Thursday, April 13, 2017

and again regarding Korea

A contribution at The Conversation this morning:

Dennis Argall

logged in via Google
There is a lot of fact missing from this discussion. The aircraft carrier heading for Korean waters left Korean waters several weeks ago. It was there at the beginning of annual US-ROK exercises which have involved more and more massive forces in recent years which are perceived reasonably in Pyongyang as rehearsals of a decapitation plan for action against the north.
Also, amid all the shouting, note that this week, the Reunification Ministry, the Defence Ministry and the armed forces in South Korea have issued statements urging people to calm down, that what is done in the peninsula will be decided by South Korea, that their policy is peaceful, and there will be no war.
Also, if one steps away from the glare of US reporting as echoed by Australian media and commentators and politicians, note that this week the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister responsible for Korean and nuclear issues has been in Seoul to debrief on Xi-Trump and has taken the opportunity to meet all candidates for the 9 May presidential elections. Note also that Seoul newspapers are giving nice coverage to a friendly visit by two Russian warships to the ROK naval headquarters.
It seems remarkable that a country at the centre of such tension could be so sensible. Any reflection on DPRK behaviour has to involve empathy and awareness that no other country has been under such sustained nuclear threat for so long.
As with Beijing-Taipei relations the future of Korea will be decided by Seoul and Pyongyang.
This leaves us with Trump as comparable to a loutish parent getting belligerent at a school sports event. It’s not that he thinks Koreans in particular are children, he acts the same way towards everyone. We are curiously dependent on two generals, Mattis and McMaster, at Defense and National Security Agency. As well as perhaps Kushner to keep Trump away from the button. Read McMaster’s “Dereliction of Duty” for his views on high decision making. Read Yonhap Newsagency online to discover South Korean news.

  1. Trevor Kerr

    logged in via Twitter
    In reply to Dennis Argall
    Thanks for mentioning Russia, an essential part of outcomes in North Asia.
    McMaster’s book is an essential, and rare, text on the conduct of war by civilians.
    1. Dennis Argall

      In reply to Trevor Kerr
      “McMaster’s book is an essential, and rare, text on the conduct of war by civilians.” … or, critically, now, an insight into a main man’s view of that. War is always conducted by civilians except by military governments. It remains important, as Clausewitz argued, that statesmen know that war, as a policy instrument, once adopted, tends to drive out policy and pursue its own ends. It seems to me that the hypertrophic development of American much more than DPRK forces has largely driven out policy. There is no comfort in the fact that the US is now over-armed and under-brained or in the notion that soldier smarts (McMaster/Mattis) will keep policy in order.
      for details of the 2016 exercises by US-ROK, this year’s no smaller.
      I wrote more on that here:
      Regarding the Russians, in 1982, in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs I secured approval for another Australian effort to shift the Korean issues somewhere. With no significant outcome, except that a comment by Mikhail Kapitsa,
      then the deputy Soviet foreign minister, has stuck with me. He said, in relation particularly to DPRK relations, that “Where two countries that should be friends are not friends, the fault is with the more powerful.” I have waited to see good examples of this principle in action. China perhaps heads more that way than Russia or the US. Israel the epitome of the contrary.
      There is a terrible ignorance here and elsewhere of both the ROK and the DPRK, and of Korean culture. Media and public policy driven by the US military posture and the spectacle of the DPRK wrestling with having been locked in the broom closet of Asia for half a century. From my very brief experience visiting Pyongyang long ago, the main thing I took away was of administrative weakness and bungling, comparable in Australian terms, with, say the Border Force + Centrelink were they both under a Morrison and were he unrestrained.
      We await the results of ROK elections on 9 May.
      There is mention there of THAAD.
      The idea of defending south Korea from north Korea with a HIGH ALTITUDE system is bizarre. The record of THAAD thus far is weak. It would seem irrelevant to a shower of missiles at low level such as the DPRK has recently demonstrated. THAAD is plainly directed at China. In political terms, rather than military hardware terms, it is another rope around south Korean, holding it to the US and away from prospect of peaceful outcomes on the peninsula.
      It seems also reasonable to speculate that the American show of force is an intervention in the south Korean presidential elections, to reduce support for moderate candidates concerned to engage in dialogue with the DPRK and China.
        1. Dennis Argall

          logged in via Google
          In reply to Trevor Kerr
          “… "pacification” of the regions and to prop up a flailing government.“
          Are you referring to Ohio? :-)
          And next day...
        2. Trevor Kerr logged in via Twitter
            1. Dennis Argall

              In reply to Trevor Kerr
              Good point… and I have to wonder about that now in the context of MOAB. And it does seem relevant to this (otherwise rather alarmingly Trumpist-ill-informed-spontaneous-violence-prone) discussion inasmuch as McMaster is there and without question involved in the MOAB decision. Here are the nearby mineral resources:
              McMaster has, in Afghanistan, with MOAB, now demonstrated his sense of escalation… for a second time. But in Afghanistan, unlike Syria, there is now the question of subsequent action by ground forces. There is a huge question whether this massive bomb has been used in a place very remote from human habitation. I can imagine people (including children, Mr President) at great distance incapacitated for life, deaf and brain damage, damage to many organs.
              Use of MOAB in the DPRK would be a crime against humanity unless the nuclear assets in DPRK are very remote. This says there are 15, or perhaps now 14
              We don’t know where the 14 MOABs are. This is a weapon that bridges from conventional to nuclear in its effects, in a ‘clean’ way. It’s only been used once before, this the first time in war. This use in Afghanistan is the first real test. Which is perhaps the main reason why McMaster has been in Afghanistan. We must follow the steps of the McMaster.
              1. Darren Yorston 
                Darren Yorston is a Friend of The Conversation

                In reply to Dennis Argall
                The worst aspect of US military policy is that they have no concept of proportionality. They drop the largest non-nuclear weapon in their arsenal, a non penetrating weapon, onto a bunch of fighters in Afghanistan. I doubt very much that the MOAB was in theatre, one would suggest it was brought in for a strategic purpose and it would appear self evident what that purpose was.
                When I was in Afghanistan in 2007 a US B-1B bomber dropped 20 000lb of ordnance on a Taliban machine gun emplacement with the result “unsuccessful”. The US was sending a message.
                The MOAB was a message and not necessarily for North Korea alone; we will be your judge, jury and executioner.
                1. Trevor Kerr

                  logged in via Twitter
                  In reply to Darren Yorston
                  I guess it’s McMaster’s job to convey John Nicholson’s assessment of the bomb’s efficacy back to Trump and NSC. Whatever Trump has in his “mind” for DPRK, he must be tossing over a small bunkerbusting nuke. Love to know what China & Russia, let alone RoK & Japan, are telling him.
                  1. Dennis Argall

                    In reply to Trevor Kerr
                    The DPRK targets are scattered.
                    Chinese President rang Trump during the week to say don’t do it.
                    Chinese former Vice-Minister dealing with Korea and nuclear spent the week in Seoul having friendly meetings with five presidential candidates. Five presidential candidates appeared in TV debate yesterday and all spoke against any military action.
                    Two Russian naval ships (destroyer and supply) making a friendly visit to ROK naval HQ this week.
                    To add a Japanese vessel to an American carrier task force is to say the least odd, unless one is trying to really annoy a lot of Koreans.

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