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Thread: Korean Peninsula On The Brink Of War

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    Default Re: North And South Korea On The Brink Of War, Russian Diplomat Warns

    Defending Korea Line Seen Contrary to Law by Kissinger Remains U.S. Policy
    By Daniel Ten Kate and Peter S. Green - Dec 17, 2010 8:06 AM GMT-0200
    Bloomberg

    The sea border that has become the main battleground between North and South Korea 57 years after it was imposed by a U.S. general has been called legally indefensible by American officials for more than three decades.

    Then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote in a 1975 classified cable that the unilaterally drawn Northern Limit Line was “clearly contrary to international law.” Two years before, the American ambassador said in another cable that many nations would view South Korea and its U.S. ally as “in the wrong” if clashes occurred in disputed areas along the boundary.

    The border was drawn by Army General Mark Clark and his aides in 1953 to stop South Korea from disrupting the fragile armistice he oversaw at the end of the Korean War, according to Narushige Michishita, an associate professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo. Now, the U.S. must stand by the line to contain North Korea, said Michael J. Green, a security adviser to President George W. Bush.

    Moving the boundary further from North Korea’s coast would make it easier for the regime “to smuggle out military equipment and drugs, and smuggle in things that are part of their nuke program,” said Green, who now heads the Japan Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Nothing good comes from it.”

    Green said the border was a “gray area” used to justify confrontations such as last month’s shelling of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island. The South is committed to defending the boundary, and in November last year fired on North Korean ships that crossed the line. South Korea blamed the North for torpedoing one of its warships, the Cheonan, near the disputed waters in March.


    ‘UNCONTROLLED ESCALATION’

    The standoff sets the stage for further clashes that might draw the U.S., which is committed by treaty to defend the South. The stakes have been raised as Kim Jong Il’s regime has tested nuclear weapons and deployed hundreds of missiles and artillery pieces within reach of Seoul.

    North Korea today warned the South to cancel an artillery drill on Yeonpyeong that may start as soon as tomorrow, and said its retaliation will be “deadlier” than last time, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. North Korea said it had urged South Korea before the Nov. 23 shelling not to go ahead with drills.

    South Korea’s military pledged on Dec. 9 to “totally crush” the North in the event of a repeat of the barrage, which killed four people. About 20 U.S. military personnel will take part in the exercise, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said, declining to be identified because of government policy.

    “The situation is near a point where South Korea is going to strike out at North Korea, where we could see an uncontrolled escalation,” Army General Burwell B. Bell III, commander of U.S. forces in Korea from 2006 through 2008, said in an interview.


    ‘TEST ALLIANCE’

    Bell said North Korean leaders want a treaty guaranteeing survival as an independent state and “will test the alliance between South Korea and the U.S. whenever they need concessions.” He agreed with Green that it wouldn’t be wise to renegotiate the border “in the hopes that North Korea will become benevolent.”

    State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley referred questions about the current American view of the line’s justification to the U.S. military in South Korea. Colonel Jonathan Withington, a spokesman for the U.S.-led United Nations Command in Seoul, said the NLL should not be renegotiated.


    ‘MILITARY CONTROL’

    “The Northern Limit Line is a military control measure in place to prevent armed conflict,” Withington, also a spokesman for the U.S. forces in South Korea, said in an e-mailed response when asked about North Korean incursions. “Any hostile acts, such as the North Korea sinking of the Cheonan and the attack on Yeonpyeong Island, which are both south of the NLL, are clearly serious violations of the armistice agreement.”

    The line snakes around the Ongjin peninsula, creating a buffer for five island groups that South Korea kept under the armistice that ended the 1950-1953 Korean War, in which U.S.-led forces fought under a UN mandate against North Korean and Chinese troops. The agreement doesn’t mention a sea border, which isn’t on UN maps drawn up at the time.

    The 3-nautical mile (3.5-statute mile) territorial limit used to devise the line was standard then. Today almost all countries, including both Koreas, use a 12-mile rule, and the islands are within 12 miles of the North Korean mainland. The furthest is about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the closest major South Korean port at Incheon.

    “If it ever went to arbitration, the decision would likely move the line further south,” said Mark J. Valencia, a maritime lawyer and senior research fellow with the National Bureau of Asian Research, who has written extensively on the dispute.


    ‘LIGHTED FUSE’

    In June 1953, a month before the war ended, South Korean President Syngman Rhee -- described by Clark in his 1954 memoir “From the Danube to the Yalu” as “a lighted fuse sputtering towards the powder barrel” -- said he wouldn’t cooperate with a truce, Central Intelligence Agency memos show. While the South wanted to fight on, Clark was under orders to find what President Dwight D. Eisenhower called an “honorable peace” as support for the war at home faded.

    “There was concern over President Rhee and what he might do,” said Larry Niksch, a former Asian affairs specialist at the U.S. Congress’s research arm. “There was a lot of concern he might try to open hostilities again.”

    So Clark and his aides drew the line to restrain Rhee and prevent clashes, said Michishita, author of the 2010 book “North Korea’s Military-Diplomatic Campaigns, 1966-2008.” “North Korea was not notified of the line,” he said.


    TESTED BORDER

    North Korea, after spending two decades rebuilding its forces, sent vessels across the border 43 times between October and November 1973, sparking confrontations, according to the South Korean Navy’s website. At a meeting with the UN Command, the North’s claim that it was operating within its own waters because the NLL was invalid was rejected.

    Kissinger and other U.S. diplomats privately raised questions about the legality of the sea border and South Korea’s policing of it in cables that have been declassified and are available to the public.

    “The ROK and the U.S. might appear in the eyes of a significant number of other countries to be in the wrong” if an incident occurred in disputed areas, U.S. Ambassador Francis Underhill wrote in a Dec. 18, 1973, cable to Washington, using the acronym for Republic of Korea.

    South Korea “is wrong in assuming we will join in attempt to impose NLL” on North Korea, said a Dec. 22, 1973, “Joint State-Defense Message” to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.


    'UNILATERALLY ESTABLISHED'

    The line “was unilaterally established and not accepted by NK,” Kissinger wrote in a confidential February 1975 cable. “Insofar as it purports unilaterally to divide international waters, it is clearly contrary to international law.”

    Kissinger’s office did not respond to an e-mail and phone call seeking comment.

    In the most recent confrontation, North Korea justified its Nov. 23 artillery bombardment as retaliation for South Korea firing shells into sea that the North claims as its own.

    “Yeonpyeong is located deep inside the territorial waters” of North Korea, KCNA said in a Nov. 24 dispatch.

    Two days later, President Barack Obama said the U.S. stood “shoulder to shoulder” with the South and condemned the “unprovoked” attack. The U.S. has about 28,500 troops in South Korea, which is still technically at war with the North.

    South Korean President Lee Myung Bak said last week the islands will be turned into fortresses and reversed predecessor Roh Moo Hyun’s plan to reduce troop numbers there.

    “South of the NLL is water under our jurisdiction,” Kim Min Seok, a Ministry of National Defense spokesman in Seoul, said last week. A 2009 statement on the ministry website says the line “is the practical maritime border that our military has protected for years. We will protect it without fail.”


    To contact the reporters on this story: Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok at dtenkate@bloomberg.net; Peter S. Green in New York at psgreen@bloomberg.net.

    To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bill Austin at billaustin@bloomberg.net

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    Default Re: North And South Korea On The Brink Of War, Russian Diplomat Warns

    Steve Herman from Twitter:


    1. #DPRK radio: "Provocative shell firing plan from Yeonpyeong against our Republic's sacred territorial waters must be withdrawn immediately." 26 minutes ago via TweetDeck

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    Default Re: North And South Korea On The Brink Of War, Russian Diplomat Warns

    /chuckles

    "Sacred territorial waters".

    Wow. Bomb da Holy Waters, men!
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    Default Re: North And South Korea On The Brink Of War, Russian Diplomat Warns

    A Very Korean Weekend: Confrontation or Breakthrough
    Blog Information Dissemination

    The Korean crisis is turning into a case study on escalation control. With the arrival of Bill Richardson to North Korea on Thursday, North Korea decided on Friday to wave their deterrent, again, in our direction.

    North Korea warned Friday that another war with South Korea would involve nuclear arms and spread beyond the peninsula, upping the ante as a prominent U.S. politician and a top U.S. nuclear envoy each visited Pyongyang and Seoul to defuse tension.

    Uriminzokkiri, the communist state's official Web site, also said in a commentary that war on the Korean Peninsula is only a matter of time, stoking already high tensions after the North shelled a western South Korean island on Nov. 23 and killed four people.

    "If war breaks out, it will lead to nuclear warfare and not be limited to the Korean Peninsula," it said.

    If you are one of those people who think this is just more North Korean rhetoric, and do not see military confrontation as a possibility here, perhaps if I raise you a Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff you might reconsider the very real possibility that war might come to the Korean Peninsula as soon as this weekend.

    The U.S. military is concerned that South Korea's live-fire artillery exercises planned for coming days could spark an uncontrollable clash with the North, but the State Department said the exercises are not meant to be threatening or provocative.

    "What we worry about, obviously, is if that is misunderstood or if it's taken advantage of as an opportunity," Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday at the Pentagon. "If North Korea were to react to that in a negative way and fire back at those firing positions on the islands, that would start potentially a chain reaction of firing and counter-firing."

    The escalation control comes, in part, from diplomats:

    "South Korea is entitled to take appropriate steps in its self-defense, making sure that its military is prepared in the event of further provocations is a perfectly legitimate step for South Korea to take," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said at his midday briefing Thursday. "North Korea should not see these South Korean actions as a provocation."

    But the Generals are involved in the escalation control process:

    "What you don't want to have happen out of that is ... for us to lose control of the escalation. That's the concern," Cartwright said about the military exercises.

    There is a pattern of cop/bad cop when you mix and match the comments from State and Defense:

    "These are routine exercises. There's nothing, you know, provocative or unusual or threatening about these exercises," Crowley said. "There's no need for it to increase tensions in the area. This is a pre-announced live fire exercise. The North Koreans clearly should know what is going to happen. It is not directed at North Korea."

    What concerns me about General Cartwrights comments is that they do not all appear to be pointed in the direction of North Korea, indeed one could infer that he is speaking through the media to South Korea as well. There were news reports that North Korea warned South Korea not to conduct the exercises on Yeonpyeong Island prior to the first incident. Has there been a warning this time? I only ask because we are reacting to news of the new exercise as if North Korea told us - 'better not!'

    How do we then put the comments by Vice Adm. Al Myers to the crew of the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) into context with all that is going on. The aircraft carrier is in the final stages before heading off to the western Pacific. I personally find these comments quite remarkable, but primarily because Navy News Service actually printed it.

    Myers also encouraged the strike group Sailors to handle the gravity of their forthcoming mission.

    "For the folks who are on their first deployment, they're going to write history. Vinson is going to be in the news," Myers said. "It's important to understand the Navy does two fundamental things - one is we influence foreign countries, build and disrupt coalitions, and we maintain sea lanes of commerce. You're going to influence a few foreign countries. By being present there, you're going to be protecting our lanes of commerce. You can't do that virtually, you have to be there, you have to be forward deployed. You prove every day what a strong team can do."

    Looking for a way to pull all of this together? The commentary at Nightwatch over the last two days has been very good. Read this report first, then this one, before reading on...

    If you follow the pattern you see two tracks possible, confrontation and diplomatic breakthrough. The State Department deserves a ton of credit for being very agile and responsive in keeping the pressure on both North Korea and China. It is worth noting that Russia still lingers as a Plan B over the horizon as a SK-US-Japan diplomatic option should things turn south. For their part, China is being systematically discredited as the responsible regional leader to virtually every observer, and younger leaders who are more familiar with how international rule sets work for security have demonstrated signs of awareness towards this important aspect of events. That is good news in the long term, but does nothing for the current situation.

    The chess match being orchestrated by the State Department is designed around a theory of escalation control for nuclear warfare that I had believed disappeared after the cold war. The US military has masterfully played their support role for the region while signaling preparation for military action should a confrontation occur. The statements of US Generals and Admirals act as pressure points to maintain pressure on the region, and everything has been building towards the South Korean exercise this weekend. As it has been since the original combat action, what happens next will be determined exclusively by the two Koreas, with both the US and China playing every card possible to insure a diplomatic avenue exists should confrontation not be on the agenda.

    As a final note:

    Date .......attack subs deployed | attack subs underway
    Nov30 ................... 37% ................... 46%
    Dec07 ................... 41% ................... 63%
    Dec17 ................... 43% ................... 67%

    A full 2/3 of the United States Navy attack submarine force is at sea today, and 4 attack submarines have deployed over the last 10 days. I'm sure it is a Christmas coincidence.

    Posted by Galrahn at 2:00 AM

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    Default Re: North And South Korea On The Brink Of War, Russian Diplomat Warns

    Quote Originally Posted by BRVoice View Post
    .... With the arrival of Bill Richardson to North Korea on Thursday, North Korea decided on Friday to wave their deterrent, again, in our direction.

    ...
    Richardson needs to get his ass out of there, he's not helping anything. He'll just end up being a prisoner-pawn.

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    Default Re: North And South Korea On The Brink Of War, Russian Diplomat Warns

    Quote Originally Posted by Toad View Post
    Richardson needs to get his ass out of there, he's not helping anything. He'll just end up being a prisoner-pawn.

    I completely agree. To me he's just looking for his 15 minutes of fame.

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    Default Re: North And South Korea On The Brink Of War, Russian Diplomat Warns

    Just a question Toad, the MSM is reporting with more seriousness this story?

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    Default Re: North And South Korea On The Brink Of War, Russian Diplomat Warns

    More from the Information Dissemination Blog:


    Friday, December 17, 2010
    7th Fleet Back to Sea

    After returning to port following exercises with South Korea and Japan, the USS George Washington (CVN 73) has returned to sea this morning. A Navy News Service report earlier this week titled USS George Washington Returns to Japan for Holidays gave the impression that the carrier was not due back to sea until after the beginning of the year.

    With the GW Carrier Strike Group and also the Essex Amphibious Ready Group at sea, the bulk of the forward deployed US naval firepower in the Pacific has put to sea ahead of the South Korean exercises on Yeonpyeong island.

    Posted by Galrahn at 9:00 AM

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    Default Re: North And South Korea On The Brink Of War, Russian Diplomat Warns

    Quote Originally Posted by BRVoice View Post
    Just a question Toad, the MSM is reporting with more seriousness this story?
    The major channels are reporting on the Korean standoff, but I don't think they're getting across just how close to war we are this weekend. Not at all.
    Last edited by Toad; December 17th, 2010 at 16:05.

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    Default Re: North And South Korea On The Brink Of War, Russian Diplomat Warns

    Russia urges Seoul to skip military drills in Yellow Sea
    English.news.cn 2010-12-17 21:44:42

    MOSCOW, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- The Russian Foreign Ministry on Friday urged South Korea to skip planned military drills in the Yellow Sea, the ministry said in a statement.

    "The Russian Foreign Ministry importantly urges the Republic of Korea to restrain from the planned artillery gunnery to prevent further escalation of the tension in the Korean peninsula," the ministry said, adding that Moscow has been "highly concerned" with the possible aggravation of the situation there.

    The Foreign Ministry called on Pyongyang and Seoul to resume dialogue and to resolve all problems between the two states through political and diplomatic means.

    South Korea plans a live fire artillery drill from Dec 18 to Dec 21 near the island of Yeonpyeong in the Yellow Sea. The firing range practice in the same area in November led to the exchange of artillery fire between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and South Korea, killing two marines and two civilians.

    Editor: Wang Guanqun

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    Default Re: North And South Korea On The Brink Of War, Russian Diplomat Warns

    Oh Gee, WTH is going on man? Things are going real fast!

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    Default Re: North And South Korea On The Brink Of War, Russian Diplomat Warns

    Quote Originally Posted by Toad View Post
    Richardson needs to get his ass out of there, he's not helping anything. He'll just end up being a prisoner-pawn.
    From what I have been able to gather, Richardson has gone there before to "help". I'm not sure what kind of help he has given to them or us in the long run.

    Honestly though, why is a Governor going to North Korea? Why not Hillary Clinton or one of her underlings? After all this IS a place for Diplomats.

    While I did not and DO not want to see her as President of the USA - she has turned out to some degree to actually be a decent Sec of State. I saw that, when comparing her to that awful bitch that worked for Bill though. What was her name? Maddie Nottoobright? Something like that.
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    Default Re: North And South Korea On The Brink Of War, Russian Diplomat Warns

    IIRC, Richardson is very close with the Clintons.

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    Default Re: North And South Korea On The Brink Of War, Russian Diplomat Warns

    Quote Originally Posted by BRVoice View Post
    Oh Gee, WTH is going on man? Things are going real fast!
    Yeah... These are the things I told people to be alert for in the media.

    The network news media for some reason isn't covering things in as much detail as the might have years ago.

    I've noticed Fox has BARELY visited the subject of the Koreas.

    It's up to those of us on this site now guys to keep ourselves informed.

    I'm in the process this weekend of making some major plans about boats, messing around in boats and flying in planes to go mess about in boats. All that will be off the table if the excrement starts flying this weekend.

    In another thread I mentioned you guys need to clean your weapons, set up your packs, and bug out bags. I had a vehicle issue I had to deal with this week, and I got my Jeep back up and running as a back up vehicle.

    I'm strongly urging everyone to prepare for a short term disruption of everything we know over the next couple of weeks.

    "Moving quickly" as you so aptly put it BR simply means "escalation" will occur before we have time to think about it. The North Koreans are warning that nuclear warfare will not stay on the peninsula and the MEAN IT. Russia is warning the South to stand down because they are "concerned".

    They are CONCERNED because they are afraid of what is coming.

    What is coming is a nuclear launch of a crappy nuke by the north against Seoul and the US obliterating the main cities of North Korea.... then the Chinese as well as Russians having to retailiate against the US.

    That is PRECISELY the way things will go, and you can mark my words down in whatever is left of history to that effect.

    I spent some time in an unclass briefing the other day about mission impact out here where I work. I have a slightly better view of things - but still am not as confident we can take down every, single ICBM thrown at up, but I'm sure we will get most of them.

    I'm more concerned about the EMP situation than anything. ONE of those and while we and defense will have power to spare, the civilian population is up a shit creek, no paddle and that creek will be rising quickly.

    This site will certainly be down and we will be out of contact, completely.

    This is why I can NOT emphasize ENOUGH that each of you spend a little time preparing to take care of your families. Those close to home are who you will be caring for, protecting and saving.

    If the balloon goes up, I'll be on the site until I personally have to bail.
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    Default Re: North And South Korea On The Brink Of War, Russian Diplomat Warns

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Ruck View Post
    IIRC, Richardson is very close with the Clintons.
    yes, he is.

    But... you know that would be like me sending Phil over to talk to the North Koreans though.

    I like Phil. He and I get along well on the phone and in the game - but I damned sure wouldn't send him to talk to the north Koreans.

    Phil is quite a diplomat - but he'd be held hostage just as surely as I would. lol
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    Default Re: North And South Korea On The Brink Of War, Russian Diplomat Warns

    UN chief urges North Korea to show restraint

    Network News

    The Associated Press
    Friday, December 17, 2010; 1:27 PM

    UNITED NATIONS -- Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging North Korea to show restraint and calling on both Koreas to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula.

    The U.N. chief's comments Friday followed Pyongyang's warning that if Seoul goes ahead with planned artillery drills on a front-line island in the coming days it will respond with a bigger attack than it did on Nov. 23 when its shelling killed four South Koreans.

    Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, called the Nov. 23 attack on the tiny island of Yeonpyeong "one of the gravest provocations since the end of Korean war."
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    The secretary-general also called North Korea's recent disclosure of a new uranium enrichment facility "quite alarming."
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    Default Re: North And South Korea On The Brink Of War, Russian Diplomat Warns

    North Korea threats unlikely to dissuade South from planned military drill

    North Korea and South Korea have both raised the stakes in a Yellow Sea confrontation, with each side wanting to save face.








    A South Korean marine stands guard on Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea, Friday, Dec. 17. South Korea said it will fire artillery from the front-line island shelled last month by North Korea.
    Ahn Young-joon/AP

    Enlarge







    By Donald Kirk, Correspondent / December 17, 2010
    Washington North and South Korea have raised the stakes in their confrontation in the Yellow Sea with challenges that analysts say are making it difficult for either side to back down easily.
    Skip to next paragraph



    Related Stories






    In the face of South Korean plans to stage a live-fire exercise from the island that North Korea hit Nov. 23 with a deadly artillery barrage, the North promises to respond with “self-defensive blows” of an “intensity and range” far greater than before.


    Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency issued the statement, attributed to an anonymous colonel, in the midst of a flurry of efforts to ease escalating tensions, including a visit to Pyongyang by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.


    North Korean attack on South Korea: 8 provocations of the past decade

    “It’s worse than a game of chicken,” says Han Sung-joo, a former South Korean foreign minister who has also been ambassador to the US. “We’ll have to wait it out.”


    However North Korea fulminates, South Korean analysts say the South has to go through with the exercises as planned within the next few days.


    “That can’t stop South Korea from doing what it plans to do,” says Mr. Han, who now chairs the influential Asan Institute in Seoul. As for North Korea’s statement, he says, “It’s not the first time for their huffing and puffing.”
    Gov. Richardson's visit

    One reason North Korea may not repeat last month’s attack on Yeonpyeong Island, in which two South Korean marines and two civilians were killed, is the visit of Gov. Richardson, accompanied by a CNN crew, to Pyongyang.


    “They’ll probably show them the uranium enrichment program,” says Han. “That should be threatening enough.”


    RELATED: North Korea invites Bill Richardson to visit: What message is it sending?



    After talks Friday with North Korean officials, Richardson is expected to visit the North Korean nuclear complex in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, where North Korea has nearly completed a facility with a 20-megawatt reactor for producing highly enriched uranium.


    North Korea showed the facility to a US delegation led by nuclear physicist Siegfried Hecker in November, two weeks before the Yeonpyeong attack.
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    Default Re: North And South Korea On The Brink Of War, Russian Diplomat Warns

    North Korea threatens more strikes over South Korean military exercises

    http://hotair.com/archives/2010/12/1...ary-exercises/

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    posted at 12:55 pm on December 17, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
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    Almost four weeks after North Korea shelled a South Korean island and killed a number of civilians, they have threatened to retaliate even further if South Korea proceeds with a military exercise. The threat heightens tensions on the Korean Peninsula and may put even more pressure on China to rein in its client state:
    North Korea said on Friday it would strike again at the South if a live-firing drill planned by Seoul on a disputed island went ahead, with an even stronger response than last month’s shelling that killed four people.
    North Korean official news agency KCNA said the “intensity and scope” of its retaliation will be worse if the Seoul goes through with its announced one-day live-fire drills sometime between Saturday and Tuesday on Yeonpyeong Island.
    Pyongyang responded to similar drills on November 23rd with the shelling of the same island. North Korea claims the island as its own, although it has been internationally recognized as part of the Republic of Korea. The difference comes from the UN-brokered demarcation line in the Yellow Sea and a 1999 declaration by Kim Jong-il’s regime that moved the line significantly to the south. That allowed Pyongyang to claim ownership of Yeonpyeong as well as two other islands internationally recognized as under the sovereignty of Seoul.


    The question will be what China does about its tinpot-dictatorship client. The Wikileaks cables suggest that China has lost enthusiasm for Kim and his regime, but they also don’t want to precipitate a collapse that will send millions of refugees across the border, either. China has already responded that the US needs to partner with them to “reduce tensions,” but it’s Kim that is firing the shells, not the US or Seoul.


    That may not last much longer, either. After the previous attack, the first in decades on the South, Seoul promised an “enormous retaliation” against Pyongyang, which sets the stage for a war that may well go nuclear. No one but Kim wants that outcome, but if he keeps raining shells on the South, a war may be inevitable. Since China will suffer the most consequences from such a war (after the two principals, of course), they should be pressed to use their influence and power to upend the Kim regime as soon as possible and find someone else to run the benighted northern dictatorship.
    Libertatem Prius!


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    Default Re: North And South Korea On The Brink Of War, Russian Diplomat Warns

    North Korean nukes: big fears, few facts

    http://openchannel.msnbc.msn.com/_ne...ears-few-facts

    Longtime NBC News producer Bob Windrem explores what's known and unknown about North Korea's development of nuclear weapons. This is a companion piece to his article published today on msnbc.com, "Deciphering clues to North Korea's mysteries," in which he analyzes possible reasons behind recent North Korean belligerence.
    By Robert Windrem
    While the U.S. says it believes North Korea is far more advanced in the development of nuclear weapons than Iran, it does not know how many weapons the North has, precisely how big of a stockpile of plutonium the country has and even whether the purported nuclear tests earlier this decade were real.
    U.S. concerns were significantly heightened after a Nov. 12 visit by Sig Hecker, the retired director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, to a new and highly sophisticated uranium centrifuge facility in the North. It was the first time the North had shown any westerner its uranium enrichment capabilities. Hecker saw what he estimated were 2,000 centrifuges, a number just short of what’s needed to enrich enough weapons grade uranium for a bomb. None was running.
    Hecker told a South Korean audience he was particularly impressed by the sophistication of the control room, indicating the North had mastered not just the enrichment process but management of a large-scale program. However many nuclear weapons North Korea has, they were created using plutonium reprocessed at its now shuttered Yongbyon reactor complex.
    Three U.S. officials questioned about the North’s program said information remains sketchy on virtually all aspects of the program, starting with the number of weapons, which officials had placed at about a dozen a few years back.
    “We just don’t know,” said a senior U.S. official, when asked about the size of the stockpile. He said the new disclosures of a uranium enrichment program will make such estimates even more difficult. “It’s not a wild assumption they may have mastered this technology, and that is one step closer to enriched uranium, and that gets you that much closer to real trouble.”
    Another official said the U.S. believes the technology and possibly even some centrifuges came from Pakistan. “I have seen nothing to suggest the technology didn’t come from Pakistan.”
    The biggest problem with estimating any country’s nuclear weaponry is how much fissile material — enriched uranium or reprocessed plutonium — the nation had to begin with. While the U.S. has an estimate, which is highly classified, officials admit they do not know precisely how much is used for the weapons’ cores or how much was used in what were purported to be nuclear tests in October 2006 and May 2009.
    “There remain questions on how efficient the nuclear tests were. They could have used more than you would normally use,” said the first official.
    There are even lingering doubts about whether the tests were real and not a hoax in which a large amount of high-energy conventional explosives were detonated to mimic a nuclear test. Officials have long pointed out that the North has experience in such high-explosive tests.
    “We’ve had two what we think are nuclear tests so far,” said the official. “You’re looking at this from a long way, and the point is although you do a variety of testing afterwards, there is always an element of doubt. Our scientists are fairly confident about it, but won’t give you a 100 percent guarantee that that is what happened.”
    Could there be more if the North doesn’t get the kind of attention it has been seeking?
    “There’s a risk we are going to have more testing,” said one official, adding that it could be tied to the transition from Kim Jong-Il to his son Kim Jong-On.
    One reason why the North is so focused on nuclear weaponry is that its conventional forces have grown less capable as the nation has dealt with famine and other societal ills.
    ---
    You can hear more from scientist Sig Hecker assessing the North Korean nuclear program in this interview with NBC's Richard Lui, and in the accompanying story.
    Nuclear expert Dr. Siegfried Hecker recently returned from North Korea and found their nuclear capability 'stunning.' He discusses North Korea with NBC's Richard Lui.
    Libertatem Prius!


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    Default Re: North And South Korea On The Brink Of War, Russian Diplomat Warns

    "Stunning" Revelations on North Korean Nukes
    By RICHARD LUI and NBC NEWS
    Updated 5:15 PM EST, Thu, Dec 16, 2010

    Despite years of non-proliferation efforts, the Obama administration has come to the uncomfortable conclusion that North Korea’s nuclear capability is “significantly more advanced” than previously thought.

    Senior administration and intelligence have come to that conclusion based in large part on a recent trip to North Korea by Stanford expert Dr. Siegfried Hecker, the former head of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    Hecker’s first trip to North Korea was in 2004 when he says, "I actually wound up in a conference room, in their reprocessing facility, holding the plutonium in my hands in a glass jar.”

    He has since returned to North Korea six more times. After his seventh trip last month, Hecker made a shocking new find: "The North Korean technology that I saw is ahead of the Iranians."

    Now he’s saying what nobody wants to hear: North Korea has the capability to export its technology, possibly to other nations that might not hesitate to use it against the U.S. – like Iran.

    Last year, he saw an empty facility at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear complex. But this year he saw 2,000 "pristine" and "beautiful" uranium-enriching centrifuges.

    "It really was quite stunning to see that because I simply didn't expect them to have this sophistication, and this scale of a facility,” said Hecker. And judging by his timing, they built it in one year – almost impossible to do.

    "The past facilities I have been in ... the control equipment is old-style, 1950's American style." But the new control room was similar to "what you would see in a good facility today in the United States."

    Hecker, the co-director of the Center of International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, is speaking openly about what he saw and believes that’s why the North Koreans welcomed his visit.

    "The North Koreans expect me to do that, because that's the way that they can actually have an effect." Hecker believes they have enough plutonium for four to eight bombs.

    “The message clearly was, ‘Look, we have the plutonium, and if we have the plutonium that means we have the bomb.’ And they wanted me to take that message back to the U.S. government and say, ‘Look, North Korea has the bomb, they want some respect.’"

    S.Korea to hold live fire drill on disputed island

    Hecker says he saw what few would expect a poor country suffering under severe economic sanctions could afford: a new uranium facility with a bright blue roof. Not hidden, as most would think, instead boldly saying, “We are here.”

    Hecker spoke with NBC’s Richard Lui about his recent trip to North Korea and what it means for U.S.- North Korea relations and global nuclear proliferation.

    Richard Lui: You estimate North Korea has the capability to build four to eight nuclear weapons. What size would those bombs be like? Like Nagasaki, Hiroshima?

    Hecker: The best guess right now is 24 to 42 kilograms. That would make sort of four to eight Nagasaki-like, what I would call a primitive bomb. [Primitive nuclear bombs are bigger in size; advanced bombs are smaller].

    A Nagasaki-like bomb means it's a 10,000-pound bomb, so it's huge, you have to put it on a plane to deliver it or in a van or on a boat.

    To miniaturize that big bomb takes a significant amount of technology know-how and most importantly nuclear testing... I don't believe they have yet been able to miniaturize, and certainly I do not believe that they could have the confidence in a small miniaturized bomb to put it on a missile.

    Lui: You have some concern about the military receiving some fissile materials. What are those concerns?

    Hecker: What I'm mostly concerned about is state control. My biggest concern about North Korean’s nuclear weapons is actually not so much the weapons in their hands, but the weapons or materials or technologies getting out of their hands.

    My biggest concern is: “Could they be building another reactor?” “Could they be helping the Iranians with a plutonium program?”

    Now [my concern] is actually, could they be moving into uranium arena and uranium? The methods of making the uranium are very, very difficult to track.

    Lui: You've said North Korea has been working on its nuclear program for decades and it would be impossible to build the centrifuge facility if they just started in April.

    Hecker: Iran has taken 23 years to get to where they are. And in my opinion the North Korean technology that I saw is ahead of the Iranians.

    My own view is that North Korea has also been pursuing this for decades – most likely three decades or so. But particularly over the past 10-15 years, is when I believe they first of all bought the materials. Then they shaped the centrifuge components, bought many of the components and equipment. And then, they must have received some training somewhere, and had been working at this for many years in order to be able to get this going.

    Lui: How does this rate in terms of concern from 1 to 10?

    Hecker: When I put together my list of top nuclear concerns, it actually turns out Pakistan comes up on top of the list. But North Korea is up there, it keeps vacillating between #2 and #4.

    So North Korea is near the top, and particularly, what's so important about North Korea is that if we could solve the North Korean problem we would give an enormous boost to the global non-proliferation regime. That is what I actually see as the biggest piece of hope, not just to make sure they don't blow up the place, but actually to see whether we can make some progress.

    Lui: What is your role when you visit North Korea?

    Hecker: I do not come in as an inspector. They invite outside interlocutors into North Korea, particularly when there is no formal dialogue.

    So when they want to send a message, or when they want to get some sense as to what is the United States actually thinking. I'm not an official representative of the U.S. government… However, they know I have access to the U.S. government.

    To me, that's a very good sign, they want to keep talking, there's at least some hope that one might be able to come up with some resolution.

    Lui: What are conversations like when you are talking with government officials here in the United States? What was their reaction?

    Hecker: The government officials that I briefed – in the State Department, the Department of Energy, and the National Security Council – I think most of them were surprised the way I described the scale and the sophistication, but they weren't surprised at the fact that uranium enrichment actually existed.

    I think we all expected that they have uranium enrichment – I've said it directly to my North Korean hosts for six years. So we knew that.

    I would like to advise the American government that at this particular point [North Korea has] made it very clear to us that they're not about to give up the bomb because they believe that that provides the deterrent to the U.S. coming in and taking over, and particularly for a regime change...

    I think what's really important to make sure the escalation doesn't get out of hand, is what I call the 3 No's. So what I'd like to advocate is: We should go in and make sure we get an agreement, not only with North Korea, but China. And the other is the 3 No’s: To say no more bombs, no better bombs, and no export.
    Libertatem Prius!


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