Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Discussion: What should Seoul do if it was a North Korean mine torpedo?

The authorities are becoming more and more convinced that the sinking of the Chonan was the result of a mine, though they're not yet certain if it was a North Korean mine and, if it was, whether it was a recently laid mine.

But for the sake of discussion, let's say that it was in fact a recently laid North Korean mine, either one deliberately sent to the waters around Paengnyŏngdo Island or one that accidentally drifted off that way: In such a scenario, what should Seoul's response be?

Would it be prudent to choose a military target and go after it? If so, what kind, where, and with how much strength? Should the goal be to punitive, to teach Pyongyang not to do this again, or should the aim be to topple the regime or at least cause turmoil? Should any attack be done while Kim Jong-il is away in China?

Or should economic sanctions be the way to go? If so, what kind and for how long, or would they be "permanent"? Should South Korea go to the UN and complain there?

How much response would be too much response, enough for Pyongyang to respond with similar attacks or worse?

What questions am I missing?

Your thoughts?

UPDATE (April 23, 2010):
It looks like the military is ready to conclude that the Chonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo.


  1. Talk about the horns of a dilemma - doing nothing is almost as bad doing something.
    I would also want to ask this question - what response was NK, if it was NK, expecting? Is this a test of resolve? And what role should the US military play?

  2. A military response could lead to the disaster of a full-blown war. I think you or Joshua at OFK suggested that, if the ship sank due to North Korean involvement, that the South should immediately cease all aid, concessions and ties of any kind until the North apologizes. I could agree with that.

  3. 1. Immediately seek the advice of the Israelis.
    2. Follow their advice.
    3. Deny any involvement in all sorts of mad shit mysteriously getting all fucked the fuck up in North Korea.

  4. Still no Gravatar. Grrr.

  5. This is simply theory and I have no facts to offer other than a keen interest in North and South Korea since the Korean war. But it would seem that if North Korea is yet again going through a regime change to the son (against the original philosophy of (communist)North Korea) then it could be possible that the military, which in the past has been known to work of its own volition, could be provoking to create a situation that would hinder or lessen the control of the new upcoming regime.

    So I would say, make sure you have all the facts...and I mean all the facts and then tuck it away in the basement and move on.

  6. GI Korea at ROK Drop linked to this post and offered his own ideas, which I thought were worth reprinting here:

    So if this was an intentional North Korean provocation than the next obvious question is what should the South Korean response be? Launching a bombing campaign of some sort should not be the first option in my opinion. It would only serve the North Korean regime’s best interests by rallying a now increasingly disenfranchised DPRK public around their leadership.

    Here is what I think should be done:

    • Take any reopening of the Geumgang Resort off the table
    • Officially close the Kaesong Complex and withdraw all South Korean workers
    • Stop all aid of any kind to North Korea until an apology is issued from Kim Jong-il
    • If the North Koreans still refuse to apologize and accept responsibility for sinking the ship than South Korea should seriously consider enforcing the PSI.

    The most provocative of these options would be to strictly enforce the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which would require searching North Korean ships. That is why this should only be done after implementing the first three options and judging North Korean reactions. If they know a serious enforcement of the PSI is hanging over their heads they may not attempt to cause other provocative incidents like they have been threatening to do.

    As I wrote on his site, I quite like the measured and stern response he proposes, particularly if it includes point #4, though that raises the possibility of further escalation, simply because each time a North Korean vessel is boarded it raises the possibility of a shooting match or other attack. That shouldn't be something to deter the ROK govt, just prepare it.

  7. extrakorea, I answered you at your site as well, but I'm reposting it here:

    Extra Korea wrote:
    Any military attack on the NorKs will give them something to wrap their “the whole world is against us” propaganda.

    Yes, I was making that point, too. In fact, that may be the plan with all this: to whip up support for the government at a time when so many are disgruntled.

    I think that toppling the regime would be a very bad idea considering how ill-prepared South Korea is for such. Causing turmoil could lead to inadvertent regime change.

    But it has to be done sometime. And I don't think the time will be of our choosing.

    If (a very big “if”) we’re going to attack them anyway, might as well go for the Poison Dwarf himself.

    Ah, true, but I'm just thinking the regime might fall more quickly if he were outside the country.

    I think so. Economic sanctions, withholding of food aid, fertilizer, etc.

    That can be a bit cruel, but it might work.

    Until the NorKs apologize, through actions, not words. Considering the kamikaze-inspired rhetoric that B.R.Myers has described, that could well translate into “permanent.”

    In other words, back to the pre-Kim DJ era.

    After eight years of having South Korea bend over (and get butt!@#$ed by the NorKs), we are in new, unexplored territory.

    Actually, I think we'd just be back to old, well-explored territory, i.e., the Chun/Roh Taewoo era and before.

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  9. Joshua Stanton at One Free Korea put up a must-read post about how to respond without causing a major war.

  10. Holter Barbour, since you mentioned it here, the link to your comment (should you want to provide it at The Marmot's Hole) is here.

  11. Looks like President Lee has been listening to some of what we're saying.


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