So far DPRK doing what it said, by Chris Nelson

[The war of words has already started. North Korea has declared the Armistice Agreement inoperative, has cut off the hot line at exactly the time hot lines are most needed to prevent an inadvertent slide into accidental hot wars. Large military exercizes are currently being conducted on both sides of the DMZ. How will South Korea and/or the USA respond to an intended or unintended skirmish around disputed border islands at the sensitive Northern Limit Line, as happened in Yeonpyeong in 1999, 2002 and 2010? A “kinetic” response has been threatened by all three parties. Could this devolve into a tit-for-tat escalation towards an all-out war? As he is wont to do, Chris Nelson has been following developments from an American perspective in the Nelson Report. With his permission, we reprint sections of the 11 March 2013 edition. –CanKor]

In this March 11, 2013 photo released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and distributed March 12, 2013 by the Korea News Service, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves at military officers after inspecting the Wolnae Islet Defense Detachment, North Korea, near the western sea border with South Korea.

In this 11 March 2013 photo released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and distributed March 12, 2013 by the Korea News Service, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves at military officers after inspecting the Wolnae Islet Defense Detachment, North Korea, near the western sea border with South Korea.

So the 11th arrived and as the annual US-S. Korea joint military exercises continue, the DPRK seems to be keeping to its “schedule” of doing things to rachet-up tensions, but not (yet) actually shoot anything or anybody. However, that, we can authoritatively report, is seen by both US and S. Korean involved experts as likely not a question of “if”, but “when/what”.

Speculation…nothing on this can be called “informed”…but speculation by folks whose responsibility it is to try and predict: many expect some kind of kinetic action near or along the Northern Limits Line, rather than against Seoul or a military base…perhaps carried out in a way which cannot be immediately ascribed to direct DPRK aggression. (See discussion, below.)

The thinking behind that includes Pyongyang seeking to confuse ROK (and US) decision-makers on the critical “retaliation” question, especially given Pres. Park’s firm warnings that not only will she authorize a military response to a kinetic attack, but that a pre-emptive ROK attack cannot be ruled out, under certain circumstances. Read the rest of this entry »

An Insider’s Account of Obama’s North Korea Strategy, by Jeffrey A. Bader

[On 8 March 2012 the Brookings Institution held a launch for Jeffrey Bader’s latest book, “Obama and China’s Rise: an Insider’s Account of America’s Asia Strategy”. Bader is currently John C. Whitehead Senior Fellow in International Diplomacy, Foreign Policy at the John L. Thornton China Center in Washington DC. Previously, he was President Obama’s Senior Director for Asia on the National Security Council for the first 3 years. The following is a selection of what the author had to say about US North Korea policy, which figures prominently in the book. This selection is taken from the 9 Mach 2012 edition of The Nelson Report. To hear the entire speech, please click March 8, 2012 book launch at Brookings. –CanKor]

Jeffrey A. Bader

(…) Instead of describing how seamlessly we executed plans drawn up in the first days, let me lay out what we did in reaction to events. As one of my colleagues said to me after a frustrating day dealing with demands for elaboration of a strategy, “there’s no such thing as strategy; there’s only tactics.” An exaggeration, to be sure, sort of like the observation that history is just one damned thing after another. But it frequently feels like the complete truth when you’re in the middle of the fray.

First, North Korea, since that was the issue that posed the most immediate dangers and consumed so much time, effort, and energy.

We came into office on something like automatic pilot, prepared to pick up implementation of Assistant Secretary Chris Hill’s plan for dismantling the Yongbyon plutonium reactor. But North Korea quickly eliminated that option. Intelligence in February 2009 showed North Korean plans to launch an ICBM, later announced to be a satellite launch. We could not proceed with implementation of dismantlement, and further international shipments of heavy fuel oil, under the shadow of an ICBM launch. So it’s fair to say that North Korea’s plan produced a very significant hardening of attitudes in the Obama national security team. Read the rest of this entry »

Playing Chicken at the Brink

“Did Seoul just win a terrifying game of chicken?” This question (from a Tweet by Beijing-based Globe & Mail correspondent Mark Mackinnon) was on many minds this week.

On Monday, 20 December 2010, the South Korean military completed a provocative 94-minute live-fire drill as part of its military exercize on Yeonpyeong Island. Despite threats of a deadly response, North Korea failed to take action.

A month earlier, a similar exercize prompted North Korea to launch a deadly artillery barrage on the island, destroying the homes of villagers and leaving two civilians and two soldiers dead, many others wounded.

DPRK: Stop shooting into our territorial waters!
ROK: Stop shooting onto our islands!
DPRK: You do that again and we’ll shoot harder!
ROK: Just go ahead! Make our day!

Read the rest of this entry »

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