- One might trace the history of the limits, of those
obscure actions, necessarily forgotten as soon as they are
performed, whereby a civilization casts aside something it
regards as alien. Throughout its history, this moat which
it digs around itself, this no man’s land by which it preserves
its isolation, is just as characteristic as its positive
- –Michel Foucault
JoongAng Daily – By Christine Kim
North Korea had planned to fire more shells than the roughly 170 rounds that fell on Yeonpyeong Island and the waters around it, but a counterattack by South Korea damaged their equipment, South Korean military officials said yesterday.
The South, however, did not describe the extent of the damage, adding to the list of unanswered questions over the first inland skirmish between the two Koreas since the Korean War.
The attack by the North left two marines and two civilians dead.
“After the North Korean military fired roughly 150 rounds in the first 12 minutes of the attack, they prepared for a bigger attack but were unable to do so once our military retaliated with K9 howitzers,” said a South Korean military official. Another 20 rounds were fired after the initial attack.
The K9 is a South Korean self-propelled howitzer developed for the South Korean military by Samsung Techwin. The weapon can fire six 155-millimeter rounds per minute.
“Because the K9 is very accurate, the North Korean military bases were probably reduced to rubble,” said the official.
South Korean Minister of National Defense Kim Tae-young said during a hearing at the National Assembly’s Defense Committee yesterday that images of the North Korean coastline were hard to obtain “because of the clouds in that direction.”
The military could not confirm how much damage had been done by the South’s retaliatory response. The defense minister said military officials were working to determine the extent of the damage.
More questions were lobbed at Kim yesterday, with lawmakers demanding to know why the South Korean military had taken 13 minutes to start firing back after the North initiated firing at 2:34 p.m.
“According to our military tactics, I believe we did very well if we responded in 13 minutes,” said Kim after lawmakers accused the South Korean military of being slow to respond.
The defense minister said the soldiers had to take shelter during the first attacks and rotating the guns in the direction of the attack took time, said Kim. “To fire while you’re on the receiving end is like committing suicide,” said one South Korean military official.
The minister also explained that the North’s attack was unrelated to the joint Hoguk exercise between South Korea and the U.S. and that North Korea had bombarded the island because of monthly shooting exercises near the disputed maritime border between the two Koreas.
“We are indeed in the middle of Hoguk exercises but the training that took place near Yeonpyeong Island was not part of the Hoguk exercises, but monthly shooting exercises,” said Kim.
When asked if any of the South Korean rounds fired during the exercise had crossed the border accidentally, triggering the attack, Kim said the South Korean military prepares “with caution” and keeps their firing “4 to 5 kilometers [2.5 to 3.1 miles] away from the Northern Limit Line.”
North Korea had sent statements before the attack on Tuesday, warning South Korea to halt the Hoguk exercises. Kim said that North Korea had complained about the routine firing exercises in the past, but it was the first time for them to have acted on it.
In a report turned into the Defense Committee of the National Assembly yesterday, the Defense Ministry confirmed that North Korea had fired roughly 170 rounds toward Yeonpyeong Island.
“Around 80 rounds landed on the island, while about 90 rounds landed in the waters surrounding the island,” the report said. The South Korean military fired 80 rounds from K9 howitzers. The Defense Ministry also said troops have been “status ready” for firing since the attack, with five fighter jets on standby.
Politics Daily – By David Wood
But why Pyongyang ignited the crisis remained a mystery.
One favored theory in Washington is that Kim Jong-Un, the pudgy, Swiss-schooled son and heir of North Korean strongman Kim Jong-Il, needs to establish credibility with the military and focus them on the enemy to the south while he replaces some senior generals with his own cronies. A related theory holds that the elder Kim, having twice failed to win a massive injection of Chinese foreign aid, is now seeking to intimidate Seoul and Washington into giving more aid by threatening war and boasting of progress on his nuclear weapons program.
But nobody knows. The DMZ that has divided North and South since 1953 also has blocked the two sides from developing any hot line or joint measures to handle crises, the kinds of arrangements that once flourished between the West and the Soviet Union along the heavily fortified borders of the Cold War.
Even so, the United States is required under a 1953 Mutual Defense Treaty to help the Republic of Korea defend itself. On Tuesday, Morrell, speaking on MSNBC, said the United States would “honor our alliance obligations to the South.” South Korea put its military on its highest peacetime alert, but at the Pentagon, Marine Col. Dave Lapan, a spokesman, said it was “premature” to say what action, if any, the United States was considering in reaction to the shelling exchange.
A lightning strike from the North, quickly followed by a massive and powerful push through South Korea by North Korean infantry and tanks, is how the last war began in 1950. South Korea and the U.S. were woefully unprepared; among the first American units to arrive to defend South Korea was Task Force Smith, mostly untrained and poorly equipped American GIs who fought valiantly but were virtually wiped out in the North Korean onslaught.
The 28,500 U.S. troops now stationed in South Korea, along with a large and powerful South Korean military, are better prepared, according to U.S. Army Gen. Walter “Skip” Sharp, who commands U.S. and allied forces there.
A West Point armor officer who was born while his father was fighting in Korea, Sharp is charged with executing Op Plan 5027, the war-fighting blueprint that focuses immediately on destroying North Korean artillery. Those targets are already stored in U.S. and Republic of Korea (ROK) computers for instant destruction by artillery, missiles or air strikes. Radar which back-traces the trajectory of enemy artillery shells would precisely locate mobile artillery.
“The real threat in South Korea is long-range artillery that’s located right on the DMZ that can range Seoul, a city of tens of millions, so we really focus on being able to quickly take that artillery out, if it ever started,” Sharp told reporters last year. “That I’m very confident in because we work very hard on that.”
The North Korean military is huge but old and rusty, U.S. officers say, largely consisting of castoff Russian and Chinese weapons and hampered by a shortage of fuel, training and spare parts. Aside from its artillery, North Korea has invested what it can in its missiles and special operations forces — the missiles to augment artillery strikes in the opening hours of a conflict, and its commandos to punch across the DMZ to sow chaos behind the U.S.-ROK lines with sabotage and IEDs, the roadside bombs used with effect in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Op Plan 5027, rehearsed at least annually by U.S. and ROK ground, sea and air units, calls for a vigorous counterattack against North Korean artillery, air bases and the 700,000 troops and 2,000 tanks stationed near the DMZ. The plan, refined constantly since the 1970s, also identifies the units and sequenced movement of U.S. reinforcements as they are needed.
U.S. air power, including B-1 bombers, would play a critical role in attacking the North’s artillery and missile sites in the opening hours of a conflict. Should North Korean armor succeed in breaking through the DMZ, the tanks would have to squeeze through narrow mountain valleys where they’d be vulnerable to air strikes. In addition, South Korean highway overpasses are designed to be blown up and dropped, the rubble blocking the roadway, in case of invasion…
ABC News’ Luis Martinez:
The aircraft carrier USS George Washington and four other U.S. Navy ships will participate in just announced military exercises with South Korea this weekend as part of the United States’ response to North Korea’s deadly artillery barrage of a South Korean island that has triggered an international crisis.
The exercise will be held in the Yellow Sea, west of the Korean Peninsula.
Late Tuesday night, the White House announced that as part of President Obama’s phone conversation with South Korean President Lee, both presidents “agreed to hold combined military exercises and enhanced training in the days ahead to continue the close security cooperation between our two countries, and to underscore the strength of our Alliance and commitment to peace and security in the region.”
A statement from the Navy’s Seventh Fleet says the USS George Washington strike group will join with South Korean naval forces in the Yellow Sea for a joint exercise that will begin this Sunday and last through Dec. 1.
In addition to the carrier, the cruisers USS Cowpens and USS Shiloh and the destroyers USS Stethem and USS Fitzgerald will also participate in the exercise.
The statement makes the point that the exercise is “defensive in nature” and “while planned well before yesterday’s unprovoked artillery attack, it demonstrates the strength of the ROK-U.S. Alliance and our commitment to regional stability through deterrence. It is also designed to improve our military interoperability.”
The U.S. and South Korean forces will conduct air defense and surface warfare readiness training.
The intent to hold a carrier exercise off the western coast of the Korean Peninsula was first announced in July in the wake of North Korea’s sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan. It was to do be part of a series of ongoing joint exercises intended to show North Korea the strength of the US-South Korean security alliance.
However, after China expressed concerns about holding an exercise in the Yellow Sea, plans were adjusted and a “show of force” exercise was held off the eastern Sea of Japan.
U.S. officials said plans still called for an exercise in the Yellow Sea, though they had yet to be announced until today.
The carrier left its homeport of Yokosuka, Japan on Wednesday morning as part of a previously scheduled departure. The carrier will now adjust its plans and make its way to the waters off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula for this weekend’s exercise.
The United States engaged in the decolonization of Korea (mainly in the South, with the Soviet Union engaged in North Korea) from Japan after World War II. After three years of military administration by the United States, the South Korean government was established.
Upon the onset of the Korean War, U.S. forces were sent to defend South Korea against invasion by North Korea and later China. Following the ceasefire, South Korea and the U.S. agreed to a “Mutual Defense Treaty”, under which an attack on either party in the Pacific area would summon a response from both. In 1967, South Korea obliged the mutual defense treaty, by sending a large combat troop contingent to support the United States in the Vietnam War.
The U.S. Eighth Army, Seventh Air Force, and U.S. Naval Forces Korea are stationed in South Korea. The two nations have strong economic, diplomatic, and military ties, although they have at times disagreed with regard to policies towards North Korea, and with regard to some of South Korea’s industrial activities that involve usage of rocket or nuclear technology. There had also been strong anti-American sentiment during certain periods, which has largely moderated in the modern day.
In 2007, a free trade agreement known as the Republic of Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) was reportedly signed between South Korea and the United States, but its formal implementation has been repeatedly delayed, pending further approval by the legislative bodies of the two countries.
A long history of invasions by neighbors and the unresolved tension with North Korea have prompted South Korea to allocate 2.6% of its GDP and 15% of all government spending to its military, while maintaining compulsory conscription for men. Consequently, South Korea has the world’s sixth largest number of active troops, the world’s second-largest number of reserve troops and the eleventh largest defense budget. The Republic of Korea, with a regular military force numbering 3.7 million regular personnel among a total national population of 50 million people, has the second highest number of soldiers per capita in the world, after the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The South Korean military consists of the Army (ROKA), the Navy (ROKN), the Air Force (ROKAF), and the Marine Corps (ROKMC), and reserve forces. Many of these forces are concentrated near the Korean Demilitarized Zone. All South Korean males are constitutionally required to serve in the military, typically for a period of two years. Previously, Koreans of mixed race were exempt from military duty if they “look distinctively biracial”, but such policy is potentially up for abolition pending further review by the Ministry of Defence.
In addition to male conscription in South Korea’s sovereign military, 1000 Korean males are selected every year to serve two years in the KATUSA Program to further augment the USFK. In 2010, South Korea was spending ₩1.68 trillion in a cost-sharing agreement with the US to provide budgetary support to the US forces in Korea, on top the ₩29.6 trillion budget for its own military.
The South Korean army has 2,500 tanks in operation, including the K1A1 and K2 Black Panther, which form the backbone of the South Korean army’s mechanized armor and infantry forces. A sizable arsenal of many artillery systems, including 1,700 self-propelled K55 and K9 Thunder howitzers, and 680 helicopters and UAVs of numerous types, are assembled to provide additional fire, reconnaissance, and logistics support. South Korea’s smaller but more advanced artillery force and wide range of airborne reconnaissance platforms are pivotal in the counter-battery suppression of North Korea’s over-sized artillery force, which operates more than 13,000 artillery systems deployed in various state of fortification and mobility.
The South Korean navy has made its first major transformation into a blue-water navy through the formation of the Strategic Mobile Fleet, which includes a battle group of Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin class destroyers, Dokdo class amphibious assault ship, AIP-driven Type 214 submarines, and King Sejong the Great class destroyers, which is equipped with the latest baseline of Aegis fleet-defense system that allows the ships to track and destroy multiple cruise missiles and ballistic missiles simultaneously, forming an integral part of South Korea’s indigenous missile defense umbrella against the North Korean military’s missile threat.
The South Korean air force operates 840 aircraft, making it world’s ninth largest air force, including several types of advanced fighters like F-15K, heavily modified KF-16C/D, and the indigenous F/A-50, supported by well-maintained fleets of older fighters such as F-4E and KF-5E/F that still effectively serve the air force alongside the more modern aircraft. In an attempt to gain strength in terms of not just numbers but also modernity, the commissioning of four Boeing 737 AEW&C aircraft, under Project Peace Eye for centralized intelligence gathering and analysis on a modern battlefield, will enhance the fighters’ and other support aircraft’s ability to perform their missions with awareness and precision.
From time to time, South Korea has sent its troops overseas to assist American forces. It has participated in most major conflicts that the United States has been involved in the past 50 years. South Korea dispatched 325,517 troops to fight alongside American, Australian, Filipino, New Zealand and South Vietnamese soldiers in the Vietnam War, with a peak strength of 50,000. In 2004, South Korea sent 3,300 troops of the Zaytun Division to help re-building in northern Iraq, and was the third largest contributor in the coalition forces after only the US and Britain. Beginning in 2001, South Korea had so far deployed 24,000 troops in the Middle East region to support the War on Terrorism. A further 1,800 were deployed since 2007 to reinforce UN peacekeeping forces in Lebanon.
The United States has stationed a substantial contingent of troops in South Korea since the Korean War to defend South Korea in case of East Asian military crises. There are approximately 28,500 U.S. Military personnel stationed in Korea, most of them serving one year of unaccompanied tours. The American troops, which primarily are assigned to the Eighth United States Army are stationed in installations at Osan, Yongsan, Dongducheon, Sungbuk, and Daegu.
A still functioning UN Command is technically the top of the chain of command of all forces in South Korea, including the US forces and the entire South Korean military – if a sudden escalation of war between North and South Korea were to occur, as of currently, the United States would assume control of the South Korean armed forces in all military and paramilitary moves.
However, in September 2006, the Presidents of the United States and the Republic of Korea agreed that South Korea should assume the lead for its own defense. In early 2007, the U.S. Secretary of Defense and ROK Minister of National Defense determined that South Korea will assume wartime operational control of its forces on April 17, 2012. U.S. Forces Korea will transform into a new joint-warfighting command, provisionally described as Korea Command (KORCOM).
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Photo Credits: Donga
Updates: Added JoongAng Daily article w/graphics – end