Keep Your Eyes on Korea

Last month I published a piece detailing the cover up that followed the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan. The evidence at the time was clear: the Cheonan had been sunk by a North Korean torpedo and the South Korean government was desperately trying to keep this story away from the news stands. To this end they were remarkably successful; it was not until the Cheonan itself was lifted from the sea bed that Korean officials were obliged to recognize that the ship was undeniably the victim of a torpedo attack.
Thus we begin to hear things like this:
Minister vows retaliation
Jung Sung-ki. Korea Times. 2 May 2010.
Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said Sunday that retaliation over the sinking of the Cheonan must be carried out.

Kim’s remarks came on the heels of Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Kim Sung-chan’s reprisal pledge made during last week’s funeral for the 46 dead sailors from the mysterious sinking of the frigate on March 26.

The Navy chief said, “We’ll never forgive whoever inflicted this great pain on us. We will track them down to the end and we will, by all means, make them pay.”

“I agree with Adm. Kim,” the defense chief told a KBS television program aired nationwide. “After finding the cause of the incident, we should pay back those responsible for killing our sailors. That’s my opinion.”

(H/T Information Dissemination).

Seoul is in a difficult position. South Korea will benefit little from war, but they must show that sinking a corvette and killing 46 of the crewmen who manned her is unacceptable. North Korea’s  isolation allows Seoul few points of leverage to do this. The only policy option left on the table is military retaliation. Thus the challenge facing President Lee-myung Bak, his cabinet, and the South Korean defense establishment is to find a target for this retaliation that will not escalate into a full blown war across the peninsula.

We shall see how they do.
Antoly Karlin. Sublime Oblivion. 28 March 2010

Karlin’s piece is the best bit of armchair generalism that I have read in a while. It is an astute guide as to what we should expect in the event of things turning hot on the Korean Peninsula.

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