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26 November 2010


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Medicine Man

I'm told that the SK air force can probably destroy the various delivery systems for NK's nuclear weapons, but the 7000~ artillery pieces NK has entrenched within firing distance of Seoul are going to kill a lot of people.

If they do escalate, it is going to be very messy.


I wonder how vulnerable North Korea is to a "headless Chicken" type of strike?


The numbers I used to hear indicated there would be 10 million dead in the first 72 hours.

Neil Richardson

Dear Col.Lang:

I pray that's not the case. Several matters seem significant as far as I can tell from the coverage in the Korean media.

First, IMHO this was a calculated attempt to pressure the South Korean government to ease the recent sanctions after the sinking of Cheonan. I base this on the timing of the invitation to Hecker visit Yongbyon in order to convey that while they have still frozen the plutonium production facilities, they have modernized their uranium enrichment capacity.


Second, the counterfire response of the ROKA and ROKMC was woefully inadequate. There were detected movements of North Korean 122mm MRLS near Kaemori. The fact that they didn't even have counterfire radars activated during a ROKMC exercise seems to me like dereliction of duty. (I cannot remember one FTX out of Hovey or Casey when we didn't have at least a battery alerted as a part of the QRF.) The North Korean barrage lasted about 12 minutes and apparently the ROKA decided to hit back at North Korean CPs and barracks in Kaemori, because they weren't confident of taking out MRLS without confirmation from their Firefinder systems deployed on Yeonpyeongdo. They might as well have started on crater analysis if they weren't going to bother maximizing their considerable technological advantage. What makes this so shameful is that the KPA had routinely sent barrages into the Yellow Sea whenever the ROK marines held exercises including January of 2010.

Much to my dismay, this incident as well as the Cheonan sinking indicate a few troubling signs about the South Korean defense readiness. Roh Moo Hyun and his cohorts had wanted the ROK to be a "real sovereign country" which led to their push for the disbanding of the CFC as well as taking the opcon of ROKA away from the USFK. Clearly they've just wasted years (Let's face it. We've provided not only the tripwire of American blood but also the sinews of ROK defense capabilities namely the C4I as well as air power). I've wondered about the institutional limitations of the ROKA's overall readiness since Team Spirit became a relic. If they can't get their command and control problems sorted out not to mention their generally inept counterfire capabilities, they might as well give in to yet another shakedown by the North. We can't afford to carry them every step of the way, and frankly it's about time they started to look after themselves given their economy and defense industry in particular.

Third, this incident seems to have reminded younger generations of Koreans (those younger than 40) of what they could potentially face. Even though the loss of lives is very regrettable, perhaps this will serve as a useful warning to all those leftwing politicians who use anti-Americanism to further their interests.


Neil, I'm pretty sure those left-wing politicians are going to be asking why, under Roh Moo Hyun, the tensions with North Korea were abating, and no such occurrences took place.

South Korea is a world leader in so many industries, cars, electronics, steel, shipbuilding... they can certainly build a more than adequate military if they want to.


Pat Buchanan says it best:
"But why, 60 years after the first Korean War, should Americans be the first to die in a second Korean War?

Unlike 1950, South Korea is not an impoverished ex-colony of Japan. She is the largest of all the "Asian tigers," a nation with twice the population and 40 times the economy of the North.

Seoul just hosted the G-20. And there is no Maoist China or Stalinist Soviet Union equipping Pyongyang's armies. The planes, guns, tanks and ships of the South are far superior in quality."

B.R. Myers, who has written numerous articles all over the place, has a unique perspective on Korean psychology.
"The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters [Hardcover]
B.R. Myers"

I myself am fascinated by the probable fact that the bloodline of the Japanese Royal Family is of Korean Origin and the lengths that Japan will go to suppress the fact.

" National Geographic has written that Japan "has kept access to the tombs restricted, prompting rumors that officials fear excavation would reveal bloodline links between the "pure" imperial family and Korea""


Got A Watch

The mostly clueless comments at the 'Daily News' article are disturbing, but not surprising. A lot of people seem to have a Sarah Palin-like non-grasp of the gravity of the situation.

"10 million dead in the first 72 hours"...probably.

Estimates of the amount of North Korean artillery in the Seoul region, presumably targeting the city, seem to vary wildly, from what I have read. But I am not sure it really matters, if they have 7,000 or 16,000, the numbers I have seen, or somewhere in between.

That is a lot of artillery, no matter what the number. Whether they are guns or single missile launchers, or multiple missile/rocket launchers etc. Concealed in hardened positions, and difficult if not impossible to destroy the bulk of them quickly, without using WMD. Which seems impossible, given the number of Southern civilians directly adjacent. And Northern accuracy does not matter that much either, as I think their 'strategy' is just to fire them all and do as much damage to the city as possible.

Stratfor, at the time of the sinking of the Southern ship, stated in their analysis that they estimated the casualties at 20-40 million in the event of a all-out war, mostly Southern civilians, and the entire peninsula would be devastated. Probably close.

That would make it one of the bloodiest wars in history, as it would not likely last longer than a few short months at most, and be fought almost entirely on the condensed geography of the Korean peninsula. Of course WWII was worse in casualty numbers, but it took 6 years. And I think that did not figure the possible use of nuclear or other WMD by either side. The North Koreans might seek to attack Japan with nuclear weapons or other WMD, if they have any actual working models and delivery systems, or any number of unforeseen events might occur. So many unknown unknowns there, once it starts, who knows how it will end.

Certainly the South has far better equipment, but the North are fanatics, so the fighting would likely be very intense in any event.

The North would certainly eventually lose, barring Chinese intervention, which might start a real WWIII. I doubt China would, but who really knows how it would play out.

That is what the North relies on I guess, a dangerous game of brinksmanship posited on the theory that the South has much more to lose in the event of war. So they keep pushing and pushing, and eventually they will inevitably overreach and start that war that they think won't happen. Given that they seem crazier than mad dogs, a very dangerous situation, to understate it wildly.

I have read the US/Southern strategy was to launch massive artillery, missile and bombing attacks on the Northern positions around Seoul in a preemptive strike designed to, hopefully, destroy most of the artillery before it does too much damage. That suggest to me there is a razors edge of reaction time, maybe 15 minutes (?) or less, in which to decide to launch that strike, before it is too late, and the North fires all the guns and levels Seoul. How much damage would be done in the first few minutes, as presumably the North would fire first, and would the reaction strike be effective enough, are just guesswork, who can really say.

Is Obama and/or the Southern leadership resolute enough to do that, how much warning would they have...as the North Koreans would most likely try to surprise their opponents, who would be wondering if the warning signs were just more brinksmanship, or the real deal...

All in all, a nightmare scenario all around, only various shades of apocalypse seem probable. Let's all pray it doesn't happen.

different clue

My lack of any military background renders me unable to understand any of the details of what Neil Richardson has written about. I can only guess that since these are deficiencies which South Korea allowed to develop, they are deficiencies which
South Korea can fix over the next few years.

Why would the South Korean leadership system have allowed these deficiencies to develop to begin with? I suspect it may be that the leadership system reflected and internalized the belief of the voting majority of South Koreans. And that belief was that the North-South division was because of lack of South Korean empathy and sympathy to North Korean beliefs and feelings and desires. If only the South Koreans would bend over backwards all the way double to show how very fair they were; the North Koreans would be touched and their hearts would warm towards South Korea in turn. It is to the credit of South Korea's democracy that when a majority of South Korean voters voted for a government based on these beliefs, the government they voted for reflected those beliefs in the so called "sunshine policy".

Now that a majority of South Korean voters are becoming disabused of those silly beliefs about North Korea and what would impress North Korea; there is every chance that they may vote for leadership at every level who understand that North Korea is to be protected from rather than appealed to. And if that is what they vote for, that is what they will probably get, again to the credit of effective democracy in South Korea.

That rise of South Korean democracy and economy speaks well of the American co-protection which helped create the security screen behind which
South Korea could make these achievements to begin with. If the South Koreans are willing to accept the education about North Korea which they are getting from North Korea; and if they are
willing to elect a leadership they can work with in quietly making the real changes Neil Richardson
writes about; then South Korea surely deserves our continued co-protection for the next several years to get these changes made. The investment we made in South Korea has clearly been productive as seen by what South Korea has made itself become over 60 years.

(I wonder how much of these risks North Korea would be taking without secret Chinese encouragement
to take these risks? War or near-war in Korea would keep America distracted from China's long-term plan to exterminate America's economy with all the tools of Chinese mercantilist aggression at China's disposal under the cover of Free Trade.)

Neil Richardson


"Neil, I'm pretty sure those left-wing politicians are going to be asking why, under Roh Moo Hyun, the tensions with North Korea were abating, and no such occurrences took place."

Do you have anyone in mind? In fact the media is ablaze with recriminations and hardly anyone from the usual left is saying anything. Now why do you suppose the tensions were "abating" under Roh and DJ? Could the bribes and payoffs have anything to do with it? The North confiscated South Korean properties near Kumgangsan. It's generally assumed that the next step will be to do the same incrementally with the Kaesong IC. Of course Hitler assumed that neither France nor Britain would go to war over Danzig in 1939. It's the miscalculation that often result in the breakdown of deterrence. Stalin allowed Kim to invade the South because he assumed the United States wouldn't make a stand in Korea. At some point there is a threshold that one side will not pay.

"South Korea is a world leader in so many industries, cars, electronics, steel, shipbuilding... they can certainly build a more than adequate military if they want to."

Indeed they could and they do already if "more than adequate" is your standard. In fact technologically the ROKA/ROKN/ROKAF are far more advanced than the KPA in every aspect. However that isn't the point. If they want to assume full responsibilities for defense (and they will), there can be no doubt as to what the outcome of a conventional invasion would be if you want deterrence to be effective. And it's not the hardware that matters ultimately. It's the people and leadership at every level that matter in times of war. To old hands little things can tell a lot about how an outfit does things. So far things haven't been encouraging.

Neil Richardson


I just wanted to elaborate on what I meant by people and leadership. ROKA has a very small professional NCO corps which is somewhat understandable given the desire to limit defense expenditure despite very high manpower requirements. This is always going to be a challenge due the topography as well as the size of the KPA.

As long as I can remember dating back to the 1970s (and I've heard the same from American veterans of the Korean War including the late Col. Young-Oak Kim) the ROKA has resisted the US Army's attempts to convince them to adopt mission command. The reasons were cultural (Unfortunately the ROKA tradition traces its roots to the Imperial Japanese Army as well as the USA.) as well as political. Simply, if you allowed too much independence to subordinates, sometimes field grade officers could stage a coup prior to 1997 (Kim Jong-Pil, Kim Hyung-Uck, etc etc who probably were as influential as Park in 1961. And of course there was the Hanahoe who supported Chun). That is why the Defense Security Command always had one eye on the officer corps while keeping the other on possible North Korean infiltration of the army units.

In addition, there was always a tendency among the ROKA staff officers to look for the "correct answer" to an operational and tactical problem which is just silly. Apparently these problems persist based on Gen. Walter Sharp's speech in 2009.


The same speech could've been delivered by Gens. Magruder, Stilwell, Vessey (in fact he did say very similar things regarding the NCO corps and realistic training), Wickham, Luck and Tilelli. IMHO if there is one thing we can be certain, it's that a thinking enemy will surprise and upset our preconceived assumptions in operational planning. Without mission command and realistic training, the ROKA will eventually court disaster against a vastly inferior adversary.


The South has much more to lose than the North if there is a collision. But moreover, so does China. If the Korea's collide China loses as well and that would not be good for anyone's economy. Two Asian economic giants effected by war. We need that right now like we need a whole in our heads. I do have my doubts that China would allow the North to do something really stupid. No matter how difficult NK can be to control.

Again we need to be in "direct" talks with the North. Stop this six way bullshit that goes no where. Besides why do we war game in a disputed region anyway? Sometimes I actually wonder if we suffer from a bad case of cranial rectal inversion?

To answer Buchanan's point on why American's should die if the Korea's collide again? It simple Pat Buchanan! We gave the South a defense pact (our word)and to break that pact would not just be a violation of our treaty with the South and send the wrong signal to the rest of the world. But it would be UN-AMERICAN! If the North attacked the South it would be a just war, but one we should do everything to avoid.

Buchanan isolationist beliefs sometimes go over the edge. Just has his run for the Presidency ran over the edge.

Neil Richardson


I do agree that the ROK has the economic as well as human resources to rectify the problems I've listed above. Right now we are in the transition period before the ROKA assumes the responsibility for operational planning and deployment of their units by 2012. This probably was an overdue change given the South's increasing technological capabilities vis-a-vis the North. Also they now have assumed full responsibility for forward deployment as the Second Infantry Division has been moving south of the Han River. (This is in reality a reinforced heavy brigade with augmented artillery and support assets)

However the troubling matter is whether they've taken this seriously enough to look at how they do business from ground up. In my experience the ROKA always assumed that they would have adequate command and control in case of a general invasion. The Eighth Army always tried to disabuse them of that dangerous notion whenever we had joint exercises prior to 1993. The biggest problem (and this isn't just a ROKA trait because I can guarantee you that OPFOR has seen this in the USA as well) is that as in the Korean society, the loss of face ("choemyun") is sometimes a fate worse than death for an commanding officer even in training exercises. In my experience I've found the Korean armor units do very well in gunnery evaluations but not so well in tactical deployment. IMHO the latter trait was due to the fact that junior officers weren't allowed to fail early on in training as they were learning how to run small units. You fight as you train and inflexible and predictable training could be disastrous if the unthinkable does happen.

As you point out the South Korean democracy is vibrant and there's little threat of another military coup. Institutional and cultural shortcomings of ROKA can be corrected if they undertake the right reform IMHO. Usually an army reforms after a disaster (Gneisenau and the Prussians after Jena, the US Army after Vietnam, the German army after the meatgrinder of the western front in WWI, etc). Hopefully the ROKA won't have to pay the same price. It would also help matters greatly if they can tighten up security as OPLAN 5027 was probably compromised in December 2009.



People seem to assume that the North Korean reaction was some kind of planed action on their part. It likely wasn't.

North Korea had protested against the planned 70,000(!) men maneuver near their border for weeks. On the day of the incident it sent several faxes to the South Koreans protesting against the South Korean artillery firing right next to their boarder and it said there would be a response if that would continue.

The South Korean artillery firing commenced anyway. According to the South Koreans they fired "toward west, not north". Funny, take a look at the Northern Limit Line and you will see that west of the island in question that line turns south. Firing "toward west" might well have put those shells into undisputed North Korean water. Even if not planed, artillery has the tendency to be off target once a while, so who knows where the South Korean shells actually landed.

Given the South Korean firing, the North Koreans felt they had no other options than to respond or to loose face.

They fired towards the South Korean Marines artillery base on the island. More than half of those shots landed in the sea. Killed were two Marines, two civilian contractors working for the Marines and 17 Marines were wounded (again, all according to South Korean media).

There was no "attack on civilians" that some "western" paper write about. Some stray shots onto private houses? Well - the North doesn't have the PzH 2000 or anything of that quality.

The South then responded in kind, the North responded with some 122 mm rockets and then some sane people talked on the phone and ended the issue.

The question to me is why?

Why did the South Koreans do these quite provocative maneuvers and artillery firings? Why there and why now?

Possible answers:
1. The South Korean president is under pressure for a scandal allegedly sniffing on the opposition's telephone talks. There was a big opposition protest planed to continue for several days in Seoul when the incident happened. It was now called off.

2. Obama has to deal with some economic problems with the Chinese who don't want to give him what he wants. Putting pressure on them might be conveniently achieved by a little crisis between the respective client states. BTW - A U.S. general was in command of the big maneuver. (Folks will say this can't have happened but such things have happened before. Pat will say it is my alleged anti-American view that leads me to this. I do not think that's true. I find option 1 the most likely.)

3. ... tell me ...



Some of the worst (up to that point, since the Korean War) provocations by North Koreans took place under Roh and Kim's watch, including naval clashes in the area where the shelling just took place.

Of course, that is when the NK nuclear crisis was also boiling over in the broader, international context.



I think your claims belong in a 9/11 conspiracy theory category.

The incident hardly came out of blue: for the past 10 years, there has been an escalating series of armed clashes between NK and SK in that very region. Exercises have been stepped up (although I think the big exercise you are thinking took place months ago, while the exercises being conducted at the time were minor, local ones) because of the rising tensions.

Other measures have been taken by SK in response to the recent events as well: In fact, if you are thinking that NK were "responding" to something, I'll give you a better one: the night before the shelling SK dropped the first batch of propaganda leaflets in the North the night before the shelling--the propaganda was stopped about a decade ago as a goodwill measure, but the resumption was planned in response to the rising tensions of late.

There was not (and still hasn't been) any "official" communication between NK and SK with regards to the shelling, in the aftermath of the shelling itself. SK immediately requested a high level meeting to discuss this--and NK literally did not answer the phone, although NK made demands for meetings to discuss other matters. I would hardly think sane people talked on the phone and ended the issue, any more than Ribbentrop and Lipski talked and ended the issue between Germany and Poland on August 29, 1939--if anything, those guys actually talked that day, at least.

Doubtful that nominal authority of US general over the joint SK-US command matters much. If SK wants to do something, they'll just do it regardless--the US command certainly did not matter when their generals staged coups in the past, after all. If anything, US position regarding SK has always been one of urging restraint.

The wiretap scandal is a peculiar one. I follow Korean politics fairly closely, but I could never get a good sense of how big (in politics) it really is. The left seems to be blowing it really out of proportion, while the right seems to be downplaying it equally out of proportion. It was big enough that a number of people in government were ousted over it--but I doubt it is nearly so big as to threaten the regime at its core as you seem to be suggesting. The analogue might be claiming GWB staged 9/11 to counter the "crisis" in Congress caused by Sen. Jeffords switching parties--which is sort of big deal in a little context, but not something quite "that" big.

The situation remains extremely grave, on one hand, and not so grave on the other. Precisely because it is potentially so grave, nothing more than tough-sounding words is likely to emanate from SK leaders--which, in turn, would encourage thinking that SK is somehow "provoking" the North. (Incidentally, NK talks a lot tougher all the time, and is constantly threatening to "retaliate" against all sorts of "provocation," which can be and has been anything.) The problem is that, over past 10 years, these armed clashes have been growing sharply in intensity and something will happen sooner or later that could really blow up...and then, the Archduke will have been shot.

Neil Richardson


"3. ... tell me ..."

This reminds me of I.F. Stone's "reporting" of germ warfare in by the UN forces. I suggest you familiarize yourself with the workings of the CFC agreement. Gen. Sharp has the opcon of ROK forces in wartime condition. This was a ROKMC/ROKN exercise without US support. The combined US-ROK maritime exercise begins tomorrow. Of course the KCNA just issued a vague apology of sorts expressing "regret" about six hours ago. One thing I have to say about the North Koreans is that they are predictable. All you have to do to get them to express remorse is to park a carrier strike group off one of their coasts (See Paul Bunyan). Oh by the way, I suppose you blame the US and South Korea for the Axe Murder incident as well. Kim Il Sung was whining about Team Spirit which was a far more extensive FTX. And I'm sure you'll apologize for that justifiable "self-defense" by the glorious Korean People's Army comrades.

Got A Watch

b... your "analysis" is vacuous at best. Honestly. If you represent the "other side of the debate", I just have to laugh. Are you some sort of agent provocateur, or troll, here? I know you comment here often, but really? And I'm trying very hard to be polite. I could deconsruct your comment line by line, but there is really no point wasting time on such drivel.

The North Koreans are like a crazed rabid dog. And there is only one solution to that kind of problem in the end.

Exactly what do you negotiate about with a country who has repeatedly threatened every neighbor (but China) that "They will burn in the nuclear fires of hell" and that is a direct quote. Do they sound like they have a strong relation to reality to you?

Even Obama, a guy who does not seem to want to make a hard decision on anything, sounds resolute on this, to me. He has to be, there is no alternative.

As someone who has lost many family members directly to the actions of inherently evil tyrants (Nazis & Stalinists), I find the entire tone and every word of your comment personally offensive.


@kao_hsien_chih - thank you for that view - stuff I didn't think about and which is certainly needed to get the whole picture.

Another "conspiracy" I have to offer.

On the 20th Sig Heckler (former Los Alamos chief) published a report about a recent visit in North Korea where he and others were shown a brand new Uranium enrichment facility and were told that the North-Koreans would like to talk about it and other stuff (like a peace treaty) with the U.S. directly (check NYT and WaPo on 20/21/22/23).

A few days later we get this incident.

Now does it sound rational for North Korea to offer negotiations and then to create an incident that will make them impossible?

Or is it more rational for a hard-right South Korean government to sabotage any North Korean-U.S. negotiation attempt with the U.S. by provoking an incident?

We may never know what is the case here, but this openness about enrichment and negotiation offers do not fit with the incident from the Northern point of view.



"I myself am fascinated by the probable fact that the bloodline of the Japanese Royal Family is of Korean Origin and the lengths that Japan will go to suppress the fact.

" National Geographic has written that Japan "has kept access to the tombs restricted, prompting rumors that officials fear excavation would reveal bloodline links between the "pure" imperial family and Korea"""

There is no archaeology in Japan precisely because it will show that the Japanese Royal Family, and the Japanese themselves are Korean immigrants. The Japanese despise Koreans and this would be a major loss of national face.

I visited the one open tomb near Kyoto with a young New Zealand lecturer in archaeology around 1973. It was of a minor Princess. The tomb was opened via a landslide in the 1950's when the army of occupation was in control which it was why it was excavated and not immediately sealed up.

The plains around Nara are dotted with imperial tombs. They are easy to spot, a small conical hill, about a hundred meters high, with a village at it's base where the slaves who built the tomb were then settled. They were to guard it for eternity with the understanding that the inhabitants of the village would be executed if the grave was ever touched.

Occasional landslips have shown tantalising glimpses since the war but they have been quickly repaired. The tombs are under control of the Imperial Household Department and any archaeological investigation is verboten since, by definition, the occupants are the current Emperors ancestors.

Neil Richardson


"Now does it sound rational for North Korea to offer negotiations and then to create an incident that will make them impossible?"

Clearly you're just ignorant of the North-South history. Yes that is the "rational" approach of the North Korean style of negotiations. This goes back to Adm. Turner Joy's excruciating experience at Kaesong and Panmunjom. I suggest you read his account. In fact so much of the "confusion" especially in the United States regarding the DPRK's behavior is precisely because this isn't our way of negotiating. Just ask Victor Cha about the North Korean "training" of American diplomatic envoys in negotiating. It's a conditioning process which any old Korea hand would recognize a mile away.

different clue

Neil Richardson,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my comment. I was not kidding when I said my lack of military background severely handicaps me in trying to understand all these facts and details. But the effort to learn these things is clearly worth making and I will make it.

I have read that many South Koreans quietly fear that the greatest long-range danger posed by NorKo . . . after the ultimate questions of war or peace are settled . . . is a social and regime implosion caused by the devastating enforced poverty, engineered famine, etc. of the Kim family's own devising. The wealth/poverty difference between the two Koreas vastly outweighs the wealth/poverty difference between the two Germanies just before re-unification. I have read that some South Koreans quietly fear that attempting to re-habilitate ex-North Korea would permanently bankrupt South Korea. Have I been reading exaggerated nonsense?

My free advice (worth every cent I know) to the South Korean leadership would be to build an Iron Goll-Danged Fence against a sudden influx of post-collapse NorKo refugees even as South Korea fixes its military response problems. If North Korea is fated to implode as millions of starving desperate North Koreans rush for the exits; let all those exits lead into China solely and only. China loaded the political core. China keeps egging on the political nuclear experiments. If the control rods lose control and all the moderators de-moderate, let the made-in-China fallout drift back to the China it was made in. South Korea does not deserve the coming implosion problems.

"Some damn thing in the Koreas" indeed.

Neil Richardson


"I have read that many South Koreans quietly fear that the greatest long-range danger posed by NorKo . . . after the ultimate questions of war or peace are settled . . . is a social and regime implosion caused by the devastating enforced poverty, engineered famine, etc. of the Kim family's own devising. The wealth/poverty difference between the two Koreas vastly outweighs the wealth/poverty difference between the two Germanies just before re-unification. I have read that some South Koreans quietly fear that attempting to re-habilitate ex-North Korea would permanently bankrupt South Korea. Have I been reading exaggerated nonsense?"

I would agree as would many South Koreans. There have been attempts by a few South Korean chaebols such as Chung Ju-yung to invest in North Korea. Other than emotional reasons (Chung came from Tongchon which is in North Korea), one of the cited rationale was to increase the general skill level of North Korean labor while taking advantage of low cost. The Kaesong Industrial Complex is the biggest example of this effort. We'll just have to see what happens as it's one of the few joint ventures that continue today despite the recent tensions on the peninsula. I think some of this was based on wishful thinking that the Kims would adopt a similar path that Deng chose. The problem is that the Chinese have been trying to convince the Kims of this for decades without success.

There have been limited market liberalization in rural areas where individual farmers could sell "excess" rice. This was in reaction to the devastating famine in the 1990s. The problem is that the regime just can't help itself. They botched the recent currency "reform" by basically appropriating whatever "wealth" these North Korean kulaks had accumulated. (They executed hapless Pak Nam-gi who was the chief economic planner as a scapegoat) What will likely happen is that they are on the precipice of yet another famine in the near future. The Soviets and the Chinese know all about this as they've lost millions of people to starvation. Given the brutal nature of the Kims, I wouldn't rule out yet another de-kulakization.

This bring us to the reasons for the recent provocations. The Kim regime's sole method of extracting subsistence level aid is to create a crisis. Once tensions arise, they would invariably offer some hint of a negotiated way out. As the ROK and the US policymakers have been properly "conditioned", the North Koreans assume that we would be willing to pay a higher price at the table in order to de-escalate. (Victor Cha said that the North Koreans had used the word "hoolyun" which translates to "training." However, I think conditioning is a better translation.) This has been the pattern since at least since 1972. And the pattern was seen first by Adm. Joy who had a brutal negotiating sessions with the Chinese and the North Koreans during the war. When the ROK and DPRK had reached an impasse in direct negotiations in the 1970s, the North foolishly attempted to assassinate Park (The assassin had killed his wife instead). When that (understandably) hardened Park, they sought to separate the US from the ROK by murdering Bonifas and Barrett in 1976.

This is the reason why the United States will not give away a concession such as direct talks with the DPRK. As Victor Cha stated repeatedly (he was the Asia director at NSC during the second term of GWB as well Christopher Hill's deputy in Beijing), we did offer them the proverbial carrot, but they just would not let go of their nuclear weapons. I think the Bush administration belatedly adopted the right approach (which was remarkable considering what Cheney, Bolton and other neocons were openly advocating) which is described as "Strategic Tolerance." And the current administration is continuing the same policy. We should ignore these provocations while continuing to isolate them. At the same time we have to be ready to respond militarily in terms of reciprocal retaliation. (Along the DMZ the EUSA always had rules of engagement that allowed for counterfire if we were attacked. The ROKA and the marines should adopt the same for the Northern Limit Line) If one listens to the KCNA broadcasts, it's easy to be shocked by their rhetoric. However, they've always managed to de-escalate whenever they thought the US was finally going to hit back militarily. Perhaps Kim Jung Un is different from his father and grandfather. We'll just have to see but I think he values personal survival over the temporary loss of face as long as his regime can brutally maintain social control.



William R. Cumming

Okay oversimplistic view of Chinese foreign policy in immediate vicenity. 1st priority-full absorbtion of Taiwan into Chinese Condominium. 2nd Priority--absorbtion of Koreas into Chinese Condominium. 3rd highest priority--aborbstion of Japan into Chinese Condominium.

So China will let Korean Pennisula fester for a while before any outward efforts at stabilization. In the meantime Chinese economic ties year by year lash Taiwan, Koreas, and Japan more tightly each year to China. Chinese efforts are wonderful to allow internal Chinese political tensions to be played out in these Taiwanese, Korean, and Japanese acts. And the US continues to pretend it controls the dynamics. Personally at best the US can postpone the integration by a few years, perhaps a decade a most. Prepare for US to be locked out in varying degrees the rest of the century.
In the modern era and now in this century is the measure of the aggressor border crossing by ground forces? What is US doctrine with respect to S. Korean defense? Or Taiwan? Or Japan?

John Minnerath

Classic brinkmanship.
Are we entering into a tense and dangerous time akin to the Cuban Missile Crisis?
Can the PRC exert enough pressure on its volatile ally, the DPRK, to make them move their fingers from the buttons?

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