South Korea capitulates to the north: A history of weakness
Living in Korea as I do, friends have contacted me as to “what I might know,” as regards the recent maritime incursion between the Stalinist North and the free South. Here is my report:
At 10:15a.m., Saturday (Korea time), naval vessels belonging to the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” intruded deep into the Han River and well past the UN-sanctioned “Northern Limit Line” (NLL) into South Korean waters–an area near to the South Korean capital of Seoul. While recent incursions and skirmishes have occurred in the rich crab-fishing areas in the ocean waters north of Incheon, never has the DPRK penetrated this far into their southern neighbor’s territory. The two nations signed a UN-sponsored armistice in 1953, but are technically still at war.
According to the Republic of Korea’s (South Korea) Joint Chiefs of Staff, at least four South Korean sailors are dead, 19 wounded and one remains missing. North Korean government sources claim “losses,” but have yet to issue a figure.
As reports the ROK’s Army Lieutenant General Lee Sang-hee, a 156-ton South Korean patrol boat carrying 27 servicemen was hit in an area near the steering room, causing the vessel to sink following a 21-minute engagement with North Korean naval forces.
“A North Korean patrol boat opened fire first. One of our naval vessels sank while it was being towed after an exchange of fire,” Lee said.
The North Korean vessels penetrated 4.8 km south of the NLL at 9:54 a.m., according to Brig. Gen. Hwang Eui-don, a spokesman for the ROK’s Ministry of Defense.
Following 30 minutes of attempted negotiations between the various vessels, a North Korean warship purportedly fired on its rival counterpart, striking the steering room of one of four South Korean vessels stationed in the vicinity. The stricken vessel caught fire and sank while being towed away.
Three ROK warships, a patrol boat and two larger naval ships returned defensive fire. A 21-minute clash ensued, and witnessess claim to have seen one North Korean warship being towed away in flames across the maritime border, according to Lt. General Hwang.
This is the 10th such documented violation of the INN this year, and the most serious since the UN-sponsored conclusion of the Korean War in 1953. The maritime border between the Koreas is ill-defined, and South Korea accused the North of making 12 brief border violations in the western sea in 2001.
According to official sources, the dead include: Navy Lt. Yoon Yong-ha, commander of the stricken ship, and petty officers Cho Chong-hyong, Hwang To-hyon and So Hu-won. Petty officer Han Sang-guk is still missing.
Particularly alarming to anti-communist officials in South Korea is the continued adherence to the so-called “Sunshine Policy” of President Kim Dae-jung, which seeks to bring reunification between the North and South. Recently, it was divulged by the conservative Chosun Ilbo news daily, that President Kim had “buried” a “white paper” which declared North Korea to be the South’s “main enemy”–a decision the lame-duck President, who is barred from seeking reelection later this year by the nation’s constitution, decided to pass on to his successor.
Lee Jong-seok, researcher for the liberal Sejong Institute think-tank, approved of the government’s delay in releasing the “white paper”: “The delay will have the effect of minimizing negative factors in inter- Korean relations. The next government should decide whether to drop or keep the concept of the main enemy in the defense paper.”
The conservative Hanaro Party (Grand National Party), headed by Presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang, condemned last week in the strongest of terms President Kim’s continued capitulation to the North. Opposition party Representative Kim Young-gap, stated flatly: “Defense Minister Kim has no guts.”
An opposition lawmaker, Rep. Nam Kyung-pil, chief spokesman to the GNP, also called for the Seoul government to halt its experimental tourism venture into North Korea, at the Geumgang Mountain resort facility. Said Rep. Nam: “There should be no more groundless optimism, aimless financial assistance and low-key negotiation stance in terms of North Korea policy.”
Following the incident, Kim Dae-jung cancelled his planned appearance at the World Cup consolation game, between South Korea and Turkey, in favor of an emergency National Security Council meeting. His Defense Minister, Kim Dong-shin, urged North Korea to “apologize” for the violation of the armistice.
U.S. Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Randy Sandoz stated there was no “heightened alert,” nor had South Korea made any request for U.S. assistance. ROK fighter jets were sent briefly into the area to patrol the affected area, but, according to the South’s tradition of unilateral appeasement, any military action against Kim Jong-Il’s communist regime is deemed “unlikely,” by Grand National Party officials.
Similarly, North Korea has not responded to a proposal for diplomatic engagement with the United Nations Command (UNC), and judging by the political make-up of the United Nations, which has since its inception favored repressive dictatorships and communist governments over that of democratic and republican-Constitutional nation, it is doubtful the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” will suffer penalties from this latest melee.
Most forbodingly, according to the most recent Intelligence by South Korea’s Defense Ministry, it is being reported that the DPRK’s government issued a telephone transmission to the United Nations Command prior to the bloody clash, in which the North “urged South Korea to give up the Northern Limit Line.” As well, it has just been learned that the South Korean government is requesting the assistance of United States’ U-2 spy plane intercepts, captured prior to the World Cup soccer match, which might shed light on electronic transmissions sent by DPRK vessels.
According to the most recent edition of the Korea Herald, “JCS Chairman Lee Nam-shin met with Gen. Leon LaPorte, commander of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) Saturday afternoon to request assistance form the U.S. side.
“Gen. LaPorte promised to provide all assistance available including the U.S. intelligence”, a Seoul military official said.