Saturday, December 18, 2010

Korea; The Land of The Morning Jitters

Korea; The Land of The Morning Jitters

The name for Korea is supposed to mean “Land Of Morning Calm," but things on the Peninsula are anything but calming.

From the on-line presence of one of the greatest news organizations period : the BBC:

The envoy, Bill Richardson, made the comments after talks with officials in Pyongyang, whom he asked to exercise “extreme restraint”.

He said he had urged them to let South Korea go ahead with planned live-firing exercises on an island which was shelled by the North last month.

Pyongyang has been threatening to strike back if the drill goes ahead.

On Friday, Russia – which shares a border with North Korea – summoned US and South Korean envoys to urge them to cancel the exercises, saying Moscow was “deeply concerned” about rising tensions in the region.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is visiting Pyongyang in a private capacity, but he has in the past acted as a go-between with North Korea – with whom the US has no formal diplomatic ties.

He told CNN he had made “a little headway” in his talks with North Korean officials.


What’s a hyper-power to do? Much of this has to do with the impression that U.S. power is fading in the region. Forward deployed units of the U.S. Military Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines act as a not so secret buffer between China, Japan, Russia and the Koreans (North and South). The real power punch and power projection comes from the 7th Fleet and the 13th and 7th Air Force.

Troop strength, while not trivial, has always rested on the notion that there was more to come if any other power got too feisty. With the U.S. bogged down in the Stans and in Iraq, power projection in Asia becomes much more theoretical than actual.

Add to this a serious bit of weirdness know as the North Korean succession crisis, and you have a serious amount of churn and instability in the region.

Even if you look at the situation from a purely military lens there are no good answers. Any serious heaving of ordnance North Korea’s way would open up several number 10 cans of worms. Other than North Korea, no other participant would wish for hostilities to resume on the peninsula. Last time around it was loose, loose, loose, loose and then some. It was a whole lot of pointless death and destruction to end up exactly where all the participants started.

What does mystify your faithful reporter is why China keeps supporting North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. It makes no strategic or tactical sense. China must understand that if North Korea continues on this course, Japan will be absolutely compelled to develop its own nuclear deterrent, pacifism be damned. And as Japan goes, so goes at least South Korea. Exactly how does China come out ahead in this scenario? A nuclear armed Japan would be the very definition of a nightmare for China. I don’t see how either Russia , the U.S.A., or the rest of Asia would be in their happy places either if Japan develops the big boom.

The other imponderable is how our juvenile political process would respond if Korea suddenly unwinds. Not very well is the best guess. Watch this space gentle reader, we are in no way out of the woods in Korea.
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