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Defection across NLL leads to questions about S. Korean preparedness

Yesterday’s re-defection to North Korea by a North Korean defector in the West Sea has the South Korean press asking questions again about the nation’s military preparedness (see also here).

To sum up, the fishing boat the guy stole should never have had its keys onboard, it should never have been allowed to leave port at night, Yeonpyeongdo’s radar didn’t even detect his boat until it had almost reached the NLL, a Navy patrol boat wasn’t sent until he was already across the NLL, and what the hell was a defector doing on Yeonpyeongdo anyway?

See the JoongAng Ilbo’s image for a breakdown of what happened.

US Congress notified of potential sale of F-35s, F-15 SEs to Korea

From Reuters:

The U.S. Defense Department on Wednesday said it has approved the sale of either the Lockheed Martin Corporation’s F-35 stealth fighter or Boeing’s F-15 Silent Eagle fighter to South Korea, which is expected to announce the winner of a 60-jet competition later this year.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees foreign military sales, notified U.S. lawmakers last Friday about the possible sales to South Korea as tensions continued to mount with North Korea, saying that U.S. warplanes would help Seoul “deter aggression in the region.”

It issued two separate announcements on Wednesday, saying it had notified Congress about the possible sales of the two competing fighter jets, as well as radars, electronic warfare systems and other equipment.

The F-35 bid has been especially problematic, although how much of that is real and how much is media BS, I have no idea. What I do know is that it’s funny-looking, expensive as hell and plagued with design issues. Which leaves us with the Typhoon, which isn’t stealth, and the F-15 SE, which I guess sort of is, but based on a 40-year-old air frame.

I suppose it would be nice if we could figure out a war to sell the F-22. It’s not like Uncle Sam doesn’t need the cash.

Guns, guns, guns

If you’re looking for an interactive graphic detailing all the guns Korea manufactures for its military, you’ve come to the right place.

The Daewoo K11 has had issues, though, apparently.

The Chosun Ilbo also recently released a graphic showing the ROK Army’s future combat gear, including active camouflage. The Army hopes to distribute the new gear by 2025.

S. Korea to attack Kim Il-sung statues: report

Quoting a government source, the Chosun Ilbo is reporting that the South Korean military is laying plans to launch surgical strikes using air-to-surface or surface-to-surface missiles on statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il in major North Korea cities should the North launch another major provocation like the Cheonan sinking or the Yeonpyeongdo shelling.

The South apparently feels the psychological shock this would have on the North Korean regime and North Korean residents would be enough to prevent further provocations.

The military has apparently been considering this plan since the Cheonan sinking… which, I must confess, shows greater outside-the-box thinking than I’d previously given the ROK military credit for.

In terms of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il statues, North Korea is a target-rich environment—there are reportedly about 35,000 such statues across the country. South Korea is said to have a prioritized target list already drawn up, using satellite photos to determine the location, size and specifications of each statue.

Marmot’s Note: Well, seeing how USFK is now tied to these sorts of ventures (see previous post), what will our role be in South Korea’s North Korea urban beautification program?

UPDATE: I just remembered North Korea’s claim last year that it had caught a North Korean defector who had allegedly been trained to blow up statues in the North:

A North Korean defector, arrested by the North for allegedly attempting to destroy key communist statues, has said he was ordered by South Korean and U.S. intelligence to launch the attacks, claims flatly denied by Seoul.

Earlier in the week, the North said it had arrested North Korean defectors who planned to destroy statues of North Korea’s leadership.

The communist country accused South Korea’s intelligence unit and the U.S. of masterminding the plot and infiltrating defectors into the North, in its latest propaganda against the South.

N. Korea moves long-range guns across from Baengnyeongdo

Oh, those crafty North Koreans—the Dong-A Ilbo, quoting military sources, reports that North Korea has deployed long-range 170mm self-propelled artillery and 240mm multiple rocket launchers to inland distracts of Jangyon and Yongyon counties, just across from Baengyeongdo and just outside of South Korean artillery range.

The 170mm guns and 240mm MRLs are usually attached to the KPA 4th Corps and based in Kangnyong, Yeonan and Chongdan, where they are tasked with hitting the Seoul and Incheon areas in the event of an emergency.

The ranges on those guns are 24—54km and 40—65km, respectively. The range for South Korea’s K-9 guns on Baengnyeongdo is 40km, while the Guryong MRLs have a range of 36km. This means if North Korea hits Baengnyeongdo with its long-range guns, Baengnyeongdo’s defenders will be unable to hit them back.

Anyway, the South Korean military does not view North Korea’s deployment of long-range guns near Baengnyeongdo to be a good sign. The ranges on those guns are much longer than the ones used to hit Yeonpyeongdo in 2010. The fact that Kim Jong-un has recently made several visits to West Sea artillery units supports analysis that North Korea may launch a provocation at Baengnyeongdo.

Weekly Chosun asks, ‘Why did France reject the American nuclear umbrella?’

In this week’s issue, the Weekly Chosun handles the question of South Korean nukes with due subtlety:

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Mind you, the issue itself runs three stories on the cover issue—one guy offering a hardline response, another guy offering a softball response, and another guy offering a middle-of-the-road response.

However, I think it’s been pretty clear which way the Chosun would like to move with the domestic nuke issue. Which is fine with me, as I lean strongly in that direction, too.

Talks to craft OPLAN 5015 suspended

Multiple Korean military offiicals have told the JoongAng Ilbo that talks between South Korea and the United States to draw up OPLAN 5015 have been suspended.

OPLAN 5015 would map out a joint South Korean—US military response to an emergency in North Korea following the South Korean military’s reassumption of wartime operational control in 2015. It would replace OPLAN 5027.

Talks on OPLAN 5015 have been underway since 2010. A Korean government official said talks on OPLAN 5015 have been based on the idea that the South Korean military would lead operations and the US military would support them. According to the official, progress had been made, with agreements to include CONPLAN 5029 into OPLAN 5015 and to dispatch 690,000 US troops to Korea in an emergency, but talks had recently been suspended, at least provisionally. CONPLAN 5029—which, mind you, is not an actual OPLAN—maps out scenarios for six contingencies, including the threat of seizure of North Korea’s WMD by hostile forces, regime change in North Korea, civil war in the North, mass defections from North Korea, humanitarian operations in the event of a massive natural disaster, and the seizure of South Korean hostages by North Korea.

Observers are saying that since the suspension of the talks on OPLAN 5015, differences of opinion between South Korea and the United States regarding the military response to last year’s North Korean rocket test and the recent nuclear test have emerged. A Korean government official said that after the sinking of the Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeongdo, the South Korean military requested that plans for preemptive strikes on North Korean nuclear facilities and responses to local provocations be included into OPLAN 5015, but the US military has been reluctant to accept. To the contrary, the United States has emphasized the prevention of escalation in order to stop the Chinese from intervening militarily during a local North Korean provocation. A Korean military official said the South Korean military really wanted to promote last month’s joint drills in the East Sea featuring a US cruiser and a nuclear submarine as a strong response to the North, but a high-ranking American at CFC scotched the idea.

Ditto goes for upcoming anti-submarine drills in the East Sea—Korea wants to open it to the media, but the US military has refused. A researcher at KODEF told the JoongAng Ilbo that the United States had been demanding a strong response to the North Korean nuclear program since the 1993 nuclear crisis, including surgical strikes, but 20 years later, the positions of South Korea and the United States have changed.

Marmot’s Note: I’ve suspected that the United States—already with a lot on its plate in the Middle East—has at times, ahem, cautioned the Lee Myung-bak administration from doing what any other nation would do when so brazenly fucked with doing anything rash. And make no mistake about the “promotion” part—the military has been on PR overdrive since the nuke test. Run a Naver search on South Korea’s missile capabilities to see what I’m talking about. The JoongAng also ran a nice, big, pretty graphic about the South Korean military trying to complete a “kill chain” to preemptively take out North Korea’s nuclear weapon sites.

Here’s the thing, though. I don’t know how much of it is real and how much of it is just talk and/or using the Americans as an excuse for Seoul’s own failure to act. The government feels the need to show the public—well, its supporters in the public, anyway—that it’s “doing something” to respond to North Korea’s nuclear test. It might also want to get the Americans to take a tougher line with the North Koreans and/or the Chinese. Whether Seoul want to go all Israeli on the North Koreans, though, is another matter. I’m pretty certain the outgoing administration wants to respond tougher to localized North Korean provocations, if for no other reason than to get a return on investment on the F-15Ks. I suspect, though, that Cheong Wa Dae has serious doubts about the ROK military’s level of preparedness—see the handling of the Cheonan and a series of other recent embarrassments—and is more comfortable relying on the Americans to play really bad cop. I also suspect that the problems in preparedness are in fact at least partly the fault of said reliance on the Americans, but that’s an irony that won’t be resolved any time soon.

It also goes without saying that public opinion also limits how rough Seoul can play with the North. Sure, it’s true the Americans don’t want to fight Korean War 2.0, but the South Korean public really doesn’t want to fight Korean War 2.0. Even if Seoul did have greater latitude to respond militarily to the North, what could it realistically do? Even before North Korea went nuclear, the Americans gave North Korea a wide berth, so what’s to suggest the South Korean government would be any more sanguine?

SOUTH Korean nukes: pros and cons

Media Today took a look at conservative calls South Korea to develop its own nuclear deterrent, and presented counterarguments by a couple of progressive analysts.

Saenuri Party lawmaker and former party chief Chung Mong-joon (who, as a Hyundai scion, is Korea’s seventh richest man) was the first to get on the South Korean nuclear bandwagon, telling an assembly of lawmakers yesterday that Seoul needed to convince the United States that if North Korea goes nuclear, South Korea, too, would have no choice but to acquire “a minimum of self-defensive power.” He added, “You can’t say you can defend your home with a single stone when your thug neighbor has bought the latest machine gun.” He said with North Korea’s nukes hanging above South Korea’s head, Seoul now needed to decide whether to leave South Korea’s security in North Korea’s hands or remove North Korea’s nukes, even if Seoul must make certain sacrifices to do this.

Rep. Won Yoo-chul—who, incidentally, used to be chairman of the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee—said Seoul needed to comprehensively considered from multiple angles the need to declare that South Korea would arm itself with nuclear weapons, based on the premise that it would abandon these weapons immediately once the North Korean nuclear issue is resolved. He said Seoul should also consider whether it should ask the United States to redeploy tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea and revise plans to reassume wartime operational command and abolish the CFC so that these take place only after a resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue is achieved.

Then there’s former Weekly Chosun magazine editor Cho Gap-je, who has been leading the charge for a South Korean Force de Frappe over at his website. In a piece posted yesterday, he laid out ten points for why and how South Korea should go nuclear. They are:

  1. Korea can develop nuclear weapons in a short period of time, and they can make much more and much better ones than the North Koreans.
  2. Korea has a leading nuclear power industry, so it can build reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities with its own technology. And Korea’s got a ton of used nuclear fuel and uranium to reprocess/enrich.
  3. Legally speaking, the things preventing Korea from going nuclear are the NPT and the bilateral nuclear agreement with the United States.
  4. South Korea should withdraw from the NPT and amend its bilateral agreement with the United States. South Korea could do this by noting that the international community failed to stop North Korea from going nuclear, creating for South Korea a fatal security crisis. South Korea’s nukes should be considered an exercise in sovereignty for national survival. To convince the international community of this, strong diplomacy would be needed.
  5. South Korea’s nuclear weapons development would be different in character from those of North Korea, Israel, India and Pakistan. For South Korea, nuclear weapon development would be a choice for survival since the international community stood by and watched while North Korea developed its nuclear weapons first.
  6. Seoul should declare openly that it intends to develop nuclear weapons, even if the actual development is conducted in secret. Seoul needs to do this legally and with chin up. Seoul should also make clear that it is prepared to abandon its nuclear program if North Korea abandons its nuclear program.
  7. South Korea should develop its nukes with public consensus. You can even hold a referendum. We must give the international community the impression that nuclear weapons are an overwhelming demand of the public and cannot be stopped.
  8. A movement to develop nukes could become a golden opportunity for Koreans to overcome their longtime servility and flunkyism. If Koreans come together to decide on their own survival, it could resolve a lot of the illnesses of Korean society.
  9. Korea must accept some economic losses in the name of security. Moreover, if Korea pleads with and convinces the international community with rational arguments, it might not get slapped with sanctions. It’s almost impossible for market economies to slap economic sanctions on one another (Marmot’s Note: Somebody tell the South Africans that). In this regard, the KORUS FTA is a safety valve. The way to overcoming servility and flunkyism is to strengthen Korea’s diplomatic power so that it can deal with American and Chinese pressure after stressing that Korea faced a crisis after it was threatened by a nuclear-armed gangster state and making it clear that it would abandon its nukes once the North did.
  10. We must continuously convene mass gatherings in Gwanghwamun calling for South Korea to develop nukes.

Cho’s former mother paper, the Chosun Ilbo, called for South Korea to develop nukes in an editorial yesterday (Marmot’s Note: see my summary in yesterday’s post), and the Segye Ilbo did the same, calling for a revision to South Korea’s bilateral nuclear agreement with the United States banning Seoul from nuclear reprocessing.

Not everyone’s getting on the bandwagon, though. Yonsei professor and Western media favorite Moon Jung-in told Media Today that not only would South Korea’s development of nuclear weapons by unreasonable, but it would be “rash nuclear ethno-nationalism” that could lead to the suspension of the development of Korea’s domestic nuclear industry.

He also poo-pooed the idea of getting the United States to redeploy tactical nukes to South Korea, noting that the United States has been destroying its tactical nukes since Bush Senior, and that it removed its tactical nukes formerly deployed at Gunsan Air Base because the cost of maintaining and securing them outweighed their benefit. He said tactical nukes had disappeared from recent US strategic concepts.

About South Korea developing its own nukes, Moon said such voices are growing louder with Park Geun-hye taking office since her father tried to develop nuclear weapons, but the problem is where to get the uranium and plutonium. He said Seoul asked the Americans to allow them to reprocess spent fuel in last year’s talks to revise the bilateral nuclear agreement, but the United States said no precisely because the Americans were concerned the Koreans could use reprocessed fuel to build nuclear weapons.

If the Koreans try to secretly bring in plutonium and uranium, it would violate the NPT and nuclear fuel provisions from the IAEA’s NSG would be suspended immediately. This could suspend the development of Korea’s nuclear power industry. And even if South Korea does succeed in developing nuclear weapons, would the North Koreans be frightened? Instead of a deterrent, it would lead to nuclear proliferation, and Northeast Asia would suffer from a nuclear domino effect with Japan and China getting involved.

Kim Jong-dae, the editor-in-chief of progressive military affairs journal Defense 21, also told Media Today that not only does the United States not have nuclear weapons to place in South Korea, but it disassembled all its tactical nukes everywhere in the 1990s because it was already widely accepted that battlefield nukes were useless. Moreover, it would be risky and politically burdensome for the United States to redeploy tactical nukes to the South, so why would they?

Kim said the North Korean nuclear test is a question of nuclear proliferation, and the United States is looking to prevent nuclear proliferation, so placing nukes in South Korea would create a contradiction. It’s a mistake to believe the United States will do anything South Korea asks just because it’s an ally.

Kim said Korea has developed economically by following the rules of the international community, and it wasn’t worth considering arming South Korea with nukes by severing all those relationships should it withdraw from the NPT and declare it would develop nukes.

Media Today also notes that unlike the Chosun Ilbo, the JoongAng Ilbo and other conservative papers said South Korea should not abandon the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula nor develop nuclear weapons.

Marmot’s Note: When you live in a neighborhood when China, Russia and North Korea all have nukes, I see no reason why South Korea shouldn’t have them. Would it pressure the North to abandon its nuclear program? Probably not—the North pursues its nuclear program primarily to blackmail the United States. Still, South Korea’s got plenty of other security concerns outside of North Korea, and an independent nuclear arsenal would serve to keep its neighbors honest.

As for Korea suffering sanctions, I’m not so sure that will happen. Not in the long-term, anyway. The United States eventually reconciled itself to a nuclear India, and South Korea not only has a much closer security relationship with the United States than India, but it’s in a neighborhood with three other nuclear powers. I think Seoul could convincingly argue to the international community that they did things their way, and all it got South Koreans was a nuclear gun pointed at their head with Kim Jong-un on the trigger.

Anyway, in another piece, Cho Gap-je asks why the United States would punish South Korea for developing nuclear weapons when the United States OK’d India’s nuclear program, to say nothing of all the aid Washington gave Pakistan in the War on Terror:

인도와 파키스탄은 核확산금지조약에 가입하지 않은 나라이다. 그런 나라에 대하여 미국이 이렇게 협조적인 것은, 두 나라가 미국의 國益(국익)에 소중한 존재이기 때문이다. 인도는 중국을 견제하고, 파키스탄은 알카에다와 탈레반을 견제한다. 東北亞에서 미국의 전략적 利害(이해)관계에 보조를 맞추어온 한국은 파키스탄과 인도보다 못한 존재인가? 한국 정부와 한국인들은 자신들의 전략적 가치를 미국에 대하여 한번도 시험해본 적이 없다. 몸값이 얼마나 높은지도 모른다.
[…]
미국에 있어서 한국은 전략적, 경제적, 군사적 몸값이 영국, 프랑스, 독일, 인도에 못지 않는 나라가 되었다. 더구나 우리는 참을 만큼 참아 왔다. 6者 회담이 국제사기극이란 사실을 알면서도 굴욕을 참고 미국과 보조를 맞추려 하였다. 더 참는 것은 노예의 삶이다.

Church.

Photos of US-ROK Marines’ joint winter drill

The Telegraph has a good slide show of American and Korean Marines during their recent joint winter drill in Pyeongchang. Give me a good ondol and a hot cup of coffee and I’m fine staying inside.

American and ROK Marine Winter Drill

HT to reader.

Korean Navy to buy European chopper instead of American one

The ROK Navy has decided to buy the AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat instead of the Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk.

The Seahawk reportedly outperformed the Wildcat in the evaluation tests, but the Wildcat won on price.

South Korea to finally purchase Global Hawks from the US

After going back and forth on the purchase for six years, South Korea will plop down $1.2 billion on four high altitude Global Hawk surveillance drones from the US.

The deal requires approval from the American Congress, which was reluctant in years past, but is likely to go through this time due to increased provocations from the North, as well as heavy lobbying from Northrop-Grumman over US military budget cuts putting a crimp in their bottom line.

Depending on who you ask, the reason prior sales never went through was either South Korean sticker shock over the steep price or, according to Defense Industry Daily, American worries that the ROK would reverse-engineer the highly guarded technology.

Secrets are one issue that is not discussed openly, because of the sensitivities around telling a country that it cannot be trusted with secrets – even when that belief is well founded…Reports in November 2011 that South Korea engaged in attempts to reverse-engineer American military technologies have reportedly stalled American interest in a Global Hawk sale, and may do wider damage, if true.

Defense Industry Daily also cited earlier snags in the purchase on the deterioration in US-Korean relations under the Roh Mu-hyun administration as well as a 2008 survey of ROK military cadets in which 34% polled viewed America as South Korea’s “main enemy.”

According to the Washington Post, arms-control advocates are expressing fears that an approved sale will create an arms race in the region as well as give diplomatic cover for China and Russia to increase military exports.

I guess the advocates dismiss the recent North Korean missile launch and the ongoing nuclear weapons program as part of an arms-race?

640px-Global_Hawk_1

Because even a Marine needs a hug sometimes…

Park Geun-hye visiting the ROK Marines on Yeonpyeong-do on Nov 20.

Kia to make Korean Humvees

In case anyone missed it, Kia will begin supplying locally produced Humvees to the Korean military from 2016.

Nice looking prototype.

The vehicles will be produced in Kia’s Gwangju factory. The first order is for 2,000 vehicles.

Had been wondering when the Korean military would adopt a Humvee-like vehicle…

DMZ security and the end of North Korea

Ye Olde Chosun is bitching about the slack security at the DMZ (something we’ve been bitching about for some time), especially since it seems in one recent case, a wee little North Korean fella actually climbed over the metal fences of the DMZ and walked to South Korean guard post living quarter without being spotted. In particular, the Chosun wants to bring in some high-tech gear to boost security on the line.

There are some in the Korean intelligence community who see the defections in a positive way, however:

South Korean intelligence is believed to have identified signs that there is a general breakdown in discipline in North Korea, leading some to question if the regime is on the verge of collapse.

According to a government source, three North Korean soldiers defected to the South through the eastern and western borders, indicating that there could be a serious breakdown in the internal discipline of the Communist regime.

The end could very well be on its way. The Chosun Ilbo saw this, too, noting that the guy who wacked his two superior officers before crossing over to the Land of the Great Choco Pie served with an elite front-line unit:

A teenage North Korean soldier who defected after killing two of his superiors and crossing the heavily armed border to South Korea on Saturday has told interrogators he did it because he saw “no hope” in the North.

Investigators quoted the soldier as saying he learned of the huge gap between the two Koreas through the joint-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex. He worked at a frontline guard post within the Joint Security Area where North Korean soldiers oversee and control transaction of goods and workers commuting to the Kaesong complex.
[…]
The source added, “The North Korean regime stations hand-picked troops at border guard posts in [the truce village of] Panmunjom and the Kaesong Industrial Complex for fear of defections or ideological contamination, so this shows that discipline in the North Korean military is weakening.”

I guess he really wanted those Choco Pies.

Turks use variant of Korean artillery to punish Syria

In case anyone was wondering—I know I certainly was—the Turkish guns used to punish Syria today were the T-155, the Turkish variant of Korea’s K-9, the self-propelled howitzers used to retaliate against North Korea during the shelling of Yeonpyeongdo in 2010.

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