I have said all along that this event was an act of war. North Korea intentionally attacked and sank a South Korean Corvette, Cheonan, taking 46 crewmen to their grave. A number of folks throughout the blogosphere and in the MSM have said that not much would happen. However, at least one blog has cautioned against underestimating South Korea’s desire for revenge. This post, by George Smiley, from 2 months ago, is worth visiting again.
American reluctance to blame North Korea promises to create a potential rift between Washington and Seoul and set the stage for a possible crisis in the coming days. If South Korea determines that Pyongyang was behind the Cheonan disaster, there will be a demand for revenge, both publicly and officially. At that point, the Obama Administration will be forced to admit North Korean complicity, and attempt to dissuade South Korea from taking military action.
And, if you don’t believe South Korea would take such steps, consider the hours following the Rangoon bombing in 1983. After learning of North Korea’s attempt to kill the South Korean president (and his cabinet) in Burma, some ROK Army units began mobilizing for war. One U.S. officer, stationed in Korea at the time, reports that some mechanized and armored battalions actually left their garrisons and were heading towards the DMZ–without notifying the United States.
The military preparations received little attention in the west, but they were indicative of the shock and outrage that followed the assassination attempt. Needless to say, there were some tense days in Seoul and Washington, as U.S. officials cautioned their South Korean counterparts against any hasty action. Similar discussions will likely occur in the coming days, but it may be more difficult to deter Seoul this time around. South Korea is far more powerful –militarily, politically and economically–than it was in the early 1980s, and has every right to defend its interests. If Mr. Obama and his advisors believe the Cheonan affair will quickly blow over (with little diplomatic or military fallout), they are sadly mistaken.
Now comes word that the Obama Administration is prepared to back South Korea, and has cautioned American commanders to ensure their troops are ready in case of an attack.
White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs stated:
“U.S. support for South Korea‘s defense is unequivocal, and the president has directed his military commanders to coordinate closely with their Republic of Korea counterparts to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression,”
This has the potential to become very nasty, very quickly, and we’re talking civilian casualties in numbers not seen since WWII. Stay tuned.