Monday, March 14, 2016

Sun Tzu Takes on the North Korea's Missing Sub


The following script is from concluding dialogue in 1990's film  The Hunt for Red October ...

 Ambassador Andrei Lysenko:  "There is another matter... one I'm reluctant to..."

 Dr. Jeffrey Pelt:  "Please."

Ambassador Andrei Lysenko:  "One of our submarines, an Alfa, was last reported in the area of the Grand Banks. We have not heard from her for some time."

Dr. Jeffrey Pelt:  "Andrei, you've lost another submarine?"

The Current Reality Mix

In 2010 the ROK Navy corvette Cheonan was presumably torpedoed by a North Korean midget sub killing 46 sailors.  North Korea denied any responsibility for the sinking.

To have a better inkling of the reality afoot in the Sea of Japan these days, imagine Secretary of State John Kerry saying,  "Andrei, you've lost another submarine?"

The unconfessed loss of one of North Korea's vaunted sub fleet (more than 50 of which had swarmed last August in waters off South Korea) is hugely embarrassing for the Kim Jong Un regime.  The most innocent cause for his sunken sub (deplorable maintenance) can never be admitted to DPRK's populace.  A public show of force may only be as good as its weakest link. So the North Korean public will suspect foreign foul play and Kim will play along. But what else is possible?

  • Would South Korea wish to sink a Nork sub in retaliation for the Cheonan incident?  Since the incident, the South Korean government has been reluctant to engage in further diplomacy with North Korea over disputes such as North Korea's nuclear weapons program.  On 2 May, it was reported that South Korea's naval minister had vowed "retaliation" against those responsible.  And at a televised funeral for Cheonan's dead crew members, Admiral Kim Sung-chan stated, "We will not sit back and watch whoever caused this pain for our people. We will hunt them down and make them pay a bigger price."  

  • Would Russia (think of the Ukraine intrusion). who recently condemned North Korea's 'nuclear bomb test' as a 'threat to national security' stoop to such mischief if it could be carried out anonymously? 

Might other players have such motivations? Yes, and some surprises among them.

  • China - North Korea has become China's ostensibly uncooperative proxy.  Once useful as its bad-boy proxy, the succession of dictators in the DPRK has become increasingly incorrigible and transparently useless to China (which has no military base there).  A sunken sub just might be the appropriate reminder for an arrogant, life of luxury in an impoverished regime leader to remember who ultimately is boss. About Sun Tzu here.
  •  North Korean military leader -  Due to incidents like Gangneun In 1996"The accident by itself was the result of a North Korean submarine running aground on the South Korean coast. The mysterious part, however, was that the submarine was initially intended to collect North Korean commandos who were collecting intelligence in the South.

    The commandos are said to have executed the submarine crew for their mistake, and were killed by the South Korean military, with one captured, while trying to exfiltrate to the North. After the incident, South Korea's consul in Vladivostok was killed in a mysterious poisoning, which was said to have been done by the same poison as the kind found inside the submarine."
  • Japan - for much needed practice
  • U.S. -  Prior to the Obama administration, such espionage might have been expected.  Although provocations certainly exist, the act is considered highly unlikely.
  • Who or what was behind the missing (for 2 years) MH-370? Parts are being forensically examined for quite a long time.  Was more foul play afoot there, as well?  Who, then?
 Submarines are always silent and strange.


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