Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Korea Situation Shakes Off Complacency

Alaskabased Interceptor Missile, Designed to stop North Korean Taepo Dongs, among other threats
Photo Courtesy of the US Dept. of Defense
Those following world events over the past few weeks may have noticed the Korea situation that's been developing.

Kurt Schlichter, in his weekly Town Hall column, published his fictitious future-history account of how he saw the Korean War ending if hostilities rekindled into all-out war. Most people forget that the Korean War never ended. We are currently in the middle of a very long cease-fire. 

This is not anything new. This cycle started with Kim Jong Un's grandfather, Kim Il-Song. His father, Kim Jong-Il continued the tradition. Now, Un is just following in their footsteps.

Looking back over the past 15 years, there is a noticeable trend. The North Koreans conduct a test or two in the early spring. Next, as the spring thaws make it bearable, they begin some military exercises near the DMZ. Meanwhile, the current Kim Jong Tyrant utters threats. Sometimes the oligarchy does some form of socio-economic rain dance complete with banging drums to represent thunder.

Recent eyebrow-raising tests have included when, under Il, North Korea test-fired No Dong and Taepo Dong missiles. One such test, in 1998, sent the missile over Japan and into the ocean. It demonstrated a potential capability to range Alaska. 

Usually, the allied forces in South Korea counter with their own exercises.

Sometimes, North Korea infiltrates some of their special operations and reconnaissance personnel. Sometimes those people get caught like in 1996 when their submarine was compromised.

The dance goes on for a couple of months. Then the rhetoric quells. The North Korean leader gains some face-points with his subjects and the world stage. The rest of the world sighs in relief. Nothing of real substance is gained or lost on either side.

Eventually, summer comes. Summer and winter are not overly favorable to North Korea. The winters bring harsh conditions to the mountains. Those conditions can cause mechanical issues for military equipment. They also tend to bring down the morale of any poor infantry slob that North Korea would force to fight in them.

Spring thaws out the mountains. The rice paddies thaw creating an almost natural obstacle. This allegedly may slow the advance or counter-attack by allied forces. The reality has not been tested in modern times. However, in the 1950s, it was a fact of life.

US Forces Korea, Allied Forces Korea, and a few US Based military units conduct a large joint exercise each spring as well. We have been doing so for years and years. 

During summer, those paddies dry significantly. Historically, North Korea and the Kim Jong Tyrants have been thoughtful of this. Just as the paddies are thought to slow any potential counter-attack, summer enables them.

So what makes this year any different?

North Korea tested a nuclear explosive device. The device may or may not be ready for weaponizing in the near future.

North Korea evicted all South Korean workers from the Kaesong Industrial Plant. The plant, just north of the DMZ, was meant to be a partnership. It was meant as a commercial opportunity for peace. But Un ordered it closed off to the South. South Korea cut funding. Now the plant is closed, or will be shortly.

Most likely, Un will use his state-run propaganda "media" to tell people it was closed to protect the North Koreans who worked there from being taken advantage of from the evil capitalists. You see, though the workers probably earned better wages and worked under better conditions, they were being taken advantage of.

Then there is the ultimate wildcard. Kim Jong Un is young. His education is much different than his father's.

We knew quite a bit about Il. At one time, there were even some unverified but believable rumors. For instance, Il supposedly had a doctorates in classical music. Allegedly his favorite band was the Bee Gees. Even more outrageous, but believable, was that Il supposedly composed a symphony based upon the band's hits. For this, some began referring to Kim Jong Il as "Disco Stu".

We just do not seem to have that sort of grasp on Un, yet. It may be years before we do.

Un seems more impetuous. He seems less predictable. He is the next generation, and all that comes with it. The generation gap seems to cause some concern among North Korea's military leadership. Yet, they seem poised to blindly follow his orders, regardless.

This lack of predictability does beget an air of caution. We cannot gamble on whether or not North Korea would Nuke the South, or Japan, or Guam, or Russia, or India, or the US. We have to assume Jong-Un would. 

We have to take the stance of "Fear not the country with 100 nukes aimed at the US with the leader stamping his feet and making threats. Fear the one madman with one nuke who will strike without warning."

Taking the above into consideration presents a giant warning sign. More than likely, this is just the same old springtime dance to new music. But the beat has changed. It's a warning against the complacency that built during Kim Jong Il's later years. We must stay ever vigilant.

We cannot flinch. That could give North Korea the excuse to act. We cannot ignore it, either. That would leave us vulnerable should they attack. We have to maintain that zen balance, ready to act when appropriate.

From that perspective, it is just the same old stuff remixed, reheated, and served up again on a different day.