Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tensions Increase in Korea

Things are getting worse in Korea. I normally don't like alarmism but things are getting really hinky in North Korea. South Korea has taken the issue to the UN Security Council and cut off trade with North Korea (see earlier posting for the enormity of South Korea's share of North Korea's economy). In retaliation the North Koreans have severed ties with South Korea. North Korea's government has also said that South Korea "abrogated the agreement on non-agression." North Korea frequently plays brinksmanship but this is getting scary.

The US is going to be participating with joint military exercises with South Korea. I suspect this is largely an excuse to increase our military presence in the area (that's fairly transparent). One of the exercises is going to focuss on anti-submarine warfare. That's significant because it was most likely that a North Korean sub that sank the Cheonan back in March.

There are wide spread rumors that Kim Jong-il is not only in poor health but is losing control of the regime. In particular, he's having difficulty getting some of the military factions to accept one of his sons as the next Whacko in Chief. One theory is that the ship sinking was the act of some rogue element of hawks in the North Korean military. I'm not sure I buy that.

This attack fits a long pattern of unprovoked attacks by the North Koreans on various South Korean military, governmental and civilian targets. It also fits an overall pattern where North Korea uses violence and threats of violence with the goal of extorting some concession or other from either South Korea, the US or the world at large.

So what can the North Koreans do to cary out their threat? From a unit for unit capabilities point of view the North Korean military is not much of a match for the South Korean military and their allies (which include the US and Japan). What they do have is a lot of conventional artillery within shelling range of Seoul. But their tanks, aircraft and naval vessels are largely antiquated and possibly in poor repair. There are some exceptions in some showcase units but the bulk of the North Korean military is about 30 years past being obsolete. Then there are the nukes. North Korea probably has several weapons tucked away somewhere. What does all this add up to? It means that North Korean can't hope to win a military conflict with any of its neighbors. But it is more than capable of being a kind of national suicide bomber that kills thousands or even millions of people as its psychotic leaders go out in a blaze of glory.

I'm hoping that won't happen. I'm hoping that there are enough sane and rational people in North Korea's halls of power to prevent the worst from happening. But sometimes the worst happens despite the intentions of rational leaders. And when one side or the other in an escalating crisis thinks going to the brink of the worst is in their interest, wrong guesses about where the brink actually is can be fatal. This was one of the main points of the Fog of War.

Let me add that I think the Obama administration's work to reestablish the US reputation for being something other than a rogue cowboy state itself will work in our favor. China is the key. Only China can really hope to reign in North Korea. If we were to take the McCain/Palin/Cheney approach and try to confront China on this, my guess is that the Chinese would give North Korea a long leash just to prove a point. But with some semblance of credibility as a government willing to be reasonable, Obama can work behind the scenes chanels in ways that allow China to save some face.


The Law Talking Guy said...

North Korea has to know it will lose any all-out military confrontation with S. Korea and the USA without backing from China. China isn't going to give that backing if NK is the aggressor. This isn't 1949 anymore. So N. Korea may be trying to goad S. Korea into being the aggressor, thinking that is the key to Chinese backing. But China probably doesn't want any military confrontation with the USA at this point, not if it can achieve almost anything it wants at the bargaining table with the US, which it probably could in the event of a war.

I agree this looks bad in NK, but I would bet serious sums of cash that nothing much will come of it.

Raised By Republicans said...

I suspect you are right that this will fade away. But this is the closest we've come to open war on the peninsula in a long long time.

That said, it's true that it's not 1949 anymore. But it's not 1999 either. This is a regime in its death throws and that can be a dangerous thing.

The Law Talking Guy said...

I think we will wake up one morning to discover that North Korea is gone. Just suddenly, one morning, the military will put Kim-il-Crazy in a locker and declare the country open, then begin the negotiation for reintegration with the south on the condition that NK military all get amnesty and new military jobs. At this point, hundreds of thousands of NK citizens will flee to China and S. Korea, precipitating a total breakdown of the NK state and absorption in to SK. The US will agree with China to demilitarize the whole Korean peninsula.

Anonymous said...

Now, I know that it is hard, but try to think, OK?

Why would North Korea attack a South Korean ship?

Never been answered. Until it is answered fully and completely assume the South Koreans were doing evil. OK? This is common legal doctrine. Why did something happen?

Then drop any infantile support for South Korea until they can prove innocence and they can't.

Now, that wasn't hard.

PS you might want to check the book issued by the Naval Institute Press bragging about how the CIA started the Korean War. Definitely not a left wing think tank.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Wow, this poster is coming from a strange place.

Let's actually think for a minute. Why would N Korea torpedo a S Korean ship? Well, we don't know. WE don't know much of what N Korea does or why. We do know that the two countries are technically still at war and that N. Korea has done such things before.

However, the answer that S Korea must have been "doing evil" is bizarre. I don't know what country you're from, but as a lawyer I can assure you that "common legal doctrine" in the United States does not assume that the victim was "doing evil." Rather, the reverse is true: the aggressor is presumed to be the one engaged in inappropriate activity. To make it easy for you, let me explain that the aggressor in this case is the party that fired a torpedo outside its territorial waters.

Now, it is within the realm of possibility that the Cheonan vessel was doing something inappropriate, but we have no evidence of that.

More to the point, the North Koreans have made no such charge against the S. Koreans to justify their actions. It is "common legal doctrine" in the United States to assume that a person who raises no defense has no defense.