’s pistol.

Right now, he holds the initiative.  He brought on the confrontation and because of the loud noises out of Seoul he is now mobilizing his army.  This puts him in a position to launch a surprise attack that can devastate Seoul.

What little uncertainty that exists in terms of the final outcome is ample to drag South Korea and the USA to the negotiating table in order to present demands for economic support.

The fastest way to end this circus is to ask China to mobilize a million men on the Chinese Korean border.

That is not going to happen.  Instead we see a return to the treat of eminent surprise attack as a negotiating ploy.  Long enough and the South will see value in triggering the event themselves.

The real calculation behind all this that the North may see Obama as a push over.

The New Korean War

Posted by Stephen Brown on May 26th, 2010

President Obama may soon discover his predecessor, George Bush, was more than correct in designating North Korea an “Axis of Evil” state.

As the United States announced on Monday it would conduct joint naval exercises with the South Korean navy in response to the sinking of a South Korean warship two months ago, North Korea, the nation deemed responsible for the disaster that cost 46 lives, raised tensions by putting its military forces on a war footing.

Asia Times reported yesterday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, in a military broadcast, placed his million plus armed forces on “combat readiness,” causing concern worldwide about North Korean intentions as well as a drop in major stock markets.

“We do not hope for war but if South Korea, with the United States and Japan on its back, tries to attack us, Kim Jong-il has ordered us to finish the task of unification left undone during the…(Korean) war (in 1953),” the military broadcast stated.

North Korea, of course, denies that it sank the South Korean corvette, Cheonan, on March 26, but the evidence states otherwise. An international commission made up of experts from Australia, America and Sweden investigated the sinking and concluded North Korea was guilty of the atrocity after finding North Korean torpedo parts in the wreckage raised from the sea bottom.

“The evidence is quite compelling,” said Ban Ki-moon, United Nations secretary general. “There is no controversy.”

North Korea also has a long history of committing terrorist acts against South Korea. In 1983, North Korean agents bombed a South Korean delegation in Burma, killing several members. In 1987, North Korea was also blamed for blowing up a South Korean airliner in flight. In another naval incident in 2002, four South Korean sailors were killed in an exchange of gunfire with North Korean patrol boats.

Besides joint naval exercises with the United States, the South Korean government has responded with punitive measures. All trade with North Korea will be cut off as well as access to shipping lanes through South Korean waters that North Korean ships use to shorten voyages to China.

South Korea will also again name North Korea as its “principal enemy”, a designation dropped in 2004 during a warming of relations. According to a New York Times story, North Korea was first named a “principal enemy” in 1994 after threatening “to turn Seoul into a ‘sea of fire’ ” during the crisis over its nuclear weapons program.” After the Cheonan incident, Kim Jong-il has threatened South Korea with “all-out war” if sanctions are applied.

The world is now waiting to see whether Kim Jong-il will actually carry out his threat to engulf the two countries in war or whether he is simply staging a tantrum to extort aid from Western countries as he has done in the past.

Although the two Koreas are still technically at war, outwardly, the war scenario appears the most unlikely one. Both North and South Korea know the latter is not going to initiate any military action against the North over the Cheonan incident. As columnist Donald Kirk states, South Korea is doing so well economically, possessing one of the world’s fastest growing economies, it does not want to risk its hard-earned prosperity and high living standards in a destructive war. Kirk and other military analysts have pointed out a further reason for South Korea’s avoiding war over North Korean provocations like the Cheonan: Seoul would bear the brunt of any North Korean attack due to its location close to the North Korean border.

“The North still has thousands of artillery pieces within range of metropolitan Seoul and the nearby port of Inchon as well as missiles with the range to reach anywhere in the South, and nobody in South Korea really wants to challenge that,” Kirk writes.

For North Korea’s part, war also does not appear to be an option. Its army is in a very dilapidated condition. Years of sanctions and a ramshackle economy have left the North Korean armed forces with no money for training, maintenance or for purchasing new equipment. North Korea’s biggest military threat is its 60,000 commando troops, many of whom have been moved close to the border. In case of war, it is thought the North Koreans’ plan, due to their army’s movement limitations, would be to occupy Seoul and then seek a ceasefire.

Analysts, like the military news publication Strategy Page, state that the modern, well-equipped South Korean army, which produces many of its own weapons and is supported by a strong economy, has a plan to throw back such an invasion and then move into the North. Such a plan to cross the border would also be implemented if the North Korean state ever collapsed. American forces in South Korea, which numbered 42,000 before 9/11, now stand at about 30,000 and would come under South Korean command in case of a conflict.

But common sense may play no part in a Stalinist dictatorship’s decision to go to war, especially one struggling to survive. Reports have been coming out of North Korea that the people are again facing starvation like in the 1990s when an estimated two million died. A poor harvest this year, the failure of a currency reform scheme last year and the repressing of private farmer’s markets have again left the long-suffering North Koreans destitute.

North Korea also cannot look to China, its main ally, for help. China, like other countries, has refused food aid as long as North Korea refuses to give up its nuclear weapons program. Not wishing to support an economic cripple, China also vainly wanted North Korea to adopt free market reforms and become self-sufficient like it did. Like South Korea, China fears a North Korean collapse and the millions of hungry Korean refugees that would flood over its border seeking food.

Unlike in the 1990s though, North Korean citizens are reported to be more restless regarding their cruel, state-sponsored fate. The underground black market is reported as thriving, indicating a disregard for the government, as the people are becoming more aware of what is happening outside their country, especially on the North Korean-Chinese border, where smuggling and Chinese cell phones, although illegal, have connected North Koreans with the modern world.

To block this unrest from becoming a popular uprising and detract people’s attention from their misery, the North Korean government may do what the Argentinean military junta did in 1982 when faced with a similar disastrous economic situation and restless population: launch a military adventure. And with the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War next month, Kim Jong-il may see that as a sign to “finish the task” of reuniting the Koreas, especially while his government still controls the population.

N.Korea makes new threats as tensions rise

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea threatened Wednesday to shut a border crossing and open fire on loudspeakers if South Korea makes good on its vow to blare out propaganda across the frontier in revenge for the sinking of a warship.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Seoul to show Washington's "rock-solid" support for its ally amid the rising tensions, and said the world had a duty to respond to the North's torpedo attack.
After a weeks-long multinational probe into the sinking of a South Korean corvette on March 26, investigators said they found overwhelming evidence that a North Korean submarine was to blame.
The findings into the attack which killed 46 young sailors sparked strong international condemnation of the hardline communist state.
The South Monday announced a package of reprisals, including a halt to most trade and a resumption of the loudspeaker broadcasts suspended six years ago.
It is also mounting a diplomatic drive to punish the North through the United Nations Security Council, although veto-wielding member China, the North's sole major ally, is reluctant to sign up.
The North says the South faked evidence of its involvement in the sinking in an attempt to fuel confrontation for domestic political reasons. It threatens "all-out war" against any punitive moves.
The regime announced late Tuesday it was breaking all links in protest at Seoul's "smear campaign" and would ban South Korean ships and planes from its territorial waters and airspace.
It said relations would remain severed while conservative President Lee Myung-Bak remains in power in Seoul.
The South's decision to wage "psychological warfare" appears to have sparked particular fury.
It has begun installing loudspeakers along the frontier, and has also resumed FM radio broadcasts to the North. In addition, it plans to scatter propaganda leaflets across the border.
The campaign aims to "push the daily aggravating inter-Korean relations to the brink of war", the North's military said Wednesday, repeating an earlier threat to open fire.
"If the south side sets up even loudspeakers in the frontline area to resume the broadcasting...the KPA (North Korean army) will take military steps to blow up one by one the moment they appear by firing sighting shots."
The North also threatened to ban South Korean personnel and vehicles from a railway and road leading to the Kaesong jointly-run industrial estate just north of the border -- a move which would effectively shut it down.
It ordered eight Seoul government officials on Wednesday to leave the estate and switched off two cross-border communications line, Seoul's unification ministry said.
Clinton warned the North to halt its "provocations and policy of threats and belligerence" against neighbours and backed Seoul's moves to take the attack to the Security Council.
"This was an unacceptable provocation by North Korea and the international community has a responsibility and a duty to respond," she told a news conference.
The chief US diplomat said Washington, which stations 28,500 troops in the South, would consider enhancing its defence posture to deter future attacks.
The Pentagon is already planning joint anti-submarine and other naval exercises with South Korea.
"The United States is also reviewing additional options and authorities to hold North Korea and its leaders accountable," Clinton said without elaborating.
The US is considering its own sanctions that would hit the North's finances and money flow, a South Korean official told Yonhap news agency on condition of anonymity.
Clinton arrived in Seoul from two days of talks in Beijing, at which she pressed China to take a tougher line with the North. So far it has merely urged restraint on all parties.
Clinton gave no indication China was ready to accept Security Council action, but said she expected it to listen to US and South Korean concerns.
"We expect to be working with China as we move forward in fashioning a response to this provocation by North Korea."

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