Thursday, March 7, 2013

Why the Korean War still matters

Yes it does.  It is not over.  A useful historical summary below.  One thing that it overlooks is that before the war broke out in 1950 the north had called for talks in Kaesong and had ceased its anti-South propaganda.    Please read the last 3 paragraphs about China and the editorial that doubt's the north's usefulness to China today.  This is important because as a mentor, friend and China hand has pointed out to me on more than one occasion is that when China realizes that its security and interests will be met through its relationship with Seoul rather then Pyongyang, we will see the dynamics of the Peninsula significantly altered.

I have attached the CRS report on the history of north Korean provocations and a paper that I wrote that will be published this spring in the International Journal of Korean studies this spring.

CRS Report:

Provocation Strategy Paper:

One thing we should keep in mind is that the north is unlikely to attack into a ready force that is assessed to be stronger unless the element of surprise (strategic as well as tactical) can be achieved.  Right not it cannot achieve surprise.

The rhetoric is stronger than usual but it fits the pattern of the regime over the past 60 years.  Here are examples from the attached CRS report:
04/1996 — On three occasions, a combined total of several hundred armed North
Korean troops crossed the military demarcation line into the joint
security area of the DMZ at Panmunjom and elsewhere in violation
of the Korean armistice agreement, after Pyongyang’s unilateralannouncement that it no longer would abide by the armistice
provisions concerning the integrity of the DMZ.

2/18/03 — North Korea threatened to abandon the 1953 armistice that ended the
Korean War
if the United States imposed trade sanctions against the
North claiming that a blockade against it would violate article 15 of
the armistice. Pyongyang also accused the United States of plotting
an attack.

2/19/03 — A North Korean fighter jet briefly crossed seven miles into South
Korean airspace over the Yellow Sea prompting the South Korean air
force to send six fighter planes of its own and put ground-to-air
missiles on alert. The two-minute incursion ended without incident
but nonetheless raised tensions at a time when nerves were already on
edge over the North’s nuclear program and its threat to pull out of the1953 armistice that ended the Korean War. South Korea’s militarysaid that the flight was the first such incursion since 1983 and that it
would lodge an official protest.

One of the things I worry about is the combination of Kim Jong-un's inexperience combined with what possibly might be an unwarranted self confidence (arrogance) because he thinks he has "worldly experience" due to his western education and also combined with the "advice" he might be getting from his military and party elite that is driving this seemingly extreme rhetoric.

I think we very well may see a provocation (they are closing air space on the east coast and we think they are preparing for a large scale exercise  - probably on a scale not seen since the 1998-2000 time frame – there rumors that Kim Jong-un thinks that his military has become a "garrison army" so he is going to exercise it.

But I think we are going to continue to see the rhetoric and possibly provocations (could be kinetic and could be tests)  They conduct provocations to gain political and economic concessions and the fact is that the north has not really received a concession since Leap Day last year.  After the April test launch failure the ROK and US and the international community has not given in and begged them to return to talks.  This is kind of an interesting dilemma because we are not rewarding bad behavior so we are forcing them to ratchet up their rhetoric and possibly provocations.  Once we do eventually try to return to talks and diplomacy they will consider their actions to be successful – even it is a year or two away – they have much more patience than we do.  

But I cannot predict what is going to happen.  Are there problems within the regime elite that is causing this?  Is Kim getting bad advice (from sycophantic generals) or is he directing this?  And of course the big problem is will their be a miscalculation by any party? 

Why the Korean War still matters
By Madison Park , CNN
updated 9:21 PM EST, Thu March 7, 2013

Korean refugees flee the war and head south on board trains in this file photo dated 1951.
(CNN) -- It's the war that never really ended -- leaving the Korean peninsula splintered in 1953. The brutal war that raged 60 years ago killed more than two million Koreans, separated thousands of families, and created the world's most heavily fortified border. It also drew the alliances that exist today.
The armistice agreement that ended the war is a truce, rather than a peace treaty. Starting on Tuesday, North Korea threatened to dismantle the armistice, as it has done so in the past.
In 2009, North Korea said its military would no longer be bound by the agreement because South Korea was joining a U.S.-led anti-proliferation plan. In 2003, Pyonyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announced that it may have "no option" but to stop honoring the armistice because of the United State's "persistent war moves."
This time, KCNA declared that come March 11, North Korean forces will "completely declare invalid" the armistice agreement, because "the U.S. imperialists and the south Korean puppet forces" have violated it. It cited joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises as "an open declaration of a war" and slammed the countries using its trademark colorful language.

"The U.S. is, however, working with bloodshot eyes to swallow up the DPRK (the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name), not content with having incurred the pent-up grudge of the Korean people which can never be settled. What matters is that the South Korean puppet forces steeped in worship and sycophancy toward the U.S. are dancing to its tune," KCNA said.
The latest flare-up stems from tougher sanctions passed in the U.N. Security Council against North Koreain response to its nuclear test on February 12. Pyongyang carried out its third nuclear test, despite international condemnation.
(Continued at the link below)

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