Countdown To Armageddon - Will North Korea Do It Just To Save Face?

South Korea orders residents to take shelter in anticipation of drills -

A review of the news reports the last few days indicate North Korea will (not might) respond militarily if South Korea goes ahead with its military exercises. The above news report (ten minutes ago from CNN as I type this) says South Korea is going ahead.

Korea crisis: Yeonpyeong war games increase tension - BBC News

(BBC background info on this topic. New York Times backgrounder on this topic.)

Even China’s direct efforts with their neighbor have not worked:

In the past China’s public rhetoric was often standing shoulder to shoulder with North Korea. Not this time. China is definitely worried.

So let’s assume the news reports’ accuracy is very high. Has North Korea boxed itself into a corner with its own rhetoric? Saving face is a critical concept in some cultures, among them the people of the Korean peninsula, and close by. Barring any overtures from outside the country (UNSC, China or Russia) will North Korea have to play its hand and raise the stakes just because ego is so important?

I guess we’ll find out on Monday.

In real time, in less than three hours.

I read an interesting article after the September 11th attacks. The idea was that people were asking what provoked the terrorists, or what they could do differently to avoid provoking them again. But it said that was the wrong way to look at things; like a rat in a cage pushing the green button to get a food pellet. The terrorists, and the North Korean government, may very well want us to think that way; that their response is an impersonal and inevitable reaction to the choices that we make. Reward us for pushing the right button, punish us for pushing the wrong one. They may want us to believe that, but it’s bullshit. Like anyone else, they are free to make decisions and are responsible for their actions.

That explains why they are framing the issue as they are. Will they follow through? I suspect that they will, but only to the level of a minor skirmish, not an all-out war. I don’t say that because they’ll want to save face, but because the people who make the decision won’t pay the price for it. The leadership has shown no concern if the people starve, so what if some of them get shelled by artillery. The leaders will act to protect their own hides and privileges.

Since a Chinese fishing boat recently rammed a SK patrol boat losing 2 crewman I don’t suppose China is going to be any more helpful than usual.

You have to ask what is in the self interest of the NK ruling elite. They seem to fear things like domestic insurgency, fading out of the public’s view, the power transition of Kim Jong Il to his son being seen as a moment of weakness (possibly a military coup or domestic invasion).

Supposedly there were several serious military coup plots during the famine of the 1990s. One involved high ranking generals marching on Pyongyang and other cities. It was found out and the ones planning it killed, but it isn’t unrealistic to think NK is worried that as power transitions to the son (who seems totally unqualified and unknown) that they fear domestic and international attacks.

So my guess is they will do things to show the ruling elite are vicious, brutal and cruel, but stop short of all out war (which they would lose and end up like Saddam Hussein if they started. Hiding in holes in the ground until they are found and killed). The north will lose all out war against the South & US (Japan would help the South & US in a war in whatever way it could I’d assume). And I’m guessing they know that. China doesn’t seem like they’d help them. The official NK military would probably be destroyed in a week as a guess.

So another minor skirmish designed to intimidate would be my guess.

Of course, the tricky part is that it looks like this time, the South isn’t going to play along and be intimidated. I expect some significant faction in the SK government/military maintains that NK’s military power is vastly overstated - that they lack the will or coordination (or, more basically, logistics) to wage an actual war if the ruling echelon is at all confused or conflicted. Play a bit of brinkmanship, and the NK elite will turn against itself or back down - in neither case prepared to carry out the threat they’ve posed to the south for these last 60 years. This may be the best chance SK has, if they are confident NK is in actual leadership transition. Let it slide, and at best SK can count several more decades of lunacy as the latest Kim consolidates his power and engages in the same saber-rattling routines.

Risky move. Should be fun to watch from a safe distance.

Really, about time, I say! It’s been so tedious with no new war breaking out this year! Iraq & Afghanistan? Bo-ring! Indian-Pakistani hostility? Same old same old. Iranian nukes? Heard it all before. But this! Korea! The perfect blend of the novel with the nostalgic! It’s destined to take this season by storm! :slight_smile:

There are 20 US soldiers on this island this time though. If DPRK fires off another few hundred shells, ROK might not follow through with their threat of air strikes. But what if this time 4 US soldiers die instead of South Korean ones? The government doesn’t want another war but a lot of people would want blood. Already there are some idiots shouting we should just bomb Pyongyang.

Yeah, well, some of us aren’t quite at a safe distance. Looking out my tv-like window, however, things seem to be business as usual–just a few planes once in a while. It’s funny though because things are usually business as usual, until they aren’t.

Knigel: Where in Korea do you live? As my location field shows, I live in Busan. I was in Seoul this past Saturday, though, and the riot police stationed at Seoul Station had some spiffy new uniforms: looked a bit like Robocop.

I’m in Bundang, close to Seoul. I wonder how far along the plans are to make Busan the new Seoul. I should make an effort to become your new best friend just in case I need a couch to sleep on.

Another analogy is two drivers hurtling toward each other in a game of “chicken,” to see who will swerve first to avoid a collision. The successful “negotiator” is the one who lets his opponent see him throw his steering wheel out the window.

Of course, when they both try that at once, you get something like WWI.

I wouldnt know, I dont read korean.

TBH, cred would be a bit better for me at least if the location field was in something that people who don’t read korean could read.

@Reuters: FLASH: North Korea army says “it is not worth reacting to provocation” from South Korea’s exercise - KCNA”

Considering they were pounded by return fire and attacked with aircraft they might not have any battery left to fire on the island.

Fighters were dispatched to the area, but there is no indication that they actually fired into or at North Korean positions. Given how well dug-in many of the NK artillery is in many places, it’s not likely that even a substantial number were knocked out by SK counter-battery fire.

Have you figured out how to blame Bush yet?:wink:

The North Korean artillery pieces rolled back into their caves before they could be damaged.