Friday, November 26, 2010

また北朝鮮ですか? North Korea does it again.

Well, North Korea has done it again. This shelling of a South Korean island is one of the worst incidents since the armistice was signed in 1953.


Will there be a war? I think it is possible.


Are US forces absolutely necessary? No.


All right, after the Cheonan affair earlier this year, I wrote the following two posts about a war in Korea.


How North Korea commando forces would not be decisive in a war.


And what damage Japan could expect in such a war.


The conclusions in my above two posts are still valid. Even without the US Marines in Okinawa, or US aircraft based in Japan, or the US troops in South Korea, South Korea would easily win an all out war with North Korea.


But why this attack now? Why two attacks in one year, if we include the sinking of the Cheonan?


I am now going to make an educated guess. I do not think the Kim family succession is going well. The succession from Kim Il Sung to Kim Jong Il took years to set up. Kim Il Sung was a genuinely respected person in North Korea. After all, he was the leader in the Korean war.


And after that war, living conditions actually did improve somewhat. Nothing like in South Korea, but there was at least enough food. But that depended on the help of the Soviet Union and China. Kim Il Sung was able to play off China and the Soviet Union against each other.


But the cold war has ended. The Soviet Union is now Russia, and Russia has cast off a lot of it's foreign supported states that only had political significance. China provides just enough support to keep North Korea functioning. China's interest here is to keep North Korea intact so that North Eastern China is not overrun with starving Korean refugees.


The thing is, and I am guessing here, Kim Jong Il has not gotten the same reverence from the North Korea elite, both civilian and military, as the father Kim Jong Il did. Kim Jong Il certainly likes the ladies, he even had sex playmates imported from Sweden. And every year, the North Korean military would scour the country in search of beautiful women to serve as sex playmates for Kim Jong Il.


And Kim Jong Il is quite a gourmet, and loves expensive wines and alcohol. In a country where the populace is starving. There are many palatial residences across the country for the use of Kim Jong Il and his family.

The North Korean currency reform of November 2009 was a particular disaster. It's purpose was to eliminate private markets and bring back socialist control. The government quickly backed down and reinstated private markets.


I have been to Korea, South Korea, and I will say that culturally Koreans are a conservative people. Particualry when it comes to sexual issues. My guess here is that many people in the North Korean elite would not approve of Kim Jong Il's antics in the sexual area, and in general his sybaritic lifestyle.


But in a country like North Korea, voicing disapproval of the regime can be fatal. So people keep their feelings to themselves.


However, Kim Jong Il never was able to find a substitute for Soviet Russian and Chinese support. And the currency reform was a disaster. Prospects for an improvement of life in North Korea are dim.


And now, Kim Jong Il has introduced his son, Kim Jong Un. Who is only 27 years old.


It is my guess that there are some plots going on, some people in North Korean have had enough of the Kim family, and do not want to see a child at the throne.


Kim Jong Il's playboy lifestyle has caught up with him, he does not have long to live.


I think the recent artillery attack on a South Korean army was another bid to build the legitimacy for Kim Jong Un. As was the previous sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan.


If Kim Jong Il thinks more attacks are necessary to provide his son's succession, then that means he is having problems. And we might see more attacks in the near future.


And Kim Jong Il's health is not good, he does not have much time. Even with this second attack, pressure on the South Korean government to retaliate will be immense. Some general in North Korea could see this as the time to do something.


I think the possibility of war is strong. North Korea is desperate. At worst, Japan will get some hits from North Korean missiles. But the North Korean military does have a lot of artillery that can hit Seoul.


And for all those that will start crying about how essential American forces are, they are not. They cannot prevent a war from happening, and they cannot win it by themselves. They are symbolic.


But this war, if it happens, will be a humanitarian tragedy, waves of refugees will be moving into South Korea and China, the number reaching Japan will be fewer. If North Korea shells Seoul, the South Korean economy will be devastated.


It will be a mess.


Note: Some 56% of Americans oppose having US forces fight in a Korean war. They feel Korea should do it themselves. So will Americans support Japan in the Senkaku's? I think not. Americans still want to be friendly with Japan and South Korea, but the need for the old military alliance is fading.


Sarah Pailin can't tell difference between North and South Korea.


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