Friday, May 29, 2009

What Crisis?

You'll be happy to know that there isn't a crisis in Korea, despite Pyongyang's recent nuclear test and a series of missile launches. If you don't believe us, just ask Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Our new column for looks at Mr. Gates assessment, and how it squares with reality on the ground. To be sure, there are no signs of an imminent invasion of South Korea by the DPRK, but with most of Kim Jong-il's army deployed near the DMZ, intelligence warning for a limited attack would probably be measured in hours, not days. And besides, there are plenty of hostile acts that North Korea could launch without sending its troops into South Korea.

Obviously, no one can predict Kim Jong-il's actions with complete certainty, but keep watching for these scenarios in the coming days: 1) A major naval confrontation along the Northern Limit Line (the maritime extension of the DMZ), and 2) Potential engagements of U.S. reconnaissance aircraft by NKAF fighters, or long-range SAMs. Coincidentally, the most recent North Korean missile test involved a modified SA-5, a weapon ideally suited for intercepting stand-off recce platforms like the U-2 and RC-135.

But remember, whatever happens in the days ahead, it's not a "crisis."


Unknown said...

Things have just quieted down after the funeral of Roh Moo-hyun yesterday, but in Korea there is no sense of urgency over this latest threat from the North. To be truthful the South has heard this same fear-mongering rhetoric from the North so often, it doesn't even register on the average Korean. (Remember these folks have been in a state of war for over 60 years as they were not a signatory to the Armistice with the North.)

Just hope the North are not implicated in any foul play with Roh's death after all the inconsistencies with his bodyguard -- and the ROK internet is afire with all kinds of rumors. Remember that Roh stole the harddrives from the Blue House when he left in violation of the National Security Law. They still haven't got them all back -- and there was a lot of top secret info in those files. This may be a breaking story AFTER Roh's passing has died down -- along with accusations that Lee Myeong-bak hounded Roh to death with his prosecutions for bribery.

The greatest worry is that the North will attempt to foster a conflict along the NLL that the UN arbitrarily drew at the end of the Korean War. This was the scene of a major battle between North and South in 2003 with loss of life on both sides. The Chinese fishing fleets are evacuating the area (it's blue crab season) and the ROK is on high alert. As to US forces, they are just on Watchcon 2 -- meaning they are on alert too, but nothing has changed in the Defcon status.

Things are pretty peaceful -- that is unless the North tries to shoot is shore-to-ship missiles at any ROK vessels trying to chase North Korea fishing boats back on their side of the NLL.

There will be no crisis -- UNLESS the North tries to launch another ICBM across Japanese territory. There are reports that the North is preparing such a launch just to tweak the nose of the US-Japan forces...and flip the bird to the UN in passing.

Just thought, you'd like to know what the impressions are from Korea.

LeEllen said...

I just hope the "not-crisis" doesn't lead to a "not-confrontation" or worse yet, resumption of "not-hostilities" that could have North Korea sending a "not-nuke" into South Korea, Japan, or (God-forbid) Hawaii.