Korean War Games

This is of significant interest.  It gets past the propaganda into certainrealities.  The conflict area isobviously a set up area that allows the South Koreans to provoke the North Koreansas much as possible in order to create a pretext for an actual war.

As I have posted, is think that the Chinese have alreadygiven South Koreathe wink.  All the South needs to do isgoad the North into providing the proper cover for a regime change.  As the writer makes pretty clear, what isgoing on is making no other sense.

Thus we have the North now attempting to restart talks ona peaceful settlement and been presently rebuffed.

The military reality is that the South can eliminate theNorth’s air power almost immediately. From there they can interdict all road and rail transport and conduct acampaign of asset reduction without attempting a land assault.  This forces the North to launch assaults intofully prepared positions that are poorly degrades.  This can still be hugely costly in manpowerfor both sides and this still causes pause for the South.

The problem is that an assault will be in terms of menand even an exchange ratio of ten for one gives us casualties of a 100,000 plusfor the south in order to devastate the Northern Army presently dug in at theborder.

A better tactic might be to assault on the coasts andforce the North’s armies to reposition away from the border were they can bepartially reduced and defeated in detail.

What I am really saying is that the South now feelsstrong enough to take down the North on its own and has for a long time.  It’s only restraint was needing Chinese acceptance.

Martin Hart-Landsberg:What's Happening On The Korean Peninsula?

What's Happening On The Korean Peninsula?

By Prof. Martin Hart-Landsberg

January 4, 2011

What's happening on theKorean peninsula? If you read the press or listen to the talking heads, yourbest guess would be that an insaneNorth Korean regime is willing to risk war tomanage its own internal political tensions. This conclusion would be hard toavoid because the media rarely provide any historical context or alternativeexplanations for North Korean actions. For example, much has been said aboutthe March 2010 (alleged) North Korean torpedo attack on the Cheonan (a SouthKorean naval vessel) near Baengnyeong Island, and the November 2010 North Korean artilleryattack on Yeonpyeong Island (which houses aSouth Korean military base). The conventional wisdom is that both attacks weremotivated by North Korean elite efforts to smooth the leadership transitionunderway in their country. The take away: North Korea is an out-of-controlcountry, definitely not to be trusted or engaged in negotiations.

But is that an adequateexplanation for these events? Before examining the facts surrounding them,let's introduce a bit of history. Take a look at the map below, which includesboth Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong Islands.

Contested seas. The NLL is represented by the blue A line. The MDL isrepresented by the red B line.

1: Yeonpyeong Island (artillery clas); 2: BaengnyeongIsland (Cheonan sinking); 3: Daecheong Island. [source]
The armistice that ended the Korean War fighting established the Demilitarized Zone(DMZ) which separates North Koreafrom South Korea.At that time, the U.S.government unilaterally established another dividing line, one intended tocreate a sea border between the two Koreas. That border is illustratedon the map by line A, the blue Northern Limit Line (NLL).

As you can see, instead of extending the DMZ westward into the sea, theU.S. line runs northward,limiting North Korea'ssea access. The line was drawn this way for two reasons: First, when thefighting stopped, South Korean forces were in control of the islands off theNorth Korean coast and the U.S.wanted to secure their position. Second, control over those islands enhancedthe ability of U.S. forcesto monitor and maintain military pressure on North Korea.

North Korea never accepted the NLL. It argued for analternative border, illustrated by line B, the red West SeaMilitary Demarcation Line (MDL). Acknowledging the reality of Southern forceson the islands off its coast, North Korea sought recognition for a sea borderthat went around the islands but otherwise divided the sea by extending the DMZline.

The critical point here is that the South Korean and U.S. promoted NLL is not recognizedby international law; it has no legal standing. Don't take my word for it. Thefollowing is from Bloomberg News:

“Then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote in a 1975 classifiedcable that the unilaterally drawn Northern Limit Line was ‘clearly contrary tointernational law.’ Two years before, the American ambassador said in anothercable that many nations would view South Koreaand its U.S.ally as ‘in the wrong’ if clashes occurred in disputed areas along theboundary. ...

“The line snakes around the Ongjin peninsula, creating a buffer forfive island groups that South Korea kept under the armistice that ended the1950-1953 Korean War, in which U.S.-led forces fought under a UN mandateagainst North Korean and Chinese troops. The agreement doesn't mention a seaborder, which isn't on UN maps drawn up at the time.

“The 3-nautical mile (3.5-statute mile) territorial limit used todevise the line was standard then. Today almost all countries, including both Koreas, use a12-mile rule, and the islands are within 12 miles of the North Korean mainland.The furthest is about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the closest major SouthKorean port at Incheon.

“‘If it ever went to arbitration, the decision would likely move theline further south,’ said Mark J. Valencia, a maritime lawyer and seniorresearch fellow with the National Bureau of Asian Research, who has writtenextensively on the dispute. ...

“North Korea, after spending two decades rebuilding its forces, sentvessels across the border 43 times between October and November 1973, sparkingconfrontations, according to the South Korean Navy's website. At a meeting withthe UN Command, the North's claim that it was operating within its own watersbecause the NLL was invalid was rejected.

“Kissinger and other U.S.diplomats privately raised questions about the legality of the sea border and South Korea'spolicing of it in cables that have been declassified and are available to thepublic.

“‘The ROK and the U.S. might appear in the eyes of a significant numberof other countries to be in the wrong’ if an incident occurred in disputed areas,U.S. Ambassador Francis Underhill wrote in a Dec. 18, 1973, cable toWashington, using the acronym for Republic of Korea.

South Korea ‘iswrong in assuming we will join in attempt to impose NLL’ on North Korea, said a Dec. 22, 1973, ‘JointState-Defense Message’ to the U.S.Embassy in Seoul....

“The line ‘was unilaterally established and not accepted by NK,’Kissinger wrote in a confidential February 1975 cable. ‘Insofar as it purportsunilaterally to divide international waters, it is clearly contrary tointernational law.’”

I doubt that discussions of the two events noted above mentioned thishistory.
Current Tensions
Tensions in the region are not just the result of past politicaldecisions. Critical decisions continue to be made. For example, in October2007, an inter-Korean summit meeting between Roh Moo-Hyun (the previous SouthKorean president) and Kim Jong Il (the North Korean leader)produced a commitment by both sides to negotiate ajoint fishing area and create a “peace and cooperation zone” in the West Sea.This agreement could have greatly reduced tensions between the two countriesand helped to promote a peaceful reunification process.

However, a few months after the summit, the newly elected and currentSouth Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, rejected the agreements reached at thatsummit and the previous one held in 2000. Lee openly derided past South Koreanefforts to improve relations with, and called for aggressive actions against,the North. The U.S.government supported Lee's position.

With this as background, let's now consider the first event, North Korea'salleged sinking of the Cheonan. The Lee administration claims thata North Korean submarine was responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan and thedeaths of 49 sailors. The Cheonan was an anti-submarine ship, participating inwar games at the time of its sinking in the disputed waters surrounding Baengnyeong Island. Significantly, after weeks ofofficial investigation into the cause of the sinking, Lee publicly blamed NorthKorea only one day before local elections were scheduled, elections that theruling party was predicted to lose. In fact, Lee's party did take a beating atthe polls.

But what about the evidence for North Korean responsibility? North Korea hasdenied any involvement in the sinking. In fact, there is good reason to believethat the Cheonan sank because it hit a reef; that is what its captain reportedwhen he radioed the South Korean coast guard seeking help.

As I noted in a previous posting, perhaps the most compelling evidencecasting doubt on South Korean government claims that the Cheonan was torpedoedby a North Korean submarine is the fact that all the Cheonan victims died ofdrowning, nearly all of the 58 surviving crew members escaped serious injury,and the ship's internal instruments remained intact. According to severalscientists, if the Cheonan had been hit by a torpedo, the entire crew wouldhave been sent flying, leading to fractured bones and the destruction ofinstruments.
Aggressive War Games
What about the most recent incident involving the North Koreanartillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island? The South Koreanposition is that its military was merely engaged in “routine” war games(involving over 70,000 troops), which also happened to include the firing oflive ammunition into the sea from a military base on the island. It had donenothing to provoke a North Korean artillery attack on the base.

In reality, the South had been strengthening its artillery on the island for sometime, engaging in ever more aggressive (non-live ammunition) artillery drillswith the apparent aim of boosting its capacity to inhibit the movement of theNorth Korean navy even in its own waters. These drills were a direct threat toNorth Korean security given how close the island is to its coast.

Moreover, although the South claims that its war games and artilleryfire were routine, it may be the first time that the South has staged major wargames and simultaneously engaged in firing live ammunition into territoryclaimed by the North. The North fired on the South Korean artillery batterieslocated on Yeonpyeong Island only after itsrepeated demands that the South stop its live ammunition firing were rejectedby the South.

Many unanswered questions remain about the Cheonan sinking and theYeonpyeong attack. However, what does appear clear is that there are manycomplexities surrounding these events that are never made public here in NorthAmerica, and that these omissions end up reinforcing a view of North Koreanmotivations and actions that is counterproductive to what should be our goal:achieving peace on the Korean peninsula.

What might help? How about encouraging the U.S. government to accept NorthKorean offers to engage in good faith negotiations aimed at signing a peacetreaty to officially end the Korean War as a first step toward normalizedrelations. The fact that our government is reluctant to publicly acknowledgethe contested nature of the NLL or pursue an end to the Korean War raisesimportant questions about the motivations driving foreign policy.

Martin Hart-Landsberg is Professor of Economics and Director of thePolitical Economy Program at Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon; andAdjunct Researcher at the Institute for Social Sciences, Gyeongsang NationalUniversity, South Korea. This article first appeared on his blog Reports from the Economic Front.

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