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No wonder he is wonely…

It’s official. The North Koreans torpedoed the South Korean navy ship. I have this excerpt from a Jane’s newsletter:

Torpedo ‘only possible explanation’ for Chon An sinking, says report. A torpedo attack led by North Korea is the only possible explanation behind the sinking of the South Korean corvette Chon An, argues the final joint investigation report released by Seoul on 13 September. The 305 page-long report, seen by Jane’s , rules out any other possibility – such as a sea mine – to explain the disaster that killed 46 sailors in the Yellow Sea (West Sea) on 26 March

There was a time when this form of international behavior had a name: “Act of War”.

35 comments to No wonder he is wonely…

  • Ian B

    I’m not sure what you’re saying here Dale. Are you urging for a war in response?

  • Dale Amon

    Not precisely. If having one of your naval vessels is not considered a cause of war by South Korea, what would the NorKs have to do before it was so considered? Should they perform tit for tat? Should they turn the other cheek? Should they emit noxious gases in the little cockroach’s general direction?

  • Ian B

    Problem is, it could turn into a very big war, as I understand it. So it’s not an easy decision.

  • You would think that Red China would do a better job at controlling their petulant child south of their borders.

    Think about it. US troops are stationed in S.Korea and in no way could we really devote any meaningful forces to help support the SK army. The Chinese might or might not stay neutral depending on the acts of the US.

    It’s a messy place to get involved in.

  • newrouter

    Should they perform tit for tat?

    i wouldn’t want to be a nork ambassador is some 3rd world country

  • Vinegar Joe

    Remember when the North Koreans virtually decapitated the South Korean government back in 1983? It was only luck that President Chun Doo-hwan wasn’t killed.


  • From the Wikipedia article on the Rangoon Bombing:

    “…suspect Kang Min-chul and the other attacker attempted to commit suicide by blowing themselves up with a hand grenade that same day, but survived, although Kang lost an arm.”

    It appears that they wheren’t very good at this whole “blowing people up” business. I admit they did manage to kill 21 people, but it was the wrong 21 people; the people they actually tried to blow up (the South Korean President; themselves) all managed to survive.

    Back on topic: This was definitely an Act of War, but the question is how to best respond to it. If they don’t do anything about it it’s just going to encourage more of this sort of thing, but SK probably doesn’t want to occupy NK, or get embroiled in a major regional war (World War is possible, but probably unlikely), particularly since it can’t be confident of the American’s willingness to provide significant help.

    Perhaps they could strike a handful of NK ships at sea; “You sink one of our ships; we sink four of yours”?

  • Subotai Bahadur

    Speaking for myself, and definitely not for Mr. Amon; but I think that he is pointing out a problem of a total lack of response to what in any rational world would be considered a cassus belli. There are the risks noted by Ian B. and The_Chef. But there are also the risks of inaction.

    Deterrence is only a viable strategy if one can assume that all parties concerned share the same understanding about the nature of the situation, the consequences of actions, and are acting rationally according to that shared understanding. North Korea takes the concept of “Hermit Kingdom” to extremes, and withdrawal from the society of man can lead to …. some interesting delusions and world views outside the mainstream.

    There is no deterrence. And there is a high risk if any form of counter-attack is attempted. Letting attacks and provocations go unanswered also has a bad track record.

    I offer the example of the Rhineland in 1936. The reoccupation of the Rhineland was a direct violation of the Versailles Treaty, and a cassus belli. The German forces were under direct orders to turn around and run away if as much as a corporal’s guard blocked their way. The French refused to muster that corporal’s guard, and were able to withdraw faster than the Germans could advance.

    If the Germans were stopped in 1936, from what we found out after the war; it is likely that Hitler would have been overthrown and the entire European war would not have happened.

    Failure to act or decide itself constitutes an action or a decision. That does not make it any better a situation, but there will be consequences of the South Korean failure to respond.

    From the point of view of Asia outside of China and North Korea; they are in a very bad place. North Korea is acting violently and irrationally. North Korea is a Chinese client state, and China apparently is not making any effort to restrain its irrational violence. Therefore, it is a distinct possibility that it is something desired by or planned in Beijing.

    Facing that threat, they have their own limited capabilities, and the promise of defensive aid from the United States. In the case of South Korea, in theory the Armistice is also guaranteed by the UN. However, the UN Security Council now contains the PRC. No cover there.

    Given the nature and ideology of the current administration in Washington, DC; a guarantee of aid in self-defense is worth somewhat less than a bowl of kimchee from a Seoul street vendor. The presence of US troops in South Korea is no guarantee, as we have withdrawn from the DMZ some time ago and most of our forces are in the far south and may be evacuated. And to be honest, this administration cannot be depended upon not to view them as expendable.

    Since the US cannot be relied upon for defense, the only rational choices remaining for non-Communist countries on the periphery of Asia is to either boost their own defenses to the point where they can make it too expensive to attack them, or to reach an accomodation with China and North Korea that allows survival for a while at a price. While Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan have the abilities to produce a nuclear deterrent over a period from a couple of years to a couple of months; the decision of which track to pursue is becoming urgent. While I have my own opinions as to which they should choose, it is in their hands now. The US and Europe have become bystanders.

    And we are all going to have to bear with the consequences.

    Subotai Bahadur

  • Chuck6134

    I think it was deliberate here in the US (goes without saying that Europe most definitely) that the Administration did its damned best to find anything to give a doubt that the N. Koreans did anything this brazen. The US has to be pushed to a very bloody corner before it will fight any longer and most of allies have realized that they can no longer count on us for anything but words.

    The comments wondering if the author was wanting war were surprising. He simply made the point that once, not all that long ago either, such an act would have meant war. Now N. Korea and many other half assed nations know they can get away with quite a bit before anyone will even seriously contemplate any military response.

    That is an idea new in world relations and most assuredly does absolutely nothing to make it a safer one.

  • Robert Speirs

    Of course, the reason the South Koreans haven’t responded is that there is a modicum of freedom of speech and dissent in the South. Any reprisal would have political consequences that wouldn’t occur in the North. As to the Chinese, they either approved the attack in advance or made it clear that such actions would not worsen relations with them. It’s tough having a psychotic killer for a “puppet”. But I have a feeling the Norks will pay a price for this, maybe after Obozo is gone.

  • K

    The whole point of having nukes is that you can perform all manner of small provocations with impunity. I expect this was a test of that principle, just to see if the US got the message.

    So what if SOK offs a couple of Nork diplomates or siezes a cargo ship fill of kidnapped Japanese girls. No skin off the nutbag dictator.

    It will be interesting what Iran does when they get their nukes on line.

  • Roue le Jour

    As the US appears to weaken, China will naturally nip at its heels. China wants to dominate SE Asia the same way the US dominates the Americas, and given enough time, they probably will.

    Nice film ref.

  • One country never knows what another country might do in response to an attack. So, NorthK’s sinking of the Chon An can be seen as a test of SouthK’s resolve.

    If any violent response by SouthK is considered too dangerous, because it might start a war, then what about NorthK’s action? Why wasn’t NorthK’s action too dangerous? If there is no matching, violent response by SouthK, then NorthK has its answer: SouthK is too weak and politically disunified to mount a violent response. This invites further provocation and adventure by NorthK.

    If there is fear of war in response to the Chon An sinking, then what will that fear be for the next, bigger provocation by NorthK? It is better for SouthK to get into the fight at a low level and show NorthK that it will respond.

    NorthK doesn’t need a provocation to drop a nuclear bomb on SouthK. It does need to know how much conventional leverage it has because of its nuclear weapons.

  • Dale Amon

    There are a number of ways that South Korea could respond, depending on what sort of message they wish to send and on how they read the NorK leadership.

    The most obvious tit-for-tat strategy is to pick out a vessel or vessel of the NorK’s whose tonnage is similar to the Chon An and very publicly blow the hell out of it.

    Another approach is the special ops one. If they could cause some high value target inside North Korea to ‘go away’ in a deniable way … that sends a different message.

    But a harsh message is required. The cost of not sending one could be very, very high.

  • John Galt

    No peace treaty has ever been signed between North and South Korea and they remain to this day in a state of declared war, tempered only by an agreed ceasefire and Armistice (“A state of peace agreed to between opponents so they can discuss peace terms”) since 1953 / 54.

  • Bogdan from Australia

    Then there in an obvious observation; Regardless of Obama’s personal, moral degeneracy and his deliberate appeasement of America’s enemies, if the country like South Korea spends some 1,7-1,8% of GDP on “defence” it cannot be considered as a serious approach to the matter of national security.
    That concerns other so called “allies” of the US; Taiwan, Japan, Germany, Norway, Italy and my own Poland as well.
    They all would defend heroically their freedom to the last American soldier.
    It is understandable that in such situation, many god Yanks are increasingly reluctant to send their GS to fight other people’s wars.
    The only countries outside US that are really serious about the national security stuff are Israel (7% GDP on def) and Singapore (9% of GDP).
    Tini Singapore is so well armed and prepared that it would be too costly even for China to attack that country.
    There is no ther way for Japs, S. Koreans and others than to get serious about their security and rapidly increase their military spending.
    And then tit-for-tat will have some real meanning.

  • Bogdan from Australia

    However, they (South Koreans) will not increase their military spending.
    A friend of mine who is who is working in S.Korea as an Eglish Teacher says that the young S.Koreans are so brain-washed and cretinised that they regard the US and not the NORTH as their enemy.
    So for the foreseeble future there will be only tit, tit, tit… and there won’t be any tat, tat, tat…

  • Bogdan from Australia

    Aha. I forgot to mention another brain-washed and cretinised country; EUNUCHALIA…

  • Subotai incorrectly correlates Hitler’s Rheinland move with this snafu by NK.

    NK would stand no chance against American Air superiority. A couple of J-DAMs will wipe out an entire armored division.

    I get the feeling that NK is trying to provoke the south into doing something dumb in order to make a stab at Seoul or get the Chinese involved.

    Of course I don’t think the Chinese are dumb enough to allow that shanty town of a country to drag them into a major international conflict.

  • Eric

    Of course, the reason the South Koreans haven’t responded is that there is a modicum of freedom of speech and dissent in the South.

    No, the reason they haven’t responded is while the North is no match for South Korea’s military, everything that’s worth anything in South Korea is within artillery range of the DMZ. Any victory would by Pyrrhic.

    Of course the man on the street pretends to believe it’s all the CIA’s doing – to admit otherwise would be to face the choice between national emasculation and Armageddon. As it happens this is probably the best response – Kim isn’t long for this world, and North Korea doesn’t exactly have a system that guarantees a smooth transition of power.

  • RW

    For my money the attack was a Nork internal diversion: increase the Nork populace paranoia and divert their attention from the leadership transition, while justifying any repressive measures..

    Both the Norks and the Souks have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. The Nork regime would not long survive a conquest of the south since taking over a much wealthier country would reveal how low the Nork standard of living had become. Communism did not long survive the fall of South Vietnam. Likewise the Souks must be terrified of the cost of any reunification.

  • Richard Thomas

    everything that’s worth anything in South Korea is within artillery range of the DMZ

    I have no knowledge of South Korean history or geography. I’m just wondering how much of that is an accident of geography and how much a consequence of American troops’ presence injecting money into the economy there? Unintended consequences perhaps?

  • Dale Amon

    It’s a rather important area to know a little bit about so I would recommend you do a bit of reading on it.

    The capital city is not far from the armistice line; this is essentially the same line at which the Red Army stopped when Japan surrendered to the US after Nagasaki. For Korea as an historical nation, this is the middle of their country. It just happens that Stalin partitioned them and Red China threw the US Army back to that line after MacArthur had broken out of the near defeat from the initial invasion by the NorK’s and thrown them almost all the way back to the Chinese border.

    If one were to suggest why there is so much wealth there, I would say it is more likely the ‘Imperial City’ affect. Where ever there is a government, the largest amounts of stolen money will be pumped into the economy in their immediate vicinity. South Korea was a very autocratic place up until perhaps 20 years ago and as in most places where government is strong, wealth flows to those who most co-operate.

    South Korea is now a relatively free place but it is still pretty much as government infested as most of the world, thus you find wealth around the Capitol.

  • Daveon

    I have no knowledge of South Korean history or geography. I’m just wondering how much of that is an accident of geography and how much a consequence of American troops’ presence injecting money into the economy there? Unintended consequences perhaps?

    Accident for the most part. Seoul is pretty close to the DMZ and most of the significant manufacturing grew up around Seoul, so you’ve places like Suwon City, which is an hour in traffic out of Seoul as the home all pretty much all of Samsung’s consumer electronics.

    The problem for the RotW with that is that Samsung and LG not only make their own stuff but they also provide a lot of the core electronic components that find their way into stuff made everywhere else in the world. So it’s not just losing Samsung and LG equipment, it’s suddenly finding that none of the Japanese TV manufacturers can make TVs any more, and most of the computer industry is in trouble because they can’t get access to memory chips.

    Given the amount of non-nuclear ordinance in that area, any land war will be a bad day for the global economy, even if it is over in a few days.

  • Daveon

    South Korea was a very autocratic place up until perhaps 20 years ago

    Being in the middle of a project with a South Korean electronics company, I had to chuckle at the use of the past tense.

    I’ve had a few business trips there in the last decade and autocratic is a word that frequently springs to mind.

    Put it this way. I’ve been to countries that were easier to get into than Samsungs Corporate HQ.

  • Ian B

    I’m reading this on a Samsung monitor…

  • Tim Quilty

    Does anyone have a good explanation as to why S.Korea has not been shifting industry south out of range of the N.Korean artillery? It is not like this is a new problem or anything. And Seoul has been pretty much completely rebuilt in the las 30 years – they could have rebuilt it anywhere…

  • Dale Amon

    ‘They’ meaning whom? Industry grows where the combinations of customers, shipping, labor, etc are optimal… and not to mention historical reasons of ‘this is where we started our business’. I suspect businesses have not moved simply because they would be uncompetitive if they did so.

    It would take someone much more familiar than I to analyze the combination of highways, ports, communications, educational institutions and such elsewhere in South Korea and whether there are other areas that have the potential to become major technology hubs.

  • thefrollickingmole

    Just a thought game, but what if it had been a US ship and not a Korean one? After all the US has assets around the area dont they?

  • I take RW’s position, but with a twist. Both the North and South want to preserve the status quo – but only short-to-medium term. Neither side is too happy with it.

    The Norks still dream of unifying Korea, under the Kim dynasty – and I think they are brainwashed enough to believe it may work; those few informed and rational enough to doubt it will not dare speak up, as 10+ years of labor camp would be the optimistic outcome for them.

    The South wishes lazily for a reunification, if it were possible without the accompanying inconvenience. They dread the inconvenience, however, more than they fear a corvette sunk, or an airliner shot down. I am not sure the South at this point has a coherent best-case scenario figured out – perhaps something like “if NK were to become something like Vietnam or China, with communist leadership, but capitalist economy, we could merge as (more or less… okay, less, but not as bad as now) near-equals in a couple of decades”. They need to figure out what they want, and they can’t. They do not want a stable NK, but they do not want a destabilized NK; they want to unify, but not until pigs develop vertical take-off; they fear Kim, but they also fear his generals.

    My take (more like a wet dream): if Turkey can develop a UAV with 200 kg of payload, so can the SKs, and they can make it stealth, or stealthy enough to take joyrides through NK airspace. Load up 200kg meteorites on a fleet of those, and drop them on Kim’s palace from an altitude of 10km. Ditto for the NK army HQ. Repeat at a larger scale when the next “incident” occurs. Soon enough the message will get through. For an added plot twist, make one of of Chinese parts, and crash it in the middle of Pyongyang – in recognizable form. Enjoy the show.

  • PeterT

    Haven’t had time to read through the whole thread so don’t know if somebody has already mentioned that the countries are already at war technically speaking. They are just having a
    break at the moment.

  • John Galt

    Yes PeterT, I mentioned it previously.

    No peace treaty has ever been signed between North and South Korea and they remain to this day in a state of declared war, tempered only by an agreed ceasefire and Armistice (“A state of peace agreed to between opponents so they can discuss peace terms”) since 1953 / 54.

  • Tim Quilty

    ‘They’ meaning whom? Industry grows where the combinations of customers, shipping, labor, etc are optimal… and not to mention historical reasons of ‘this is where we started our business’. I suspect businesses have not moved simply because they would be uncompetitive if they did so.

    S.Korea is hardly a Laissez-faire state. The Government has been involved in the economy in a big way. Particularly with built infrastructure in the last 30 years. There has been an entire rebuilding of the economy in this time. The government has been intimately involved. Even were this not the case, having your factories and entire workforce wiped out in a 15 minute period cannot be in keeping with sensible business risk planning.

    In the best case there has been a collective head-in -the-sand mentality. With the national security issues, I can’t help but feel the country has been undermined by a 5th column that wants to keep it hostage to the north.

  • Paul Marks

    But Dale – RT has said it was not the North Koreans.

    Are you telling me that Putin’s boys and girls are lying? I am shattered.

    Next you will be telling me group of Islamic radicals were responsible for 9/11 (I had a run in with some “Truthers” the other day).

    Seriously – of course it was an act of war.

    The Republic of Korea should prepare itself for other attacks – anything is possible, even an attomic attack on Seoul.

  • Paul Marks

    On the American military:

    The Obama Administration has long plans to castrate the American military.

    The excuse that is to be used is the need to get goverment spending under control. “But I thought government spending was a good thing that would stimulate the economy and pay for itself” – remember the leftist capacity for “Double Think” (a tactic they have used since the time of Plato at least).

    The Adminitration can say (and academia and the media will support) that government spending is no problem for the economy that it, in fact, “stimulates” the economy and thereby pays for itself – and also say AT THE SAME TIME that government spending is a terrible threat to the economy and that defence must be gutted in order to save the economy (and academia and the media will support this as well).

    First create a crises (in this case the wild increase in govenrment spending) then stand ready with your solution to the crises – cut defence spending.

    “But how does this benefit their agenda?” – COLLECTIVE SECURITY as a substitute for the evil American armed forces.

    An new United Nations (or various other world partnerships) will replace the reactionary American military – as part of globel goverance (the Chinese government will be so pleased – although it will demand a big say in all this).

    “Paranoid Paul” – not at all, the Administration people have been dropping hints for ages, as have their allies in academia and the media.

    For example, “Lexington” over at the “Economist” magazine (the establishment publication I love so much) has been dropping hints about evil “registered Republican” generals for some time, now. How the Obama Administation must reduce the power of the evil American military in the interests of the Progressive peoples of the world ……… and because Amerca simply “can not afford” the military anymore (this from a man who supported the “Stimulus” insanity).

    The “International Community” people have long been planning. And they believe their time grows near.