The New Korean War

President Obama may soon discover his predecessor, George Bush, was more than correct in designating North Korea an “Axis of Evil” state.

As the United States announced on Monday it would conduct joint naval exercises with the South Korean navy in response to the sinking of a South Korean warship two months ago, North Korea, the nation deemed responsible for the disaster that cost 46 lives, raised tensions by putting its military forces on a war footing.

Asia Times reported yesterday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, in a military broadcast, placed his million plus armed forces on “combat readiness,” causing concern worldwide about North Korean intentions as well as a drop in major stock markets.

“We do not hope for war but if South Korea, with the United States and Japan on its back, tries to attack us, Kim Jong-il has ordered us to finish the task of unification left undone during the…(Korean) war (in 1953),” the military broadcast stated.

North Korea, of course, denies that it sank the South Korean corvette, Cheonan, on March 26, but the evidence states otherwise. An international commission made up of experts from Australia, America and Sweden investigated the sinking and concluded North Korea was guilty of the atrocity after finding North Korean torpedo parts in the wreckage raised from the sea bottom.

“The evidence is quite compelling,” said Ban Ki-moon, United Nations secretary general. “There is no controversy.”

North Korea also has a long history of committing terrorist acts against South Korea. In 1983, North Korean agents bombed a South Korean delegation in Burma, killing several members. In 1987, North Korea was also blamed for blowing up a South Korean airliner in flight. In another naval incident in 2002, four South Korean sailors were killed in an exchange of gunfire with North Korean patrol boats.

Besides joint naval exercises with the United States, the South Korean government has responded with punitive measures. All trade with North Korea will be cut off as well as access to shipping lanes through South Korean waters that North Korean ships use to shorten voyages to China.

South Korea will also again name North Korea as its “principal enemy”, a designation dropped in 2004 during a warming of relations. According to a New York Times story, North Korea was first named a “principal enemy” in 1994 after threatening “to turn Seoul into a ‘sea of fire’ ” during the crisis over its nuclear weapons program.” After the Cheonan incident, Kim Jong-il has threatened South Korea with “all-out war” if sanctions are applied.

The world is now waiting to see whether Kim Jong-il will actually carry out his threat to engulf the two countries in war or whether he is simply staging a tantrum to extort aid from Western countries as he has done in the past.

Although the two Koreas are still technically at war, outwardly, the war scenario appears the most unlikely one. Both North and South Korea know the latter is not going to initiate any military action against the North over the Cheonan incident. As columnist Donald Kirk states, South Korea is doing so well economically, possessing one of the world’s fastest growing economies, it does not want to risk its hard-earned prosperity and high living standards in a destructive war. Kirk and other military analysts have pointed out a further reason for South Korea’s avoiding war over North Korean provocations like the Cheonan: Seoul would bear the brunt of any North Korean attack due to its location close to the North Korean border.

“The North still has thousands of artillery pieces within range of metropolitan Seoul and the nearby port of Inchon as well as missiles with the range to reach anywhere in the South, and nobody in South Korea really wants to challenge that,” Kirk writes.

For North Korea’s part, war also does not appear to be an option. Its army is in a very dilapidated condition. Years of sanctions and a ramshackle economy have left the North Korean armed forces with no money for training, maintenance or for purchasing new equipment. North Korea’s biggest military threat is its 60,000 commando troops, many of whom have been moved close to the border. In case of war, it is thought the North Koreans’ plan, due to their army’s movement limitations, would be to occupy Seoul and then seek a ceasefire.

Analysts, like the military news publication Strategy Page, state that the modern, well-equipped South Korean army, which produces many of its own weapons and is supported by a strong economy, has a plan to throw back such an invasion and then move into the North. Such a plan to cross the border would also be implemented if the North Korean state ever collapsed. American forces in South Korea, which numbered 42,000 before 9/11, now stand at about 30,000 and would come under South Korean command in case of a conflict.

But common sense may play no part in a Stalinist dictatorship’s decision to go to war, especially one struggling to survive. Reports have been coming out of North Korea that the people are again facing starvation like in the 1990s when an estimated two million died. A poor harvest this year, the failure of a currency reform scheme last year and the repressing of private farmer’s markets have again left the long-suffering North Koreans destitute.

North Korea also cannot look to China, its main ally, for help. China, like other countries, has refused food aid as long as North Korea refuses to give up its nuclear weapons program. Not wishing to support an economic cripple, China also vainly wanted North Korea to adopt free market reforms and become self-sufficient like it did. Like South Korea, China fears a North Korean collapse and the millions of hungry Korean refugees that would flood over its border seeking food.

Unlike in the 1990s though, North Korean citizens are reported to be more restless regarding their cruel, state-sponsored fate. The underground black market is reported as thriving, indicating a disregard for the government, as the people are becoming more aware of what is happening outside their country, especially on the North Korean-Chinese border, where smuggling and Chinese cell phones, although illegal, have connected North Koreans with the modern world.

To block this unrest from becoming a popular uprising and detract people’s attention from their misery, the North Korean government may do what the Argentinean military junta did in 1982 when faced with a similar disastrous economic situation and restless population: launch a military adventure. And with the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War next month, Kim Jong-il may see that as a sign to “finish the task” of reuniting the Koreas, especially while his government still controls the population.

  • Donald Ballard

    Visit North Korea now.

  • Peter E. Coleman

    The real question is if N. Korea acts alone or do their friends cause problems elsewhere? They all seem to take turns causing problems in their respective neighborhoods. When they are all causing trouble you'll know someone is next to the fan with a handful.

  • DeadReckoning

    Think of it this way. An improvished country, puts its million-man army on alert. It takes a huge amount of resources to put an army of any size on alert versus keeping them in the barracks. How long can NK afford to keep its army on alert? It would be good stratgy to keep them on edge for a very long time.

    • badaboo

      Goodo , DeadReckoning , that is an excellent strategy , they can barely keep their army fed let alone the general population .
      Once a counter-strategy to the large amount of artillery within range of Seoul is developed , [ and the South Koreans may already have one ] , I think eventually the South Koreans will actually pre-empt the North .. Even China can not defend the countless blatant Cease-Fire Treaty violations perpetrated by the North , and the recent sinking of the South's naval vessel , has set the stage .

  • Andres de Alamaya

    Some years back there was a small town in America's South-West in which an oversize bully terrorized its citizens. And then one day he was found shot dead. Everyone in town claimed to have no clue about his death and they all celebrated privately. Since the whole town was in on it, the investigation went nowhere and I thought to myself “What a wonderful example. If the world would only show such good sense, community co-operation, to rid itself of anti-social individuals, or groups, who inflict misery on all our lives, how much better off we would all be. North Korea is such a bully. It wouldn't take much if the great powers decided to co-operate. Move in on them, hang that little monster midget, liberate his people, and then help prop them up and bring peace to the world. Another such move by all maritime nations should be a cleanup of the pirates working off the African coast. All it would take is the right attitude and an affirmation that we live in a global village.

  • Havoc

    The bully's name, if I recall, was 'Kenneth Rex McElroy'. The town was in NorthWest Missouri.

  • gailhap

    "detract people’s attention"

    the word you want is "divert"

    • PJC

      You've made the entire thread 200% better by pointing that out for the rest of us morons who are incapable of figuring that out. Thank you so very much.

  • USMCSniper

    How this all came about. The end of World War II brought the redrawing of boundaries all over the world. Korea, conquered by Japan during the war, was divided at the 38th parallel then given to the USSR in the north and the US in the south. The Soviets pulled out of N. Korea in 1950, leaving a communist regime behind. That regime, funded and equipped by The Peoples Republic of China, invaded S. Korea. The United Nations (led, of course, by the United States) raised an army to restore peace and expel the aggressors. The "conflict" lasted three years and victory changed hands twice before the bloodied United States established a cease-fire zone on the familiar 38th parallel. Some might say that communism in this case was successfully contained, however, the loss of 53,000 American lives in a fruitless attempt to topple a regime is hardly a victory.

    • coyote3

      We have pretended that "cease fire" in Korea is a solution. All that means is that the belligerents have stopped large scale shooting. There have been numerous incidents since the "cease fire." I have couple of friends who served in Korea, and they said it is probably the closest thing to a war zone without large scale fighting. Indeed, the place is still considered a "combat zone" for good reason. The American people were weary coming a few years off WWII, and I can't say I blame them. However, what is clear is that the failure of the United States, and other nations, to achieve a victory has contributed to the situation we have today. We can take little comfort in the "cease fire", because it is not a matter of "if" , but "when" the shooting starts again. Like most of the other conflicts we have been in since WWII, we could not have intended to "win" them, considering how the conflict was conducted.

  • peter

    The torpedo could have had "Made in N. Korea" printed all over it, but how does this prove N. Korea fired it? I am at a loss.

    I'm just an engineer from Missouri

    • CBreeze

      Given the geographical area, one can safely assume it wasn't fired by the Czech Navy, right?

      • Schwarzschild

        Ha ha ha! But maybe the Czech's fired it via a worm hole?

  • cochavi1

    Good chance Kim Jung Il will go over the edge, and an even better chance that viewing the Marxist student/narcissist in the WH 'provoked' him to go there.

  • William_Z

    Okay, this isn't 1950. The Chinese aren't interested, and the U.S has its own problem, so who's going to help clean this up? A Korean war wasn't that popular the first time around.

    • PJC

      Right—and this, like you said, isn't 1950. The world is interested in Korea *now*.

      • William_Z

        Correct. You got.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    A one million man army facing North to South and on alert, hummmmnnnn.
    Facts, 1) They are cold and hungry, 2) They are not paid, 3) They will starve due
    to the cut off of food aid.

    Seems to me little leader would benefit from peace negotiations after turning his
    troops loose with the encouraging admonition "the food is in the South, Dairy Queen
    that away" do what you want………..After a real blood letting what does he gain?

    Facts, 1) Less men to feed. 2) Fewer hungry people to turn against him. 3) Liberals
    will blame themselves for his evil. 4) He can demand reparations. 5) He tightens
    control as for him loss is gain.

    South Korea wins large workforce with it's food for guns program………….William

  • melvin polatnick

    23 million North Koreans are working 12 hours a day for a bowl of rice. They are living in circus tents with Kim as their master. Most of his captives would rather unify with the South and raise their standard of living. But China fears that a unified Korea would use its 23 million new citizens as a cheap labor force to compete with Chinese exports. Also it does not want a government friendly to the US on its border. China should be pressured to allow unification of the Korean peninsular. It must happen before a sick and frustrated Kim Jong 11 packs his bombs in submarines and sends them to unknown destinations.

  • eric

    It is interestin that the escalation in Korea's corresponds with what is happening in Iran. North Koreans are back in Syria as nuclear technicians and ballistic missles techs, helping transform liquid filled missiles to solid fuel missiles which will be more accurate and launch quicker than the 50 min liquid fuel prep time. North Korea an dIran work hand in hand and the north's job is to create a divirsionary second front.

  • Lenin-McCarthy

    If one cuts out the brain of North Korea's military, then their strength would be rendered useless and unification with the two Korea's would be more possible on S Korea's terrms. It would be a win-win for both Koreas. Kim Jung Il must be assassinated at any cost.

  • ivanvivian

    A war is planned. Obama gets his opportunity to kill Americans. South Korea will be taken over like Vietnma, as American leaders provide faulty weapons and logistics to the South Koreans, while heavily sponsoring or aiding Chiona as it assists North Korea. Communism, or One world Government triumphs, while the leaders play a fascade.

  • Anthom

    I agree with bluegoo, I beleive only CHina can stop it now. But why dont they do it ?

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