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?
In an interview with Korea’s paper of record, Lee said after North Korea shelled Yeonpyeongdo in November 2010, he told China that from now on, he would use the Army, Navy and Air Force to retaliate against not only the source of any North Korean provocation, but also support units as well. He also told the Chinese to tell this to the North Koreans, which they did during Dai Bingguo subsequent visit to Pyongyang.
He said this because he believed North Korea does what it does because it thinks the Americans won’t let the South retaliate (Marmot’s Note: He’s probably right about this, which makes the situation even more dangerous since even the long-suffering South Korean military can take only so much shit from the North Koreans. One of these days, they’re going to snap).
Seemingly proving his point, Lee said at the time of the Yeonpyeongdo Incident, he ordered the Air Force to strike North Korean targets, but a high-ranking military official blocked him, saying that the Air Force mustn’t get involved per the rules of engagement, and that they needed to consult with the Americans.
Lee said he later corrected the rules of engagement so that commanders on the ground could respond immediately and make their reports later. He also said the Americans at first opposed Lee’s plan to expand retaliation to support units, but the Koreans got their way in the end thanks to strong persuasion.
Lee said the most heartbreaking incident during his term was the loss of 46 sailors in the Cheonan sinking. He said it hurt when the men were killed, and it hurt again when people said the attack was staged.
When asked what he was most proud of, it was that Korea maintained plus growth when the world was experiencing minus growth due to the economic crisis. He said the world recognized this, and this made Korea the chair of the G20 summit.
South Korea’s next defense chief threatened Friday that jets would bomb the North if it stages another attack like last week’s deadly shelling as he outlined a tough new military policy toward the rival neighbor.
Lee’s nominee, Kim Kwan-jin, told a parliamentary confirmation hearing that further North Korean aggression will result in airstrikes. He said South Korea will use all its combat capabilities to retaliate.
“In case the enemy attacks our territory and people again, we will thoroughly retaliate to ensure that the enemy cannot provoke again,” Kim said. The hearing is a formality as South Korea’s National Assembly does not have the power to reject Lee’s appointment.
Like the part about air strikes, don’t like the part about “thoroughly retaliating to ensure that the enemy cannot provoke again,” as you’d need to have boots on the ground in Pyongyang to do that.
Nearly 70 percent of the South Koreans support limited military actions in response to North Korea’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island last Tuesday. This contrasts starkly with the mood in April, after North Korea sank the Navy corvette Cheonan, when less than 30 percent said they support military action.
Although in April roughly equal numbers thought the government reaction to the Cheonan sinking was appropriate or inappropriate, now those who say the government’s response to the Yeonpyeong attack was inadequate outnumber those who think it was enough three times. The swing seems to indicate disillusionment with the government’s response to a series of military provocations by the North.
I linked to another poll in the Munhwa Ilbo noting that an astounding 44% of South Koreans want a strong military response even if the situation escalates, while another 33.5% want to see a military response but no escalation. Personally, I don’t trust polls, and you can read these numbers in a couple of ways — the Hankyoreh, for instance, cited the very same poll the Munhwa Ilbo used as evidence that Koreans really support the opposition’s call for peace management (translation will appear on the Hani homepage soon) — but clearly, the anger’s there.
In the opinion of this humble blogger, Lee said all the right things. He’s clearly tired and pissed off, and rightfully so. The problem is that back in May, he said many of the same things in a special address to the nation regarding the sinking of the Cheonan. In both speeches, he rattled off a list of North Korea’s major provocations, going so far in today’s address as to note that the North Koreans have even tried to kill South Korea’s president twice. But that’s the whole point — the North Koreans HAVE done all this, and have NEVER paid a real price for it. They think Lee (or any South Korean president, really) is a chump: he’s too scared to retaliate, they think, and even if he does want to hit back, the Americans will stop him. In fact, South Korean rhetoric has so little credibility that I wonder whether by talking tough, he’s inadvertently inviting the North Koreans to embarrass him again with another provocation.
Not sure if this means anything, but just to throw it out there, one of North Korea’s newer leaders, KNP general staff chief Ri Yong-ho, is also reportedly North Korea’s leading artillery specialist. Also worth noting about Ri: “Experts believe Ri, who rose quickly as a powerful member of the military leadership, will be given a key role in the process of Kim Jong-un taking control of the military. Ri was promoted from four-star general to vice marshal, and made a Politburo presidium member and, along with Kim Jong-un, a vice chairman of the WPK Central Military Commission.” Probably means nothing, but it’s fun to play Kremlinologist.
Not sure how much of this I believe, but Radio Free Asia — citing multiple sources inside North Korea — is reporting that the South Korean counterfire really rattled North Korea’s gun crews, leading to casualties, a mass bug-out and arrest. Also worth noting is that word of the battle spread quickly in North Korea, almost in real time.
All I’ll say about it is this: sure, it was kinda dumb, and some might wonder whether such a person should be president. That said, Palin’s gaffe is nowhere near as bad, IMHO, as this, and the man who wrote that actually was president. It’s one thing to screw up the name of your ally. It’s another to write into the WaPo to call for said ally to be sidelined in, to use his words, “negotiations that will shape their future” a day after they were just attacked.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever mention Asia Security Blog here before, but it’s a very, very well written blog on an interesting subject by a guy who, unlike Yours Truly, actually, like, knows stuff. Be sure to add it to your bloglist/feed reader if you haven’t already.
A little hazy this morning, but no mushroom cloud. Which was nice.
- Some comments by Donald Gregg, Victor Cha, Jack Pritchard and Bruce Klingner here. Good point, IMHO, from Klingner here: “That the Chinese continue to abet the North Korean’s tactics should also make us think long and hard about the sort of partner/competitor we face with China.” Let me state that I still like the Charles Krauthammer Solution.
The United States denounced North Korea on Tuesday for what it called an outrageous attack on its close ally South Korea but sought a diplomatic rather than military response to one of the most serious military clashes between the Koreas in decades.
President Barack Obama met into the evening with his top national security advisers to discuss next steps, and emphasized his unshakable support for South Korea, the White House said. Obama was expected to telephone South Korean President Lee Myung-bak late Tuesday night.
Earlier, Defense Secretary Robert Gates phoned South Korea’s defense minister to express sympathy for the deaths of two of the South’s marines in the artillery shelling of a small South Korean island and to express appreciation “for the restraint shown to date” by the South’s government, a Pentagon spokesman said.
“Restraint shown to date.” That’s the understatement of the year. Seriously, when the next Nobel Peace Prize approaches, I really hope somebody mentions South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. While he’s been in office, the North Koreans have conducted a nuclear test, sank a South Korean warship and shelled a South Korean island, and he has yet to snap. That’s practically Gandhi-esque. As some of the netizens put it, if the United States just had its territory shelled, would it just sit there?
Seoul shouldn’t worry, though — whatever the US response may be, it won’t be “willy-nilly.”
In the past, the U.S. and other nations have sweetened offers to North Korea as it has developed new missiles and prototype nuclear weapons. North Korea is now demanding new one-on-one talks with the United States, which rejects that model in favor of group diplomacy that includes North Korea’s protector, China.
“We’re not going to respond willy-nilly,” Toner said. “We believe that it’s important that we keep a unified and measured approach going forward.”
- The Center for a New American Security Patrick M. Cronin penned a piece in CNN about “North Korea’s “dangerous delusions.” Now, I don’t think North Korea is particularly delusional: they say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, but sadly, that describes the South Koreans and Americans, not the North Koreans, who do the same thing over and over again expecting the same results and get them. The problem, as I see it, is not North Korean delusions, but Seoul’s and Washington’s lack of credibility. Hard to argue with this, though:
A North Korea that thinks it can get away with anything is a dangerous North Korea. The military exercises called for after Cheonan are not enough, especially given this latest attack. Further defensive actions to fortify the border area would seem to be in order.
However, the threat North Korea’s nuclear program poses is more theoretical than the threat posed by conventional weapons engagements. Just as it seems that a North Korean nuclear test would not result in military action, the ChonAn sinking and the Nov. 23 attack seem to show that an “unprovoked” North Korean attack also will not lead to military retaliation. If this pattern holds, it means North Korea could decide to move from sea-based to land-based clashes, shell border positions across the Demilitarized Zone or take any number of other actions that certainly are not theoretical.
- Let nobody accuse South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young of lacking the gift of gab. Taking criticism in the National Assembly for the delay in South Korea’s retaliatory fire (13 minutes after the first attack, and 15 minutes after the second attack), Kim responded that a real war situation wasn’t like a game of StarCraft.
South Korea’s president called on his military forces to use “action” and not talk to punish North Korea for deadly artillery attacks on Tuesday, but international diplomats appealed for restraint.
“The provocation this time can be regarded as an invasion of South Korean territory. In particular, indiscriminate attacks on civilians are a grave matter,” President Lee Myung-bak said at the headquarters of the Joint Chiefs of Staff here, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
“Enormous retaliation is going to be necessary to make North Korea incapable of provoking us again,” Lee said.
“Given that North Korea maintains an offensive posture, I think the army, the navy and the air force should unite and retaliate against (the North’s) provocation with multiple-fold firepower,” he said.
Lee’s anger is understandable: first the Cheonan, now this. Anything’s possible at this point, but I wouldn’t count on the South attacking the North — unlike the North, the South actually does have something to lose, and also unlike the North, Seoul has friends and allies to consider. Still, the government said no more North Korean provocations would be tolerated after the Cheonan was sunk, so they’ve got to feel pressure to act. especially after civilians were attacked. I live in Seoul — more specifically, I live within short walking distance of the spot a local newspaper analysed as the most likely target for a North Korean nuclear strike — so obviously, the last thing I want if for the balloon to go up. The failure to respond in a meaningful way to things that deserve a response seems to just embolden Pyongyang, however, and one day, they’re going to miscalculate and do something that can’t be ignored. If the North thinks it can get away with an artillery barrage on a civilian community, I shudder to image what they’ll try next.
- The political response in South Korea has been pretty much what you would expect. All the political parties, large and small, condemned the attack. The GNP is pissed and wants a response, although what kind of response, they don’t really say, while the Democratic Party is pissed, but says it wants to deal with the fundamental reason why relations with the North have gotten so bad and work towards relaxing tensions. Liberty Forward Party leader Lee Hoe-chang, on the other hand, wants the North Korean artillery base that launched the attack wiped off the map. If you want to get an advanced look at what some of the opposition/progressive talking points are going to be, though, this piece in OhMyNews might be a good place to start.
NORTH KOREA has burnished the leadership credentials of its 26-year-old dictator-in-waiting with a deadly artillery attack on South Korean territory, causing its neighbour to return fire and scramble F-16 fighters.
A North Korea expert at Beijing’s Central Party School, Zhang Liangui, told the Herald that Kim Jong-un was deliberately destabilising the environment in order to mobilise the military and consolidate his power.
Frankly, I don’t see the youngest Kim ordering anything on his own other than a meal, but sure, the attack probably has at least something to do with solidifying Kim’s position as Crown Prince. At two in the morning, though, I’m way too sleepy to perform the mental jujitsu required to play Pyongyang Kremlinology. Feel perfectly free to speculate to your heart’s content in my comments section, though.
More worrying, some of the North Koreans shells reportedly landed on the island itself, destroying about 60—70 homes and fields. The island’s population has also reportedly taken shelter. No word on casualties.
UPDATE: NORTH KOREA SPEAKS! Shockingly, they claim South Korea fired first. If you enjoy KCNA-style Korean, click here to read what they said. If not, here”s the English version:
“The South Korean enemy, despite our repeated warnings, committed reckless military provocations of firing artillery shells into our maritime territory near Yeonpyeong island beginning 1pm (1500 AEDT),” a statement from the North’s military supreme command said.
The North’s military “will continue to make merciless military attacks with no hesitation if the South Korean enemy dares to invade our sea territory by 0.001 mm”, it said in the statement carried by the official news agency.
“It is our military’s traditional response to quell provocative actions with a merciless thunderbolt.”
In case you were wondering how to say that last line in Korean, it’s “도발자들의 불질을 무자비한 불벼락으로 다스리는 것은 우리 군대의 전통적인 대응방식.”
Now, a certain American North Korea expert will probably point this out soon enough, but judging from how that was put (in both English and Korean) and North Korea’s issues with the NLL, that statement might technically be true from Pyongyang’s perspective: North Korea claims Yeonpyeong-do and the waters around Yeonpyeong-do, so if South Korea was conducting a naval artillery drill in the disputed (from North Korea’s perspective) area, they were, in fact, firing into North Korean waters. I’m not sure if this is the line of argumentation they’ll take, but I suppose they could give it a try.
- The casualty count so far is two Marines dead (a 22-year-old sergeant from Gwangju and a 20-year-old private from Gunsan), 16 wounded (six seriously) and three civilians injured, according to the Chosun Ilbo. It seems the bulk of the fire fell on a Marine K-9 artillery base, hence the casualty figures.
- The South Korean military said the drill they ran was a regular firing exercise conducted once a month: it was held on Baengnyeong-do in August and Yeonpyeong-do in September (skipped in October). The target zone was 20—30km southwest of Yeonpyeong-do. They military also believes its retaliatory fire caused significant North Korean military casualties. If you’ve seen photos of North Korean coastal artillery positions, they’re pretty impressive: the guns are placed in caves dug in the cliffs.
UPDATE: Correction on something I said earlier. I said North Korea claims Yeonpyeong Island itself. In fact, it does not: as it and the other so-called Five West Sea Islands were occupied by the UN/South Korea at the end of the Korean War, Pyongyang recognizes South Korean control. It’s the waters around them they want: see this map:
- Also from Kushibo, Prof. Brian Myers apparently talked with the Beeb about the attack:
On the drive home I caught Professor Brian Myers (author of The Cleanest Race, which deals with the nationalist cultism of North Korea) on the BBC, which was being broadcast, as it usually is at this time of night, through the local NPR affiliate.
His opinion echoed my own, that North Korea’s Tuesday attack on South Korea’s Yŏnpyŏng-do Island [aka Yeonpyeong-do] could only have happened because the ROK failed to retaliate in any meaningful (read: proportionate or greater military response) when the Ch’ŏnan was sunk. He also focused heavily on how this kind of thing would be necessary in a country whose raison d’être lies with its military, hence the so-called Songun [선군/先軍, sŏn•gun] policy.
UPDATE: Christ, the North Koreans nearly took out a myeon office: