This is a compilation of two articles from the Joongang Ilbo about the situation in Korea. The first article is Military Measures on the Table. The second article is Diplomats Say China Against UN Sanctions. Both articles point to the seriousness of the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
South Korea is considering both military and non-military measures to avenge North Korea’s attack on the Cheonan warship on March 26, the South’s leading defense official said yesterday. … President Lee Myung-bak, meanwhile, called for a “prudent” reaction to the “grave” situation, and South Korean and U.S. forces mulled over raising their alert level on North Korea. … He also said the South Korean and the U.S. military are reviewing the possibility of elevating the five-level Watch Condition, or Watchcon, alert on North Korea by one notch, to Level 2. … Under a Level 2 alert, which indicates the presence of a vital threat against national security, South Korea and American forces would step up their intelligence and reconnaissance efforts. … The Watchcon in South Korea is usually kept at Level 3, which indicates a steadily rising threat that warrants careful monitoring, because of the potential threat from the North. The South has lifted the Watchcon to Level 2 on five previous occasions, most recently in May 2009, when North Korea conducted its second nuclear test.
From the second article:
Even before North Korea was conclusively identified as the culprit behind the sinking of the South Korean Navy patrol corvette Cheonan, China had taken a stand against discussing the matter at the United Nations Security Council, diplomatic sources here said yesterday. … According to one source, Chinese diplomats based in Seoul have been telling diplomats from other countries that taking the Cheonan case to the Security Council was “not a good idea” because it could “upset” the North. … One foreign diplomat in Seoul said, “Whenever the Cheonan came up during the conversation with the Chinese, the first thing they’d always say, without exception, was that the peace and security on the Korean Peninsula must be ensured.” … Sweden, one of the countries which participated in the investigation, had been mentioned as another cautious party. Its Foreign Ministry has confirmed, however, that there was unanimity within the international investigation team and that it condemns the North Korean action.
Please read the full articles for more important information.There was nothing new on the KCNA website.
Analysis. That South Korea is even considering military measures is not good. I believe they will exercise economic measures against the North at this point depending upon what The People’s Republic of China does in the Security Council. That the PRC diplomats are worried about “upsetting” the North is indicative of just how fragile the situation is with regards to both the Kim family and the general situation in the North. However, with the Swedes agreeing with the investigation’s findings, the PRC has a whole lot less room to maneuver. The PRC also has to be careful not to be seen backing an aggressor. That would not be good for business. The PRC is scared.
Raising the Watchcon is nowhere near as serious as raising the DEFCON (Defense Condition). If the South were talking about raising the DEFCON I would be very nervous. That may yet happen although we would not know about it directly. Any military action against the North would raise the DEFCON to 1 and that would be war. Everybody would like to avoid that.
However, the choices here are very limited and I believe on purpose. I believe it was Kim’s intention to back the South Koreans and by extension the United States into a situation that would force them to begin talks on a formal peace treaty. I believe that Kim and friends have come to the conclusion that the only way the DPRK can survive under their leadership is a formal peace treaty and quickly. Present the United Nations Command with a stark peace or war choice. In that I believe Kim has been successful. I don’t believe he is getting the reaction he wanted. Nobody is talking about starting peace talks. Therefore, I believe Kim is ready to burn the house down.
The PRC is in a box here as well. They can block action in the United Nations Security Council to impose more World wide sanctions on the DPRK. That would most likely advance the possibility of a retaliatory military strike by the South. And the PRC would be backing an obvious aggressor. That is nothing new for them but it has been a while at least openly (Iran anyone?). They can try to use their influence with Kim to get him to admit fault and pay reparations. That may have already been tried when Kim was summoned to Beijing. It has had no effect based upon the statement by the DPRK Central Military Commission referenced in a previous article. That statement makes it pretty clear that the North is ready for war. Such a war would be a disaster for the border areas of the PRC and Russia. Both the PRC and Russia really want to avoid that although both countries have held exercises in the past to practice for just such an occurrence. I believe the last time the Russians practiced for that was in 2004.
Right now it appears that the South will continue to pressure the North to take responsibility for the sinking. Kim won’t do it. Graveyard spiral. If I were picking dates I would pick 27 June. Like father like son?
Indications and Warnings. Increase in the number and frequency of naval incidents around the Northern Limit Line (NLL). This pertains to both incidents between naval ships and incidents revolving around North Korean attempts to fish south of the NLL. Increase in the number of incidents along the DMZ. Attempts to kidnap or assassinate South Korean government officials, civilian or military. Increase in the number and frequency of North Korean flights towards the DMZ. Attempts to infiltrate saboteurs into the South. Unexplained major fires or other destructive incidents at major South Korean facilities. Preparations for missile launches outside the end of half training live fire program i.e. long range missile launches. Kim may try to send a Taepo Dong II or III in the direction of Hawaii again. Firing on South Korean or American aircraft operating in proximity to the DMZ.