Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yeonpyeong - Navy Notes 24 Hours Later

As of this post it has been 24 hours since the artillery shells were fired by North Korea onto the island of Yeonpyeong. Noteworthy developments:

The USS George Washington (CVN 73) and escorts have deployed from Japan. Interesting to note, there were some Japanese Navy vessels deployed over the last 24 hours as well. As you might imagine, the ports in South Korea are largely empty as a great deal of the South Korean Navy has put to sea.

There are no solid numbers, but some news organizations are reporting well over 50 major warships from the United States, Japan, and South Korea currently moving towards the maritime regions surrounding the Korean Peninsula. This would constitute the largest assembly of international naval firefare since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. I'm sure China is pleased to see this massive armada on their lawn.

Asahi Shimbun (Japanese media) is now reporting there were 5 North Korean Mig-23s seen on the North Korean side of the border just prior to artillery fire began, and South Korea was tracking them on the South Korean side with F-15s. Neither the Migs nor F-15s apparently crossed their respective border, nor were involved in the battle at Yeonpyeong island.

There appear to be a few security holes somewhere in the US National Security information loop, because very credible sources have reported the first US ISR on the scene over Yeonpyeong was UAVs launched from the USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23). While I appreciate the idea that leaking submarine activity might be part of a well orchestrated information campaign against North Korea (North Korea couldn't detect the USS Jimmy Carter short of using a minefield, even if they used every sonar in their entire inventory), I don't think that is actually the reason for the leak.

Inside the loop, information has become nearly impossible as things have gone dark across the Pacific all the way to Diego Garcia, but from talking to civilians today there was a lot of praise for PACOM and specifically ADM Willard, who according to my sources was the first major player among all the players engaged in the events unfolding. There was also quite a bit of good things said all the way around about 7th Fleet today.

The background for the photo in this blog post can be found here.

I do not rule out the use of military power in response to this attack, but do not expect it. If so it will come from South Korea. I think the US will do exactly what they did following the Cheonan attack - shift the pressure China. I think it is pretty clear the inability of China to address North Korean following the Cheonan incident cost China considerable credibility in the region this year. In this case, things are less ambiguous in the public, so China will either step up or be discredited by virtually every nation in the region as irresponsible and unworthy of being a regional leader.

The problem with this approach is the US could turn this into a US-China political game, and South Korea may not see that approach as being in their best interest. I don't think that means they take military action, but there were South Korean homes burning on TV from a military attack from the North all day yesterday. Doing nothing in the eyes of the public is less risky a political response as doing something, although we won't know the cost of doing nothing until the markets close.

As always, the North might do something stupid. One would think not, but I wouldn't have believed they would shell a neighborhood either had you asked me yesterday. Apparently they really will do anything given the time and space - and that's the tough issue. For the record, the crop this year in North Korea was reported to be a disaster, so North Korea is in need of food aid this winter.

blog comments powered by Disqus

site stats