The Koreas…

Apparently there’s more instability in the Korean peninsula than I realized…And U.S. plans to respond militarily to Iran are now topics of discussion, as if that would surprise anyone.  But, as for the Koreas…If the North sank the Cheonan (and Joshua Stanton presents a good summary of indications that that may have happened…), well, that doesn’t bode well for the stability of East Asia.  Of course, there are those like Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute who argue that we shouldn’t be involved in any dispute, as our interests are no longer those of the Cold War, and South Korea should be able to take care of itself, etc., etc.  Sounds good, but I’m not buying it.  He’s overlooking a number of factors which, to my understanding, have long dominated strategic thinking about Korea, including Seoul’s unfortunate location within artillery range of the North’s conventional and chemical weapons.  That’s a start…And I doubt that backing the South in a military conflict (God forbid) would incur the ire of Japan, or probably even of China.  On the whole, however, let’s hope it was just a mine, and not submarines, which sank the Cheonan.

3 Replies to “The Koreas…”

  1. For those who are interested in the incident, check out this thread
    (http://www.acewings.com/cobrachen/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=6423&whichpage=5)
    I know most of you, if not all, can’t read Chinese, but I am sure you can see the pictures of the stern of Cheonan being lift up.

    The pictures show the structure damage was not from a direct hit, but shock wave and pressure from an outside explosion near by on the ship’s starboard(remember those dive bombers from WWII that cause damages without direct hit?). The direction of the current at the scene already ruled out the possibility of any mine drifting from the North a while ago(I know there’s a gap of information in the U.S. You can find the image at http://img16.imageshack.us/img16/6466/126967744954.gif).
    You can also see from the pictures that all of the weaponry on board are still intact, which shows it was not a magazine blow. The profile of the damage also ruled out the theory that the ship broke into half due to poor manufacture(like the liberty class ship in WWII. The fact the Cheonan has been around for about 20 years kind of shows it wasn’t that bad of a built).

    So the tricky part is what’s the source of the explosion? There are certain type of moored mines that can stay in the same location. the South Korean could have employed them there, even though it is very unlikely. There is also the possibility of a torpedo got detonated early(from either the North, the South, or even some third party). The fact that the Cheonan was lack of situation awareness makes everything even more confusing(Based on the testimony from the survived crew, She was not under general quarters, which you think they would for being that close to the North. Many of the crew were in their living quarters except those who were on duty. ). So the next step is to search for fragments of the possible mine/torpedo to determine the source of the explosion. The U.S. along with couple other countries are already involved in the investigation.

    Since it’s been couple weeks already, and the both sides have been pretty cool (especially for the North, they have been a little TOO cool for their usual self). So I don’t think there’s any instability as right now until further evidence have been found. (remember when the U.S. EP-3 shot down a Communist Chinese J-8II? Oh, wait, I meant when the J-8II pilot was being a complete idiot and got himself hit and killed by a slow ass EP-3. That was more intense then the Cheonan because we all knew who did it)

    In terms of possible North Korean attack. The location was reported as rough sea with 2.5M high waves. Any mini-sub/semi-sub would have great difficulty to operate in that kind of environment. They are also too slow the hunt any warship down. The shallow water is bad for large sub. So the Sang-O class and similar subs become the prime suspect for ambushing the Cheonan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sang-O_class_submarine).

    However, why would the North Korea want to sink a small South Korean ship when they can just leveled Seoul with their artillery? Why did they suddenly become so quiet until the South Korean Govt and media slowly pointing their fingers toward North? In my personal opinion, the North doesn’t want an all out war for sure. Could there be some hawkish officer in the North planned this attack and now Kim is trying to cover it up? Or could it be an accident when the North accidentally fired the torpedo(most military takes any opportunity to train for real situation. Aiming at random targets without target noticing happens quite often under the table.)? The South have also been very self-controlled except their defense minister who have been making statements suspecting the North all along. The suggestion of a cover-up from either Govt over the incident is valid, but for the purpose of avoiding a war. Another observation that has not been brought up is the fact that neither side has called for mobilization, hence the situation is still well under controlled.

    It is interesting to see Mr. Bandow claiming the South Korea relied too much of its defense on the U.S. He is obviously neglecting the recent build up of the ROK Navy including self-built Aegis destroyers and helicopter carriers (which only ROK, Japan, and the U.S. 7th Fleet have similar capabilities in Asia. Ironically, the LPH was built to counter Japan instead of North Korea.). the ROK is also offering to sell license-built German 209 Class sub to the Royal Thai Navy. ROKAF is one of the most recent customers of the F-15 family. The ROK Army is currently conducting the most expensive Main Battle Tank project to-date (the K-2 Black Panther tank could ended up 8.5 million USD per vehicle, beating Japanese Type 90’s 2008 record of 7.4 million/vehicle). Could those effort stop an invasion from the North? Yes, but with a heavy price since the North still have enough fire power to damage the infrastructure of ROK’s industries. The presence of the US is a political issue, not military. It has something to do with maintaining regional stability and military balance to keep the old communist brotherhood (mainly mainland China) on their toes. North Korea can also cause a good amount of damage to Japan with ballistic missiles(why the hack do you think the Japanese spent that much money to build up a missile defense system? Imaging a single missile landed in Tokyo, and the kind of panic it could cause regardless of the physical damage). It’s been proven years ago that isolationism doesn’t work in regions that has a long history of tension. There are only so much goodwill can accomplish in reality, and world peace isn’t one of them.

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