I would now like to call your attention to Seoul plotted a course through crisis by Andrei Lankov at Asia Times Online, dated May 25, 2010. In it, the author makes the point that South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak was handed a lose-lose situation. Essentially, military retaliation would serve no international purpose, as, even if successful and without losses to South Korea, Pyongyang would still be able to deny losses to its own people, and paint Seoul (and the US) as the aggressors. On the other hand, there would be domestic pressure on President Lee for some kind of reaction; anything Lee did would weaken his hand domestically in the run-up to elections in June. [These elections are for mayors, governors and such - kind of a combination between off-year and odd-year elections in the US.] Lankov makes the case that President Lee is in fact maneuvering quite adeptly in this political situation; though he might not emerge as the winner, Lee could at least emerge as the survivor. Please read Seoul plotted a course through crisis for yourself, as my synopsis does not do it justice.
Meanwhile, though, how goes the crisis beyond Seoul? From DPRK decides to sever all inter-Korean relations, dated May 25, 2010:
PYONGYANG, May 25 (Xinhua) -- A spokesman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea announced on Tuesday the Democratic People's Republic of Korea will sever all the relations with South Korea, the official KCNA news agency reported.
The DPRK decided to take "resolute measures" to totally freeze the inter-Korean relations, abrogate the agreement on non-aggression between the two sides and completely halt the inter-Korean cooperation, the spokesman said in a statement.
Among the eight measures to be taken at the first phase, all the relations with South Korea will be cut off, and the work of the Panmunjom Red Cross liaison representatives will be completely suspended, said the statement.
The South Korean personnel in the Kaesong Industrial Zone will be expelled, it added.
"The passage of South Korean ships and airliners through the territorial waters and air of north side will be totally banned," said the statement.
Big deal! North Korea sank a South Korean warship, and now they're getting away with it. This is just tit-for-tat stuff here, in reaction to the South's slightly toughened position. From ROK president gives nod to calling DPRK "main enemy", dated May 25, 2010:
SEOUL, May 25 (Xinhua) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Tuesday gave his backing to readopting the official description of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) as the "main enemy," following Seoul's public accusation of its northern rival of deliberately sinking its warship in March, local media reported.
"Our military failed to clarify the notion of the main enemy for the past decade," Lee said at a meeting with senior opinion leaders including former prime ministers and parliament speakers, according to Lee's office.
"We've been only focused on potential threats outside the Korean peninsula," he added.
The remarks come as the government is reportedly moving to revive the controversial concept of the "main enemy" in its biennial defense white paper, the first time in six years, as it concluded last week that Pyongyang was behind the sinking of the warship that killed 46 sailors.
Seoul has announced a series of punitive measures against the DPRK a day ago, which include anti-submarine drills with the United States, ban on access of DPRK vessels to South Korean waters and halt of almost all bilateral trade relations and exchanges.
But, what are they going to do about it?
At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy nut (which I already am, by the way), let's consider what the North has been saying about this. From DPRK dismisses S. Korean warship investigation as unilateral, dated May 25, 2010:
PYONGYANG, May 25 (Xinhua) -- A military commentator of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Tuesday said the investigation of the sinking of South Korean warship Cheonan was unilateral and not objective, the official KCNA news agency reported.
The investigation was "not conducted on a scientific basis," but unilaterally done to serve the purpose of South Korea, KCNA quoted the anonymous commentator as saying in an article to "disclose the truth behind the story about the north's torpedo attack on Cheonan."
"It was not objective but was based on bias and arbitrariness," he said, accusing the result of the probe as "a lie."
The commentator said the result of the investigation was "sheer fabrication," and that evidence, including "a small amount of powder ingredients," "alloy fragments" and a 1.5m-long rear part of a torpedo with letters "No. 1" written in the "writing style of the north" aroused strong doubts.
I don't for a moment suspect that North Korea is innocent. I would like to point out, though, that at first, I believed our own government's story about the Oklahoma City bombing and the 9/11 attack on the WTC - so, I can be fooled.
Having said that, what if this really is a scheme by someone in Seoul to rally everyone around the ROK flag? The Nazis faked an attack by Poland to have a pretext for invading Poland. In America, we have questions about the sinking of the USS Maine, about whether all that was possible was done to prevent the attacks on Pearl Harbor or 9/11...
(Attention President Lee: Please do not be offended. I in no way meant to compare you to Hitler, or even to America's own crooked politicians. I was merely pointing out some historical events that are known or suspected to not have happened they way we have been told by the officials of some governments.)
If this were some South Korean scheme for political purposes, with a goal of consolidating domestic political power, then the limp reaction we see from South Korea would make sense.
Of course, it makes far more sense to take it at face value: North Korea slapped the South in the face (for whatever reason), and knows they'll get away with it; the South's President Lee is maneuvering adeptly in treacherous political waters.
You know, some of what I read about the markings on that North Korean torpedo does sound a little suspicious...
Of course, who in the world would stick up for Pyongyang?
You don't have to stick up for our Dear Leader, but at least stick around for Part 3!