Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 29, 2013

Whoes "Provocative Action"?

March 29 2013 - Hagel says U.S. has to take North Korean threats seriously
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Thursday that North Korea's provocative actions and belligerent tone had "ratcheted up the danger" on the Korean peninsula, ...
March 28 2013 - US sends nuclear-capable B-2 bombers to SKorea
The U.S military says two nuclear-capable B-2 bombers have completed a training mission in South Korea ...
The U.S. says the B-2 stealth bombers flew from a U.S. air base and dropped munitions on a South Korean island range before returning home.
March 26 2013 - U.S. Army learns hard lessons in N. Korea-like war game
The Unified Quest war game conducted this year by Army planners posited the collapse of a nuclear-armed, xenophobic, criminal family regime that had lorded over a closed society and inconveniently lost control over its nukes as it fell. Army leaders stayed mum about the model for the game, but all indications — and maps seen during the game at the Army War College — point to North Korea.
March 20 2013 - U.S. flies B-52s over South Korea
The U.S. Air Force is breaking out some of its heaviest hardware to send a message to North Korea.

A Pentagon spokesman said Monday that B-52 bombers are making flights over South Korea as part of military exercises this month.

March 19 2013 - S. Korea, U.S. carry out naval drills with nuclear attack submarine
South Korean and U.S. forces have been carrying out naval drills in seas around the peninsula with a nuclear attack submarine as part of their annual exercise, military sources said Wednesday, in a show of power against North Korea's threat of nuclear attack.

The two-month field training, called Foal Eagle, has been in full swing to test the combat readiness of the allies, amid high tension on the Korean Peninsula in light of a torrent of bellicose rhetoric by North Korea. It kicked off on March 1 and runs through April 30.

March 17 2013 - Troops remember sacrifices of Cheonan sailors
Halfway through the around-the-clock Key Resolve drills Friday, 8th U.S. Army Commander Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson remained full of energy as he underscored that the allied forces were ready to cope with North Korean threats.
Despite their hectic schedule, the troops gathered early in the day to pay respects to the 46 deceased crewmembers of South Korean corvette Cheonan, which was sunk by North Korea’s torpedo attack on March 26, 2010.
March 12 2013 - First day of SK-US military exercises passes without provocation
Around 10,000 ROK troops and 3,000 US soldiers, including 2,500 reinforcements from US Pacific command in Hawaii, are taking part in the military exercise, which will continue through Mar. 21. Another 10,000 US soldiers will be deployed by the end of this month for the Foal Eagle exercises. Also flown in to participate in the exercises were B-52 bombers and F-22 stealth fighters, which boast the world’s highest levels of performance. These two kinds of aircraft can maneuver throughout Korean airspace without landing. In addition, the 9750t Aegis destroyers USS Lassen and USS Fitzgerald arrived in South Korea.
March 8 2013 - Air Assault Course increase 2ID capabilities
For the first time in 15 years, 2nd Infantry Division and Eighth U.S. Army soldiers tackled the rigorous Air Assault Course at Camp Hovey, South Korea.

The course, held Feb. 25 to March 3, 2013, at Camp Hovey, began with 312 soldiers ready to compete for the course’s 250 slots. The course qualifies soldiers to conduct air assault and helicopter sling-load operations and proper rappelling and fast-rope techniques.

March 8 2013 - “Frozen Chosen” Marines
Marines from I Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, slog through wind and snow during a joint training exercise with Japanese troops at the Hokkaido-Dai Maneuver Area in northern Japan last week.
The Hokkaido training area is located across the Sea of Japan from the Korean Peninsula, where Marines fought an epic winter battle at the Chosin Reservoir in opening year of the Korean War.
March 6 2013 - S. Korea says it will strike against North’s top leadership if provoked
[T]he rhetoric sets up an especially tense period on the Korean Peninsula, with the U.S. and South Korean militaries planning joint training drills that the North considers a “dangerous nuclear war” maneuver, and with the U.N. Security Council deliberating new sanctions to limit Pyongyang’s weapons program.

Posted by b on March 29, 2013 at 4:11 UTC | Permalink


After sending B-2 stealth Korea from Missouri to drop dummy bombs on Korea, ten hours each way, an action banned by the 1953 Armistice Agreement, Chuck Hagel said that North Korea actions have"ratcheted up the danger. North Koreans have to understand that what they're doing is very dangerous."

This was a part of "Unified Quest" war games
WASHINGTON — It took 56 days for the U.S. to flow two divisions’ worth of soldiers into the failed nuclear-armed state of “North Brownland” and as many as 90,000 troops to deal with the country’s nuclear stockpiles, a major U.S. Army war game concluded this winter.

The Unified Quest war game conducted this year by Army planners posited the collapse of a nuclear-armed, xenophobic, criminal family regime that had lorded over a closed society and inconveniently lost control over its nukes as it fell. Army leaders stayed mum about the model for the game, but all indications — and maps seen during the game at the Army War College — point to North Korea.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Mar 29 2013 4:33 utc | 1

But all acts of armed force are prohibited by the 1953 Armistice Agreement:

Excerpt from 1953 Armistice Agreement:
** with the objective of establishing an armistice which will insure a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved**

North Korea was devastated by US aerial bombing in 1950, and the US knows they're naturally touchy about US bombers, so they figure it's worth every penny. Why talk when you can bomb? That's what passes for US foreign policy. Childish and stupid.

The Koreans remember 1950. American planes dropped 635,000 tons of bombs on Korea -- that is, essentially on North Korea --including 32,557 tons of napalm, compared to 503,000 tons of bombs dropped in the entire Pacific theater of World War II.2 The number of Korean dead, injured or missing by war’s end approached three million, ten percent of the overall population. The majority of those killed were in the North, which had half of the population of the South; although the DPRK does not have official figures, possibly twelve to fifteen percent of the population was killed in the war, a figure close to or surpassing the proportion of Soviet citizens killed in World War II.

And the U.S. is threatening it again.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Mar 29 2013 4:34 utc | 2

Despite their hectic schedule, the troops gathered early in the day to pay respects to the 46 deceased crewmembers of South Korean corvette Cheonan, which was sunk by North Korea’s torpedo attack on March 26, 2010.

LA Times
Challenges to the official version of events are coming from an unlikely place: within South Korea.

Armed with dossiers of their own scientific studies and bolstered by conspiracy theories, critics dispute the findings announced May 20 by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, which pointed a finger at Pyongyang.

They also question why Lee made the announcement nearly two months after the ship's sinking, on the very day campaigning opened for fiercely contested local elections. Many accuse the conservative leader of using the deaths of 46 sailors to stir up anti-communist sentiment and sway the vote.

The critics, mostly but not all from the opposition, say it is unlikely that the impoverished North Korean regime could have pulled off a perfectly executed hit against a superior military power, sneaking a submarine into the area and slipping away without detection. They also wonder whether the evidence of a torpedo attack was misinterpreted, or even fabricated.

"I couldn't find the slightest sign of an explosion," said Shin Sang-chul, a former shipbuilding executive-turned-investigative journalist. "The sailors drowned to death. Their bodies were clean. We didn't even find dead fish in the sea."

Shin, who was appointed to the joint investigative panel by the opposition Democratic Party, inspected the damaged ship with other experts April 30. He was removed from the panel shortly afterward, he says, because he had voiced a contrary opinion: that the Cheonan hit ground in the shallow water off the Korean peninsula and then damaged its hull trying to get off a reef.

"It was the equivalent of a simple traffic accident at sea," Shin said.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Mar 29 2013 4:40 utc | 3

more on Cheonan -- "Troops remember sacrifices of Cheonan sailors"

QUANTICO, Virginia - North Korea has found an advocate in a most unlikely place for its claim of innocence in the sinking of the South Korean corvette the Cheonan on March 26. How about the former chairman and president of the Korea Society, a forum in New York for cultural events, news analyses and policy discussions that's funded in large measure by South Korean conglomerates and the government in Seoul?

That would be Donald P Gregg, a former US Central Intelligence Agency officer who was ambassador to South Korea during the presidency of George H W Bush from 1989 to 1993 after having served him faithfully as his national security adviser during his eight years as vice president. In an op-ed article in The New York Times, Gregg takes seriously a Russian report that the Cheonan somehow "dredged up a mine that then blew the ship up".

"Halfway through the around-the-clock Key Resolve drills Friday, 8th U.S. Army Commander Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson remained full of energy as he underscored that the allied forces were ready to cope with North Korean threats."
Well, Johnny, it looks like we put that puppy to bed, wouldn't you agree?

Posted by: Don Bacon | Mar 29 2013 4:53 utc | 4

Obama has done it again -- transformed a sleepy backwater US military occupation to an active combat zone.
NYTimes, 2008
Seoul, South Korea — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Tuesday that he supported extending the tours of thousands of troops stationed here to three years and allowing their spouses and children to live with them during their assignments. His endorsement adds momentum to a policy shift favored by commanders to improve the quality of life for most of the 28,500 troops assigned to South Korea on unaccompanied 12-month tours because South Korea was considered a combat zone, but that has changed. “I don’t think anybody considers the Republic of Korea today a combat zone,” Mr. Gates told reporters earlier this month.(end)

It wasn't a combat zone any longer, so the US expanded Camp Humphreys into a mini US city with high-rise apartments, schools, fire departments, and gymnasiums for US Army families. Two agencies in country to expedite shipping and delivery of soldiers' privately owned vehicles, etc. Take a look at the new Camp Humphreys, South Korea, here.

I'm sure that the DPRK gunners have taken a look at it also, as well as Seoul of course.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Mar 29 2013 5:09 utc | 5

Once again the worlds ignorant population are fed with scaremongering to believe that North Korea threat us and not the other way around.

Posted by: Anoymous | Mar 29 2013 8:52 utc | 6

Homage to Billmon, b. Good job.

Posted by: john francis lee | Mar 29 2013 9:39 utc | 7

Christ, here we go again. Thanks b, for the timeline of incidents leading up to present.

Waving red flags before bulls seems to be our way of continuing the "perpetual war" foreign
policy of the U.S. Now, with this new hot zone, the looming cuts in the U.S. Pentagon budget will never happen.

Posted by: ben | Mar 29 2013 13:07 utc | 8

Is Obama's plan to prevent the planting of a new crop in North Korea?

Even Reuters is concerned:

Washington's decision to fly B-52 and stealth bomber missions over Korea this week in a warning to Pyongyang risks pushing the North into staging an attack on the South just as its threats may have been on the cusp of dying down.
With the looming April 15 celebrations to commemorate the birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of the current ruler, and large chunks of North Korea's peasant army due to head to farms for spring planting, the crisis may have been lurching to a close before the American bombers' flights on Thursday.
If it was not for the American bomber flights, North Korea may have been willing to tone down tensions around now because of the spring thaw. This is the time of year its peasant army helps with planting, a key task in a country that suffers from perennial food shortages.

While that doesn't affect missile units and the core elite troops, experts in Seoul say that large parts of the North's 1.2 million-strong armed forces spend about a month on the farm from mid-April onwards.

The grown-ups: Russia fears 'out of control' N. Korea situation: Lavrov

Russia warned on Friday that a flare-up in tensions between North Korea and the United States could get out of control, urging all sides involved in the standoff to refrain from muscle-flexing.

"We can simply see the situation getting out of control, it would spiral down into a vicious circle," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters, warning all parties against "unilateral actions".
The bulk of the threats emanating from Pyongyang have been dismissed as bluster. North Korea has no confirmed missile capability to reach the US mainland -- or indeed Guam or Hawaii in the Pacific.

But Washington has opted to match the threats with its own muscle-flexing.

"We will be prepared -- we have to be prepared -- to deal with any eventuality," Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon.

"We must make clear that these provocations by the North are taken by us very seriously and we'll respond to that," Hagel said, defending the B-2 deployment.

US military intelligence has noted that the North's warlike rhetoric has not, so far, been matched by any overtly provocative troop build-up.

Posted by: b | Mar 29 2013 13:32 utc | 9

I've heard enough of the US' side of the story. Don Bacon provides some of the North's views on the matter. It's almost certain that the US and South Korea are not innocent bystanders. What gives?

I remember learning belatedly that South Korea was developing a nuke during the 1990s...until the US dissuaded it, most likely with nuclear guarantees--inclusion in the US nuclear umbrella. Given that North Korea seems to be well behind in development of its own nuke, I'd have to say that its nuke program was reactive, not provocative.

Posted by: JohnH | Mar 29 2013 15:04 utc | 10

This is shaping up to be another clusterfuck/SNAFU by
Jubilation T Cornpone,
(Old toot your old horn-pone).

It was a bit irritating to read
March 17 2013 - Troops remember sacrifices of Cheonan sailors
Despite their hectic schedule, the troops gathered early in the day to pay respects to the 46 deceased crewmembers of South Korean corvette Cheonan, which was sunk by North Korea’s torpedo attack on March 26, 2010.

Here's a Spiegel photo of the props of the dry-docked stern of the Cheonan which torpedoes the Yankee bs about a NK torpedo sinking it (it's a hi-res pic and can be magnified and made much clearer by putting it into photo editing software and pouring some light into it).

It refutes the Yankee lie in several respects:
1. It shows, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the crew of the Cheonan backed it onto a reef.
2. The prop tips are bent forward (toward the bow) and one has broken.
3. The Yankees claim that the (imaginary) torpedo detonated much farther forward than the props and have yet to explain how an (imaginary) explosion forward of the props bent the tips TOWARD the explosion.

I still think Jubilation T Cornpone is believing too much of its own bullshit and is sleepwalking into an ambush by China (and Russia - apparently).

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Mar 29 2013 15:33 utc | 11

Line 3 should read
(Old toot your own horn-pone).

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Mar 29 2013 15:57 utc | 12

The political weakness of Hagel is exposed here. He has to go for the hardline if he wants to recuperate a small part of the political space he lost during the confirmation hearing. That was the goal of the foreign policy extremists in the Senate from the begining. Now, fearing to be labeled a weakling at the helm of the defense, he can be pushed and showed to make decisions that in normal circumstances can only be called reckless.

Posted by: ATH | Mar 29 2013 17:24 utc | 13

I meant "shoved" not "showed"

Posted by: ATH | Mar 29 2013 17:28 utc | 14

Excellent -- Hagel showing that he's now one of the boys by provoking one of the weakest countries on the planet -- schoolyard stuff -- mine's bigger than yours -- no down-side.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Mar 29 2013 18:40 utc | 15

"Once again the worlds ignorant population are fed with scaremongering to believe that North Korea threat us and not the other way around."
Yup. Once again, and again and again...

Giovanni Arrighi recalls the beginning of this era of perpetual war, in Adam Smith in Beijing. Page 176:

"The trick (scaring the hell out of the America people) worked in winning congressional approval for the Marshall Plan. But something more was needed to secure funding for the large scale US and European rearmament envisaged in National Security Council document 68, which Truman approved in April 1950. The NSC document gave no precise figure but estimates suggested annual expenditures 300% above that originally requested by the Pentagon for 1950."
Arrighi then cites TJ McCormick:

" How to get that kind of money from a fiscally conservative Congress, even in the name of anti-communism, presented no small task for the administration. What was required was an international emergency, and since November 1949, Secretary Acheson had been predicting that one would occur sometime in 1950 in the Asian rimlands-in Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan or all three. Two months after the President examined NSC-68, that crisis happened. Acheson was to say later: "Korea came along and saved us."

Then and now: tragedy/farce. Acheson/Hagel: tragedian/farceur. Truman/ Obama: see Acheson/Hagel above.

Posted by: bevin | Mar 29 2013 19:31 utc | 16

Pentagon budget increases will be required because of this concocted scary threat. The Pentagon shorted itself $22B on operations and maintenance for this fiscal year (ends Sep 30) so that's a place to start. They're also $40B short on "Overseas Contingency Operations" = war so that's another important area. Also Hagel just committed to a billion for an unworkable missile defense in Alaska which isn't required.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Mar 29 2013 19:40 utc | 17

As a point of interest, of the ten US aircraft carriers, eight are currently in port (not unusual). The only carrier in the western Pacific, the George Washington, is undergoing maintenance at Yokosuka, Japan. (Carriers require a lot of maintenance.) The Stennis is currently in the Indian Ocean returning home to the US west coast, replaced in the Arabian Sea by the Eisenhower.

Theoretically the Stennis could swing up by Korea, but it has been gone since Aug 31, 2012, when it left San Diego, and it needs a rest. Just to complicate matters, the captain of the Stennis has recently gotten his boss relieved, so that has to be sorted out.

Incidentally the carrier usually stationed in "the Persian Gulf" (actually usually in the Arabian Sea) is there to provide constant air support for the war in Afghanistan, and has little or nothing to do with Iran. The reason the US likes to have two carriers there (but currently can't) again has nothing to do with Iran. The Navy would like to have two carriers there so that one going into port periodically can be relieved on station to provide continuous war-time air support in the Afghanistan area.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Mar 29 2013 20:23 utc | 18

re 13

Yes, the US government is getting increasingly nutty. I'm invited to a conference at Notre Dame, Indiana, middle of April. 8 hours flight, 2 hours in front of the border people. Is it all worth it? I begin to think not, for us Europeans. I begin to wonder what it is that the US has to offer to the outside world.

Posted by: alexno | Mar 29 2013 22:29 utc | 19

Journalist-stenographer Warren Strobel nails it
--Bombers For Peace

U.S. B-2 bombers sent to Korea on rare mission: diplomacy not destruction

(Reuters) - The stealthy, nuclear-capable U.S. B-2 bomber is a veteran of wars in Iraq and Libya, but it isn't usually a tool of Washington's statecraft.

Yet on Thursday, the United States sent a pair of the bat-winged planes on a first-of-its-kind practice run over the skies of South Korea, conducting what U.S. officials say was a diplomatic sortie.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Mar 29 2013 22:58 utc | 20

Funny (not) how once more the usa view dictates the perspective. But useful, because a good trap shouldn't be seen in advance and (see Sun Tzu) a good general uses the weakness of his adversary (unipolar arrogant stupid usa way of seeing the world).

It's a trap.

Whoever wants to terminate the usa will, short of using nuclear ICMBs, have to fight a battle against the usa militaries backbone, their carrier groups. Sink them and the usa is hardly more than an obese crippled giant.

The near/mid east was always seen as the theater where WW3 would start - in the american dominated west, that is.
For Russia that theater would involve their black sea fleet (which isn't their main fleet) that, even worse, had to pass the Bosporus, controlled by a nato member. For China it's simply their far abroad and they would have to pass one way or another a western controlled chokepoint.

Funny question - and for a change, asked from the Russia/China perspective: If you (Russia/China) wanted to fight the usa/nato, which theater would you consider optimal?

Answer: North Korea

Very easily - and almost immediately - reachable by land (both have land borders with NK) and by sea for both.

Other positive factors:

Psychology. The japs, while not militarily insignificant, are hated, hated, hated through out far east asia. This includes Korea, both south and north, who strongly detest the japanese.
So, neither Russia nor China had any problem with very swiftly killing them off. And BTW, if 3 south Korean destroyers happened to meet 2 japanese ones in a dark nite, chances are that the japanese destroyers would have an "accident" (to be blamed on NK) ...

Psychology. "Korea" isn't exactly a word connotated with victory for americans. Having to fight there again would be a major disadvantage for the usa.

Tactics. NK could be used to wear out the usa. Militarily NK is very difficult. Sure, miles over miles of sparsely populated (east) cost to land at but from then on mountaineous djungle with gazillions of opportunities for traps and ambushes.
Furthermore, the american forte and standard procedure triad, first cruise missiles, then air raid and only then boots on the ground would either not work or only work at extreme expenses. In particular, the last - and decisive - step, boots on the ground, would be unpleasant for the usa because they had to bring in every pair of boots at high cost and they would be drastically outnumbered anyway.

Tactics. Both Russia and China could easily and quite endlessly provide replenishment to NK.

Tactics. NK could at any point in time they wish change the dynamics drastically by attacking SK. And btw. for the vast majority of SKs reunification ranks vastly above loyalty towards the usa. Sure, publicly SK would be a fine ally (like the ever politely smiling SK ...) but *actually* the dynamics would hold uite some surprises for the usa.

Tactics. SK *hates* japan and is not in the western block for love but simply as a historical consequence. Actually China is by far more important (both, frightening and promising) than the usa. Naturally, SK would very much prefer to stay "neutral" or at least not to put themselves against China.

Tactics. Both China and Russia are very much relying on advanced missiles. From whatever side the usa came would have them ending up in (rather large) area easily reached by e.g. DF ("carrier killer") missiles.

Tactics (getting a little dirty). Both China and Russia have very advanced carrier killer weapons like DF 21 and Shkval torpedoes against which the usa has basically no defense at all other than electronics trickery - which would be rather meaningless and ineffective if the usa targets are in the direct neighbourhood. There is simply no sense in e.g. faking to be 3 miles to the north so as to have the Russian/China missiles not hit your carrier when they can actually see you in their front garden.

Furthermore, even right now, Russia and China can only win. Even if the usa wakes up and smells the trap. Because, after having had a big mouth and having sent two super-duper-high-tech B2 bombers to show off their mil. power they would look (and sure enough made to look) like cowards to the square if they retreated and e.g. asked for diplomatic talks.

My guess is that they have divided the chore like "Russia in charge of japan and, just in case, the brits (usa-servants and a** lickers) or the french (wet dreams of power) dared to utter sth about allies ..." and China in charge of SK (a discrete hint should suffice to have the SKs hardly do more than making some noise for politeness' sake) and japan.

As the Russians are intelligent and well-educated Lawrow just made some seemingly boringly standard statements (like "let's be reasonable and restraint ourselves to talking") while the Russians made a surprise military training in tne black sea ("Look! Over here! Look! Here's the fire in the bush!") ...

A while ago the usa made some maneuver traing in the yellow sea. When the Chinese were angry the usa told them with extreme hybris sth. like "We go were we want and when we want and you can do nothing against it".

They were wrong.

And they were - deadly - wrong when they sank the Kursk. Then, Putin *had* to shut up and take some billions for his country. But rest deadly assured that the usa will pay for the Kursk. Quite possibly with a broken spine.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Mar 30 2013 0:29 utc | 21

Whose "Provocative Action?"

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Mar 30 2013 2:23 utc | 22

If anyone is looking for the motivation for this concocted crisis, the first line of b's comment @ 9 nails it, imo.

One should never underestimate the consistency with which callous right-wing Yankee assholes will behave like vandals and vampires.

Like ALL of Jubilation T Cornpone's fake enemies, NK is a pissant nonentity - albeit one with lots of sharp teeth and more underground bunkers than America.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Mar 30 2013 3:17 utc | 23

Actually, "more underground bunkers than America" is probably an exaggeration. One of my school friends was from Oakland, California and told me that their home in Oakland had a bomb shelter. He sketched a plan of the interior for me and the finishing touch was the Red Button, high on one wall.
"What's the Red Button for?" I asked.
"You stand on a stool and push it with your nose to stop yourself going crazy."
And laughed long and loud.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Mar 30 2013 3:37 utc | 24

And again ... usa, usa, usa. The usa interprets this like that or that, usa perceives Nk as ... blah, blah.

Not meaning to get emotional but it's getting boring and irritating if even sites like this one with a rather educated and smart audience stays walking up and down like a panther within Rilkes cage (here the cage being the, pardon me, seemingly stubborn usa-centristic world view).

In reality things work differently.

In reality the oh so superior super power blah blah america first buys/bribes enemy soldiers to flee the adversaries anyway weakened army (see -> Iraq) before they "bravely" send in their remote controlled weapons (e.g. cruise missiles).

And in reality cost and geography are extremely important factors (and it's by no means coincidental that the usa tries to somehow keep the - wrong - impression alive that for them this doesn't hold. It does.).

Whether the more or less only significant and half way reliable allies of the usa, i.e. the uk, turkey and France, have to ship their troups and material around half the globe or just a relatively short distance is an extremely important factor. Actually it's so important that it might well make or break a significant participation.

And it's also an extremely important difference whether your potential enemy is surounded by many countries, quite some of them with your bases in them, or whether he is surounded by two vast and rather adversarial countries and the worlds biggest ocean.

Somewhat simplifying the situation is this:

S. Korea is a tiny country (< 1/4 of Iraq, or, for americans, roughly the size of Kentucky) and the ~ 50 Mio. S. Koreans mostly live in the 1/3rd of their country that is not rather inpenetrable mountaineous.
Which basically means that S.K. (the actually inhabited and navigable part) is a country with roughly 30.000 km² (somewhat bigger than maryland or vermont!) and a population density around 1.400/km².

Which translates to: Hardly any room for maneuvering, not to talk of maneuvering without strongly disturbing a very dense population.

Otherwise there is japan with a not too different structure. And then there are millions and millions of square miles of Russia, China and the Pacific.

That, ladies and gentleman is the geographic setting. Looking at it from a pragmativ view a military endeavour to the antarctic might be consiered comparably comfortable and promising.

And, being at it, another pragmatic point:

Yes, the NKs mostly have hardly more than primitive weapons. But then, "primitive" compared to what?
And, more importantly, with a smart strategy even "worthless" weapons can become powerful tools.

Let me guide you focus on "saturation".

Although aegis & Co. are again and again proven to be hardly more than marketing blah let's assume that they are working well. Now, wanting to send some 3 DF-21 towards a carrier one would, if any possible, like to first cripple/bind the carrier groups anti-missile capabilities. How? Saturation. Now, what would be a cheaper way to do that than to send large groups of NK "scrap" missiles? They would not even need to hit; all they needed to do was to be there. Accuracy and hitting was the part the DF-21 would do ...

So, please, pretty please, guys n gals, I'm sure we can do better, lots better than to quote newspapers and walk up and down in an america-centristic cage, right ;)

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Mar 30 2013 5:06 utc | 25

#25 very accurate, as well as eloquent/soulful analysis of the situation. And, yes, we should be doin' lots better on many fronts. "americans" are in a design. word up:-)

Posted by: easy e | Mar 30 2013 7:33 utc | 26

Reports about #Pyongyang declaring war on #SouthKorea - a translation error, #NorthKorea will strike back if provoked

translation errors are dangerous..remember the mistrans of irans 'wipe israel off the map'?

Posted by: brian | Mar 30 2013 7:44 utc | 27

Don Bacon, re #17, where do you get "They're also $40B short on "Overseas Contingency Operations"?

The baseline budget had $160B per year x 10 years in it for OCO in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the US out of Iraq I don't see how they can be "short", in fact there's a bunch of money sloshing around there that they could use to cover sequester cuts... (see comments at )

Posted by: Tosk59 | Mar 30 2013 14:27 utc | 28

Sorry -- I was going on memory there. The Pentagon must cut about $40B; war (withdrawal) costs have gone up $7B not $40B. Thanks for catching it. (Of course we'll never know what the real numbers are.)

At the same time, war costs have risen by about $7 billion more than anticipated, partly because of the expense of bringing troops and equipment home from Afghanistan, [Hagel] said.

The major point holds -- increasing US war scares, helps the Pentagon restore budget increases.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Mar 30 2013 16:50 utc | 29

@27 brian
The comparison to scary Iran is apropos. Iran said that if it were attacked, it would close the Strait of Hormuz. So then came, from all the MSM, claims that Iran was going to close the Strait without the important qualifier.

The Korea situation seems to be similar, as you indicate.
--DPRK, Mar 29, 2013
Kim Jong Un Convenes Operation Meeting, Finally Examines and Ratifies Plan for Firepower Strike

Pyongyang, March 29 (KCNA) -- The moves of the U.S. imperialists to violate the sovereignty of the DPRK and encroach upon its supreme interests have entered a grave phase.

In view of the prevailing grim situation, Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army Marshal Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea and first chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK, convened an urgent operation meeting on the KPA Strategic Rocket Force's performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command at 00:30 Friday. . .

If they make a reckless provocation with huge strategic forces, the KPA should mercilessly strike the U.S. mainland, their stronghold, their military bases in the operational theaters in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in south Korea, he said. He examined and finally ratified the plan of the Strategic Rocket Force for firepower strike.

--TheAustralian, Mar 30, 2013
NORTH Korea today declared it had entered a "state of war" against the South amid soaring tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The announcement follows threats from the North to launch missile strikes on US bases in South Korea and the Pacific in response to the US conducting trial bombing runs over the peninsula with B-2 and B-52 aircraft.

In any case, this schoolyard-type display could easily be rectified it the US would talk to its appointed enemies instead of threatening them with military exercises involving 90,000 troops and B-2 bombers, which are in violation of the 1953 Armistice Agreement.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Mar 30 2013 17:03 utc | 30

Translation errors mentioned @26/27 -- Kind of says a lot about the MCM (Mainsteam Corporate Media) that there are quite so may translation errors. And that they have such sticking power....

Posted by: jawbone | Mar 30 2013 19:28 utc | 31

Title Typo Alert:

"Whose" is correct spelling.

Posted by: jawbone | Mar 31 2013 18:48 utc | 32

@32 jawbone
Customarily we excuse non-native English speakers for misspellings. In fact, let's excuse native English speakers too because aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itslef but the wrod as a wlohe.

Personally, I kind of like "whoes" but I would improve it to "whos" as the possessive of who, as with "its." In any case, the English language is a challenge with all of its inconsistencies. It's rough enough to make one cough though when words like plough and borough are not pronounced like they ought to be. Nough?

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 1 2013 2:39 utc | 33

danger of mistranslation: DPRK state of war declaration is a mistranslation:

by Scott Creighton
“from that time” becomes “from this time on” and “from this moment“… little change, big difference
As much as our leaders would like them to have taken the bait, North Korea has not declared war on the South or the U.S. in response to our unprecedented provocations. So when all else fails, leave it to yellow journalism like this piece of work from the New York Times or this obviously Photoshopped image that came out this past week.
The much touted “state of war” declaration is not a declaration of war from Kim Jung Un but rather a statement of support for whatever decision he has too make from the “the government, political parties and organizations of the DPRK.” It claims only they will declare themselves in a state of war WHEN their leader makes that decision showing they are completely behind him. It is a statement of support from the people and perhaps a warning to the South that the North will not fold under their attack. But not a declaration of war from Kim Jung Un.
There is a campaign of propaganda underway this week in Korea and I will show you that this latest crisis is nothing more than a continuation of that warmongering effort.

Posted by: brian | Apr 1 2013 4:14 utc | 34

@34 brian

1. The US and DPRK are, and have been, in a state of war for sixty years. There is an Armistice Agreement, which the US violates, and from which DPRK has apparently withdrawn.

2. Kim qualified his response threats to a "huge provocation." (#30)

Kim: If they make a reckless provocation with huge strategic forces, the KPA should mercilessly strike the U.S. mainland, their stronghold, their military bases in the operational theaters in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in south Korea, he said.

This is similar to Iran, as I comment in #30.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 1 2013 4:29 utc | 35

Now we add the F-22's into the mix, just posturing, not a threat at all!

Posted by: Kev | Apr 1 2013 12:10 utc | 36

Don @ 33 -- I only mentioned the typo since it had been changed from "who's", and also since it is a title it makes searches more effective to have the correct spelling. I meant to see if I could find an email, but forgot to do so.

Posted by: jawbone | Apr 1 2013 18:56 utc | 37

So the US sent stealth fighters back for a second warning flight? Sheesh.

Just now on NPR, admin stressing this is not sending a message to NK. Riiiight.

Posted by: jawbone | Apr 1 2013 19:02 utc | 38

Re 32 & 33.
I never tire of b's (occasional) little jokes.
English is such an asinine language.
It was cobbled together by a bunch of appallingly insular, self-obsessed, class-conscious snobs as a pathetic excuse to expose and ridicule people deliberately disadvantaged by the utter contempt of their rulers.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Apr 1 2013 21:03 utc | 39

Old(ish) but informative, more so on the Syrian side.

Posted by: Kev | Apr 2 2013 1:56 utc | 40

@Jawbone#38, Na, just teasing, So we have B-2's then F-22's and now 'A U.S. defense official said the USS McCain, an Aegis-class guided-missile destroyer used for ballistic missile defense, was being positioned to operate off the southwestern coast of the Korean peninsula'. Some cost for sure for horse play!

Hey I am stressing; I live within a strike zone, N. Korea may fire, but aiming has always been flawed. Not only that, fallout is just not what I wan to see, anywhere. The only reason they would fire is because of being pushed be a provocateur, be it losing face (A very Asian thing)or lose/lose situation, in this case diplomacy is needed, even Bush diplomacy is better than the current administration!

Posted by: Kev | Apr 2 2013 3:26 utc | 41

Here comes the provocateur ... US moves destroyer closer to N. Korea coast: Official ... the Tonkin Gulf all over again. This time New! Improved! Now with Nuclear Weapons! Obama is a nihilist, a corporate lawyer pursuing instructions with, he thinks, his own personal everready golden parachute when the evil he's sown for the corporation bears its poisonous fruit.

Posted by: john francis lee | Apr 2 2013 4:19 utc | 42

the target of the aerial show of force is not North Korea - as stressed by the American state media.
the sulky USA is in full `hell hath no fury like a breast-plated superpower scorned' mode after the recent Russia-China consensus to broaden/deepen co-operation across the spectrum from energy to security, diplomacy to defense.
this is a mutual alliance that dares not speak its name, but the global consequences of a pact between the world's 2nd largest economy and biggest country is not lost on Washington. How dare you, russkies & chinks!
we'll show you who's in charge around this neck of the woods! can imagine the presidents of Russia & China quaking like leaves in the trail of the wind caused by mighty American jets. Not.
huge waste of American taxpayers $$$, that's about all.

Posted by: nakedtothebone | Apr 2 2013 4:34 utc | 43

" ... the target of the aerial show of force is not North Korea - as stressed by the American state media.... "

Phew! I'm glad that was published by the US MSM where the North Koreans are sure to have seen it.

Posted by: john francis lee | Apr 2 2013 11:26 utc | 44

It is heating up, China is now playing War games, something that they don't do often, is this support, worry of US military presence in the back garden, prepping for a N.Korea refugees, or a show of force that is more worrying?

The administration is going bananas, they push and N.Korea is giving back, something the US cant take, it's not in the nature of the beast. Will this get ugly, it does not seem to have any outcome other than War or the US and S.Korea to pay out 'something' to keep peace as has been done for decades with the papa and Bushes.

Posted by: Kev | Apr 3 2013 0:11 utc | 45

With the USA on the edge of financial collapse, a new Korean war would help distract the masses and redirect their wrath. Such a war would also provide a rationale for more government spending, especially military spending. After being lied to about Iraqi WMDs, among other lies we were told, many of us assume Washington is lying about just about everything. The loss of a supercarrier would be psychologically devastating to Americans.

Posted by: Monnie | Apr 3 2013 1:24 utc | 46

Obama's and Clinton's incompetence is really amazing ...

The North Korea Deal That Wasn't

I heard Pyongyang make a real offer -- but the Obama White House didn't even listen.

Given the torrent of threats and insults hurtling out of Pyongyang these days, North Korea's announcement Tuesday that it intends to restart facilities at its Yongbyon nuclear installation should come as no surprise. One of those facilities, a plutonium production reactor partially disabled under an agreement with the George W. Bush administration, should eventually be able to produce at least eight more nuclear weapons, adding significantly to Pyongyang's existing small inventory. What will come as a surprise is that, until recently, the North had been willing to agree to steps that could have prevented that outcome but was ignored by the United States and South Korea.
The future of the 5 MWe reactor became an important subject for unofficial contacts between the North Koreans, myself and other Americans. For example, during a Track II meeting in Pyongyang in November 2010, senior North Korean Foreign Ministry officials made it very clear that they were willing to relinquish thousands of fuel rods in their possession that could have been used by the reactor, rods that could help produce as many as eight nuclear bombs. That would have been a first step toward permanently disabling the facility, making sure the reactor would never again be a threat. Of course, the North Koreans wanted compensation -- standard practice in the international nuclear fuel industry -- and they wanted more than the rods were worth. But that was clearly their opening position. The offer was repeated during meetings in March 2011 in Berlin and once again in Pyongyang at the end of that year.
The North Korean initiative was duly noted, but the United States and South Korea failed to take advantage of the opportunity to ensure that North Korea wasn't able to restart the reactor and turn the rods into new nuclear bombs. Some U.S. officials felt it wasn't worth the effort since the reactor was old and probably useless. Others believed that Washington should focus entirely on stopping Pyongyang's much more threatening program to enrich uranium, unveiled in late 2010, rather than putting the final nail in the coffin of the plutonium production program. Still others, infected by the Obama administration's policy of "strategic patience," did not want to do much of anything before the North demonstrated its willingness to reform and end its bad behavior. By August 2012, when another unofficial meeting was held in Singapore, the North Koreans' position had shifted. ...

Posted by: b | Apr 3 2013 4:39 utc | 47

I feel the whole thing has been blown out of all proportions, this could even be a deal with N. Korea to play along and it then gets returns?

Now the US are setting up a missile battery in Guam, next Philippines I expect, it is beefing up the PI's mil. All this looks like a huge military apparatus drive for the entire Asian Pacific, and N.Korea is the smoke and mirrors. The classic, 'Well we are set-up, might as well stay, just in case".

The red flag is simply no military movement in N.Korea, absolutely nothing. Sure we see a few videos, all are staged, look comical, but no hardware, encampments or strategic builds, just 'fatty' posing with a few peep's pretending to be interested; the reality, it's just another day and reports that most of the N.Korea army have started farming, this time of year the assist the farmers to ensure food security.

I am just not getting it? In terms of expenditure, spread of resources, with the US other concerns, it looks like it's setting up house and not looking at engagement. However on the flip side, possibly, just possibly, N.Korea has been asked to put a spanner in the works through the blessing (closed doors) be China, as they could have preempted the US plan, and are playing a economic game; making the US panic and pay through the nose.

Who know...

Either-way, the lose/lose for N.Korea could be a win/win?

Posted by: Kev | Apr 3 2013 23:00 utc | 48

" ... it looks like it's setting up house and not looking at engagement."

Yeah, I agree there certainly. But when they play these stupid games, in the context of the larger stupid game ... there's a good chance that it gets away from all of them. A good chance ... certainly better than if they were not playing ... that something will happen that one side or the other will 'have' to respond to, and so on, and so on ... til it's my god how did we ever let this happen!?

This is how.

Posted by: john francis lee | Apr 4 2013 0:48 utc | 49

China appeals for calm amid fears of war over US escalation in Korea

Behind the US conflict with North Korea stands preparations and planning for a far wider and potentially devastating conflict, with China—America’s largest foreign creditor, who has also helped block US war plans against Middle Eastern countries such as Syria and Iran.

An article titled “War with China” in Survival, the magazine of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, lays out some of the calculations in leading US circles regarding the possibility of war with North Korea or a collapse of the regime in Pyongyang.

The piece was written by James Dobbins, a former US assistant secretary of state who currently holds top positions at the RAND think-tank. He lists “collapse” in North Korea as the most likely cause of a war between China and the United States, followed by conflict over Taiwan, cyber war, conflict over control of the South China Sea, and conflicts with India.

Dobbins makes clear that aggressive military operations by the United States, sending forces into North Korea, is the heart of any response envisaged by Washington. This action, taken with complete contempt for international law, would rapidly raise the possibility of a clash with Chinese forces stationed along the China-North Korea border.

He writes, “The immediate operational concerns for United States Forces—Korea/Combined Forces Command would be to secure ballistic-missile-launch and WMD sites. If any coherent North Korean army remained, it could be necessary to neutralize its long-range artillery, it could be necessary to neutralize its long-range artillery threatening Seoul as well… While South Korea would provide sizable forces and capabilities for these missions, they would be inadequate to deal with the scope and complexity of a complete North Korean collapse. Substantial and extended commitments of US ground forces would be required to rapidly seize and secure numerous locations, some with vast perimeters.”

Dobbins adds, “The likelihood of confrontations, accidental or otherwise, between US and Chinese forces is high in this scenario.”

Posted by: john francis lee | Apr 4 2013 10:26 utc | 50

The REAL target for the US is NOT North Korea but China. If China wanted then it could reign in all that bellicose language from Pyongyang tomorrow. But Beijing wants to make life for Washington DC as miserable as possible. So, as long as it's in interest of Beijing Pyongyang can rattle any sabres it wants.

But alas it also benefits the war hawks in the Pentagon. And it justifies ratcheting up tensions in East Asia.

Posted by: Willem | Apr 4 2013 20:07 utc | 51

Interview: Korean Peninsula In Crisis

Who benefits from the crisis on the Korean peninsula?

At the moment, the biggest beneficiary is the US military industrial complex and the defense industry. It’s more obvious than ever that the US policy toward North Korea is really designed to preserve the situation as best it can without having it topple over into war. Obama’s administration is interested in pivoting its military muscle to the Asia-Pacific region, a part of the world that is relatively peaceful in contrast to Africa and the Middle East. North Korea is the regional madman, and having such a country – one that is all bark and very little bite – is extremely useful for the Pentagon. The regime in North Korea legitimizes American presence in South Korea and Japan, and gives the US a strong pretext to increase its military muscle on China’s doorstep – as long as the situation doesn't deteriorate and force Washington into an ugly war it doesn't want to fight, the US will continue to manipulate the North Korean threat to suit their objectives. I believe South Korea is interested in reconciliation, but the current administration is unwilling to think out of the box. To their credit, North Korea’s rhetoric has made it very politically difficult for Park Geun-hye to take a soft-line on North Korea without alienating her main conservative support base. The South moves firmly in step with the United States and there is little indication that they will embark on any meaningful shift in foreign policy anytime soon. If the Obama administration is not careful, it will provoke Pyongyang into doing something rash and by then, it will already be too late to rectify the situation.

Posted by: john francis lee | Apr 5 2013 6:14 utc | 52

'US destabilizing Korean Peninsula'

Posted by: john francis lee | Apr 5 2013 9:09 utc | 53

Obama’s “playbook” and the threat of nuclear war in Asia

Commentators in the international media speculate endlessly on the reasons for the North Korean regime’s behaviour. But the real question, which is never asked, should be: why is the Obama administration engaged in the dangerous escalation of tensions in North East Asia? The latest US military moves go well beyond the steps taken in the December 2010, when the US and South Korean navies held provocative joint exercises in water adjacent to both North Korea and China.

Obama’s North Korea “playbook” is just one aspect of his so-called “pivot to Asia” - a comprehensive diplomatic, economic and military strategy aimed at ensuring the continued US domination of Asia. The US has stirred up flashpoints throughout the region and created new ones, such as the conflict between Japan and China over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. Obama’s chief target is not economically bankrupt North Korea, but its ally China, which Washington regards as a dangerous potential rival. Driven by the deepening global economic crisis, US imperialism is using its military might to assert its hegemony over Asia and entire planet.

The US has declared that its military moves against North Korea are designed to “reassure” its allies, Japan and South Korea, that it will protect them. Prominent figures in both countries have called for the development of their own nuclear weapons. US “reassurances” are aimed at heading off a nuclear arms race in North East Asia - not to secure peace, but to reinforce the American nuclear monopoly.

The ratcheting-up of tensions over North Korea places enormous pressures on China and the newly-selected leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. An unprecedented public debate has opened up in Beijing over whether or not to continue to support Pyongyang. The Chinese leadership has always regarded the North Korean regime as an important buffer on its northeastern borders, but now fears that the constant tension on the Korean peninsula will be exploited by the US and its allies to launch a huge military build-up.

Indeed, all of the Pentagon’s steps over the past month - the boosting of anti-missile systems and practice runs of nuclear capable bombers - have enhanced the ability of the US to fight a nuclear war against China. Moreover, the US may not want to provoke a war, but its provocations always run the risk of escalating dangerously out of control. Undoubtedly, Obama’s “playbook” for war in Asia contains many more steps beyond the handful leaked to the media. The Pentagon plans for all eventualities, including the possibility that a Korean crisis could bring the US and China head to head in a catastrophic nuclear conflict.

Posted by: john francis lee | Apr 5 2013 14:46 utc | 54

@jfl#55, good read. I sit within the 1st Island chain and a part of the disputed Island tensions - Looks like the PI is the staging ground...

Posted by: Kev | Apr 17 2013 1:02 utc | 56

Looks pretty ... TERRIFYING ... to me. I hope that China pulls the plug on the dollar ... that seems to me to be the only way we can get back to earth at this point. It'll hurt me and all other Americans but better broke than WW III.

Posted by: john francis lee | Apr 17 2013 5:04 utc | 57

Either-way it will hurt, War or Economics, it the $$$ is hit, then I suffer (Savings), if disputes, income and the dangers of War. Sometimes I suspect this is also the axis's of tourism they are hitting in some absurd way?

Posted by: Kev | Apr 17 2013 6:33 utc | 58

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