Wednesday, January 15, 2014

US prevented South Korea air strike on North, says Robert Gates

I received Gates' book yesterday (thanks, Amazon) so of course just like all the pundits and reviewers I cherry picked certain topics and I spent some time reading excerpts on Korea and Special Operations (as an aside Gates generally calls all SOF "Special Forces" except for the SEALs,  e.g., McChrystal "led U.S. Special Forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan" [p. 254] - probably the fault of his editors because I think he must have a better understanding of SOF than the book seems to reveal, but I digress).

This article is based on a a couple excerpts from his book. The comments about Roh Moo-hyun are from page 416.  But the specific response to the Y-P Do artillery firing is based on a paragraph on page 497.  His description of the incident below and in the book is somewhat misleading (I have pasted the timeline of the incident below the article).  The ROK military responded to the north's firing as part of the incident (though it was likely to little effect despite some reports because the South Korean artillery was out of position conducting a live fire exercise facing southwest and this of course was the north's rationale for firing in the first place as they were justifying their action based on the south's committing a hostile act)..  The description makes it appear there were rapid and extensive consultations and the US restrained the ROK from conducting air and artillery strikes and ended up "simply" returned fire on the north's artillery.  We actually responded with no employment of force following the incident and this is the real issue to consider.

We were fearful of a decisive ROK military response to this deadly north Korean provocation and we restrained the ROK military as we have generally done for the past 60 years which of course has provided the north with success in its playbook with the expected response (or response) to its provocations.  But this fear to respond with decisive military force has obviously emboldened the north and specifically now Kim Jong-un.  It is impossible to prove this but if the ROK or the Alliance had responded with more decisive force in 2010 when Kim Jong-il was still in power it might have had a moderating effect on Kim Jong-un's subsequent provocative actions.  We have contributed to the cycle of provocations by allowing the north to believe it is successful in gaining political and economic concessions and that there is no cost to the north for conducting provocations.  I think we have to think through the next north Korean provocation that will require a decision ROK military response at the time and place of the provocation.  Unfortunately that is the only way to stop the cycle of provocations.  But of course given Kim Jong-un's inexperience and internal situation there is a level of uncertainty about his reaction. But if we do nothing, provocations will continue.

US prevented South Korea air strike on North, says Robert Gates
(AFP) – 7 hours ago  

Seoul — South Korea declined to comment Wednesday on revelations that the United States talked it down from launching a retaliatory air strike on North Korea in 2010.
The claims were made in the newly published memoir of former US defense secretary Robert Gates, in which he also describes former South Korean president Roh Moo-Hyun as "probably a little bit crazy".
The 2010 incident followed the North's surprise shelling of a South Korean border island in November of that year.
The attack triggered what Gates labelled a "very dangerous crisis", with the South Korean government of then-president Lee Myung-Bak initially insisting on a robust military response.
"South Korea's original plans for retaliation were, we thought, disproportionately aggressive, involving both aircraft and artillery," Gates wrote in his memoir.
"We were worried the exchanges could escalate dangerously," he added.
Over the next few days, Gates said he, US President Barack Obama and then secretary of state Hillary Clinton had numerous telephone calls with their South Korean counterparts in an effort to calm things down.
"Ultimately, South Korea simply returned artillery fire on the location of the North Koreans' batteries that had started the whole affair," he said.
The South Korean government declined to confirm Gates's version of events.
"We have no comment," a defence ministry spokesman told AFP.
There are currently more than 28,000 US troops stationed in South Korea and under the terms of their mutual defence pact, the United States would assume overall military command of their joint forces in the event of a full-scale conflict.
Because the 1950-53 Korean War concluded with a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty, South and North Korea technically remain at war.
The risk of escalation after the shelling of Yeonpyeong island was especially high, with South Korea's patience at breaking point following the recent sinking of one of its warships by what it said was a North Korean submarine.
According to Gates, the North's only major ally China had helped ease tensions by simultaneously "weighing in with the North's leaders to wind down the situation".
In his memoir, Gates spoke of his admiration for Lee Myung-Bak, saying the conservative president was "tough-minded, realistic and very pro-American".
This assessment contrasted sharply with his view of Lee's predecessor, the liberal Roh Moo-Hyun, who Gates described as "anti-American and probably a little crazy".
Gates professed astonishment at Roh telling him that the two biggest security threats in Asia were the United States and Japan.
Roh served as president from 2003-2008. In 2009, he jumped to his death from a cliff behind his retirement home after being questioned by prosecutors about suspected corruption scandals involving his family.
Copyright © 2014 AFP. All rights reserved. More »

(All times in Korea Standard TimeUTC+9.)
08:20: North sends a telex message requesting a halt to the South's artillery training exercise.
10:00: South starts the artillery training exercise.
14:30: North deploys five MiG-23ML fighters from the 60th Regiment at Pukchang.
14:34: North starts firing shells (around 150[dubious – discuss], of which about 60 land on Yeonpyeong)
14:38: South conducts emergency sorties with two KF-16 fighters.
14:40: South deploys four F-15K fighters.
14:46: South conducts additional emergency sorties with two KF-16 fighters.
14:47: South fires back with the first round of K-9 howitzers (50 shells).
14:50: South issues a 'Jindogae Hana (Jindo Dog 1)' alert (equivalent to US DEFCON 1), the highest military alert given for a local provocation.[46]
14:55: North stops firing temporarily.
15:12: North starts firing for the second time (20 shells, all of which landed on the island).
15:25: South resumes firing back with K-9 howitzers (30 shells).
15:30: South telexes the North's military general level talk representative requesting an immediate halt to artillery shelling.
15:40 – 16:00: The South's Joint Chiefs of Staff Han Min-gu and USFK Commander Walter L. Sharp have a video conference (a review of cooperative crisis management).
15:41: North stops firing.
16:30: First military casualty reported.
16:35 – 21:50: Foreign and National Security representatives have a meeting.
16:42: South stops firing.
18:40: Lee Hong-gi, the South's Joint Chief of Staff Director of Operations, holds a press briefing.
20:35 – 21:10: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak meets with his Joint Chief of Staff.[41][47]

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