Hello all. Good to see this old subject coming back on the news again.
I found this sentence intriguing :
However, North Korea strongly denied responsibility for the attack, calling the investigation a "fabrication orchestrated by a group of traitors".
What is the probability that this, is not, actually, a lie ? That there could be a dissident group in NK's army that decided to sink the first south korean boat they could find ? After all, misinformed and misguided as north-koreans are, the possibility is strong that some military officials have a more "hawkish" position than KJIL and consider to disobey orders in order to attack the "weak and feeble southern army" by themselves. Why expect sanity in subordinate of an insane leader ?
I'd like to add a fistful of remarks to the discussion :
- Status of the conflict : NK and SK are officially still at war but have been for 50 years in a state of cease-fire. Sinking an enemy ship can be seen as a very clear violation of the cease fire and legitimize a counter strike by SK. There is not even need for a casus belli : there IS currently a state of war.
- UN and inability to declare war : UN cannot declare war as a belligerent but it can support one side of a war and send blue-helmets, equipements and funds like it did in the korea war (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nat ... olution_84
). Calling that a declaration of war from the UN is just a matter of semantics. In fact, the Korea war was maybe the biggest war effort ever supported by the UN. An angry letter from them in this case is nothing to be ridiculed. In fact such a letter would mean that China has removed its support from NK which would be an incredibly strong signal.
- Nuking North Korea, ethical concern : this may be just an internet forum, but I am shocked that some people consider acceptable the preemptive nuking of a country in order to save a city from mostly material damage and propose such a huge difference in the values of north and south korean lives. Such a nuclear attack would kill millions and by all accounts would amount to a war crime.
- Nuking North Korea, technical concern : the artillery pieces that threaten Seoul are camouflaged and protected inside mountain tunnels. A nuke powerful enough to destroy such a sheltered artillery piece would have a hard time having a radius that does not damage Seoul as well.
- Nuclear menace of NK : analysis of the seismologic data suggest that their nukes are either very weak or that they have misfired. Their ballistic technology also looks quite random, with AEGIS deployed around, the nuclear threat posed by NK in a military conflict is pretty small. They have, however, a huge potential for terrorism. They have decent secret services (they sucessfully bombed a plane, they successfully killed 4 SK officials in an explosion...) and most western countries have barely enough counter-terrorism resources to prevent an amateurish Al-Quaeda attack, they would have close to no chance in front of a well organized secret service operation. I think that is currently the most major deterrent to attacking NK.
- Evacuating Seoul : That shouldn't be really difficult. After all, this is what happens every holiday or every rush hour. It could be done within a day. Also note that we are talking about artillery bombing, so subway stations can act as decent shelter for a big population in this case. Subway is prepared for that, there are racks of gas masks inside each station in case of attacks. Of course NK would now immediately about this. But that would have a tremendous cost to South Korea. Much higher than maintaining the status-quo. The outcome of the following war would be very uncertain and SK has no assurance that it will make any benefit in this operation. Even if it could be assured to get all NK territory afterwards, it may not be a profitable operation.
- About the size of NK's army : yes, it is said to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, in the world. But that is just counting citizens officially reported as soldiers. Equipment is old, desertion rates are so high that people patrolling together have the order at shooting each other in case of suspicious behavior. This may be grossly exaggerated anecdotal evidences, but odds are high that in case of war, a lot of soldiers would have a very low motivation and would surrender easily to SK military.
- SK possibilities : As have been pointed out, an all-out war seems a pretty bad option for SK but that isn't the only one. They could engage in low intensity warfare, gradually raising in intensity but not justifying a bombardement of Seoul that would lead to an all-out war. I am not sure where they could go from there, anyway.
- KJIL's insanity : He may very well be crazy, but it is also remarkable that when you practice nuclear blackmail, it is mandatory to give the image of an insane fanatic crazy leaders to your enemies in order to be taken seriously. Nixon used it, and I suspect KJI and Ahaminajad know very well this trick too...
- Assassination of enemy leaders : yes it is insanely hypocritical that this is illegal. That would be the most useful loss of human life in a conflict...
All frivolity aside, though, Seoul is a bluff, surely?
It is mutually assured destruction. A bit different from a bluff as the guy has the ability to do what he claims and that he calls on the others to not give him a reason to do so.
Well, I know that I am just an armchair general, but let's pretend I like to procrastrinate about strategy...