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NightWatch 20101205


For the Night of 5 December 2010

The Korea Confrontation

South Korea: National Defense Minister Kim Kwan Jin took office 4 December, stating that Seoul would retaliate with a "strong military response" if North Korea attacks the South again. He said South Korea's response would force Pyongyang to "completely surrender."

In a speech to senior military officials, Minister Kim called for military readiness, saying North Korea would plot new provocations. Yonhap reported that Kim visited Yeonpyeong Island and said the military would hold firing drills if the weather permits.

True to Kim's guidance, South Korea's armed forces Monday, 6 December, began a major live-fire exercise. The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the firing exercises by warships and land artillery units had started in 29 locations, including off one of five frontline islands near the disputed Yellow Sea border with the North.

Yeonpyeong has been excluded from this week's drill, but firing will take place off Daecheong Island, 80 kilometers (50 miles) to the west.

Comment: National Defense Minister Kim is a breath of fresh air because he knows how to maneuver against the North. His threat of retaliation by air attacks put the North on the defensive and will call the North's bluff.

North Korea: The highlight of weekend news reports was the visit on 6 December by Kim Chong-il to the massive Kim Chaek Iron and Steel complex and to the Ranam mining machinery plant on the east coast, near Kim's east coast villas.

Comment: These reports are staged to convey that North Korea does not want the west coast offshore islands confrontation to escalate. The reported activities of Kim Chong-il are more important than the warlike propaganda denouncing Allied exercises. Kim appears to be taking a vacation on the east coast.

However, real war preparations by North Korea, especially civil defense measures require careful attention, should they be reported. Such measures involve real costs to the decision makers and the state, unlike propaganda statements, whose purpose is to achieve results with little cost.

The confrontation could escalate to a crisis with little warning. More exchanges of fire are likely, juding by North Korean military movements and denunciations of Allied military exercises . South Korean Minister Kim has committed South Korea to retaliate with air strikes, which portends a significant increase in the stakes potential consequences of another incident.

End of NightWatch for 5 December.

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