President Obama should learn from President Myung-bak

January 21, 2011

Yes, Obama used deadly force against Somali pirates, too, but it’s the attitude of the South Korean president he needs to emulate:

In a daring high-seas rescue, South Korean navy commandos today stormed a freighter that’s been held hostage for a week in the Arabian Sea, killing eight Somali pirates and freeing 21 crew members.

Five other pirates were captured. The ship’s captain was shot in the stomach by the pirates, but he’s expected to survive, South Korea said.

“Our special forces stormed the hijacked Samho Jewelry earlier today and freed all hostages,” Colonel Lee Bung-woo, a spokesman for South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff, told The Guardian and other reporters in Seoul. “During the operation, our forces killed some Somali pirates, and all of the hostages were confirmed alive.”

South Korea’s president went on national TV to laud the commandos’ success and warn any pirates against trying to hijack ships in the future.

“We will not tolerate any behavior that threatens the lives and safety of our people in the future,” President Lee Myung-bak said.

And that is how a national leader stands up for his country. Barack Obama’s diffidence is all too palpable, even when he does the right thing.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Tell me again why we give the UN any money?

July 12, 2010

Just when you think that body couldn’t be any more useless and corrupt, they do something like this:

UN Fails to Condemn North Korea for Killing Over 40 South Korean Sailors

When the results of the international investigation into the sinking of the South Korean ship the Cheonan were released in May, the U.S. State Department was adamant that it believed North Korea was responsible — and that the country would have to face some actual punishment for killing 46 innocent South Korea sailors.

“I think it is important to send a clear message to North Korea that provocative actions have consequences,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said May 21 while visiting her Japanese counterpart in Tokyo.

Fast forward to today, when the United Nations released a presidential statement which not only does not specify any consequences for the Kim Jong Il regime, but doesn’t even conclude that North Korea was responsible for the attack in the first place.

The statement acknowledges that the South Korean investigation, which included broad international participation, blamed North Korea, and then “takes note of the responses from other relevant parties, including from the DPRK, which has stated that it had nothing to do with the incident.”

“Therefore, the Security Council condemns the attack which led to the sinking of the Cheonan,” the statement reads.

Isn’t diplomacy-speak wonderful? Not only does the UN issue the weakest form of statement, the “presidential statement,” but it can’t even name the party behind the attack. I bet the families of those 40 dead sailors feel oh-so-comforted, knowing Turtle Bay has their backs.

As Daniel Halper asks,

“…how long did it take for the UN to issue a condemnation of Israel’s action against pro-terrorist flotilla members?”

A perfectly legal action, bear in mind, as opposed to North Korea’s act of war.

Tell me again, does the United Nations do any good, and is there any reason for us to remain a part of it?

Really, just try to convince me. I love fantasy stories.

(via Jeff Emanuel)


What’s “gird your loins” in Korean?

April 22, 2010

I haven’t written about the sinking last month of the South Korean naval corvette Cheonan, because, while it looked and smelled like something North Korea would do to provoke an incident and grab the world’s attention, the South Korean and US militaries were being very cautious. Besides, I just couldn’t imagine that even Kim Jong-Il, dictator of the world’s largest prison camp, could be this crazy.

I may have been wrong:

South Korean ship sunk by crack squad of ‘human torpedoes’

A South Korean warship was destroyed by an elite North Korean suicide squad of ‘human torpedoes’ on the express orders of the regime’s leader, Kim Jong-il, according to military intelligence reports.

The attack on the 1,220-ton Cheonan, which sank on March 26 with the loss of 46 of its 104 crew, was carried out in retaliation for a skirmish between warships of the two nations’ navies in November of last year, South Korea claims.

The South Korean government has refused to comment officially on the reports but Defence Minister Kim Tae Young told a parliamentary session that the military believed that the sinking was a deliberate act by North Korea.

Officials in military intelligence say they warned the government earlier this year that North Korea was preparing a suicide-squad submarine attack on a South Korean ship.

“Military intelligence made the report to the Blue House [the presidential office] and to the Defence Ministry immediately after the sinking of the Cheonan that it was clearly the work of North Korea’s military,” a military source said.

According to the article, this may have been a suicide mission launched by commandos in specially modified midget submarines, rather than from a leftover naval mine from the Korean War. The explosion clearly took place outside the vessel’s hull.

Whether it was an attack by a normal torpedo or the human kind, this puts both Seoul and Washington in a very difficult situation. Lee Myung Bak, the South Korean president, was elected on a platform that included getting tough with North Korea and ending the accomodationist policies of his predecessor. Now that it’s clear that one of his country’s naval ships was sunk and sailors killed in an act of war, he can’t do nothing for fear of appearing craven and pusillanimous, something sure to weaken him at home and encourage a psychotic predator like L’il Kim. Yet, striking back too hard risks full-scale war; South Korea’s capital, Seoul, is near the border and very exposed to the thousands of artillery pieces the North has placed there.

For President Obama, this could turn into a nightmare. Already under heavy (and deserved) criticism for a weak foreign policy of appeasement, pressuring our allies in Seoul to overlook this, or worse, equivocate in our support of Seoul, would invite a furious political assault. Yet a reopening of the Korean War would be a huge expense on top of all the debt he’s accumulated already, not to mention the strain it would put on the military both from likely heavy casualties and from being stretched thin already.

(And, don’t forget: much of the Obama debt is funded by China, North Korea’s patron. This is a good example of how massive foreign debt limits our actions and makes us vulnerable.)

So, what to do? Contra the analysts quoted in the article, President Bak almost has to retaliate, but he cannot go overboard. My guess would be some sort of forward mobilization near the DMZ as a sign of resolve toward the North and the eventual sinking of a North Korean vessel in a tit-for-tat response. Economic punishment is possible, too, but the loss of life aboard the ship makes it difficult to present that to the South Korean public as sufficient.

The other question is why would Kim do something so mad, so rife with potentially disastrous consequences? The Telegraph article speculates that this was payback for an earlier skirmish in which a North Korean boat was sunk, but there’s another possibility: there are signs of growing unrest in North Korean, and Pyongyang’s grip may be slipping. Could it be that Kim ordered this to scare his population into obedience by the threat of war with the “hated imperialist aggressors?” Or maybe he’s just ronery?

Who knows what goes on in that warped little man’s mind?

LINKS: More from Hot Air and the Times.

POSTSCRIPT: To answer the question in the subject line, Joe Biden’s warning to “gird your loins” renders in Korean as, according to Google Translate, Jolong saengsig!


The Hermit King steps out

December 24, 2009

Interesting. Long a minor actor in geopolitics, South Korea is preparing to play a larger role in global security matters:

More than 56 years after the end of the Korean War ushered in a long period of relative military isolation, South Korea is finally taking steps towards a regional security role commensurate with the country’s advanced economy. But South Korea’s rise as a military power is complicated by its domestic politics — and a belligerent North Korea.

Despite a technologically advanced military and a Gross Domestic Product that, at just shy of $1 trillion, makes it the world’s 15th-wealthiest country, the Republic of Korea has rarely deployed troops outside its borders. In 1999, Seoul sent 400 soldiers to boost a U.N. force trying to stabilize East Timor when that country broke away from neighboring Indonesia. The Timor deployment was South Korea’s first overseas military operation. South Korean troops had fought alongside the U.S. in Vietnam.

South Korean medics and engineers subsequently joined the U.S.-led coalitions in Afghanistan in 2001 and in Iraq in 2003. The Afghan mission was curtailed after the Taliban kidnapped a South Korean church group in Afghanistan and murdered two of its 23 members. The extremists released the surviving captives when Seoul promised to stick to a planned withdrawal by the end of 2007. The Iraqi mission ended peacefully in 2008. That year, Seoul also sent a warship to patrol Somali waters for pirates.

But South Korea’s planned second deployment to Afghanistan in 2010 will mark its true debut as a regional military power. In response to U.S. President Barak Obama’s call for a bigger international coalition in Afghanistan, Seoul has pledged a Provincial Reconstruction Team and a powerful infantry force to accompany it, for a total of around 500 troops.

The author argues that the PRT is merely a political cover for the deployment of combat troops, meant to keep South Korea’s rather pacifist Left from putting up too strong an opposition. But the move seems not to be engendering  much resistance in South Korea, regardless, as there seems to be public sentiment for the nation pulling more of its own weight after decades of being protected from Mordor North Korea. South Korea has gone so far as to commission three small aircraft carriers. Once fitted with aircraft, this will give Seoul a power-projection capability few Asian nations have.

In my opinion, this is can be an unalloyed good for the world: a stable democracy with a powerful economy should shoulder some of the burden of protecting constitutional government and freedom of the seas in a dangerous world. (While recognizing the political difficulties for Tokyo are much, much greater, I’d love to see Japan do something similar.) The United States should be mentoring South Korea in this, just as, under George W. Bush, we agreed to promote democratic India as a potential global power.  The time is now to strengthen old alliances and build new ones among democratic, capitalist powers facing the twin threats of jihadism and the rise of Russian and Chinese aggressive nationalism and geopolitical ambition.

Sadly, we are lead by exactly the wrong president.

(via Real Clear World)