An Alliance? U.S. & Korea U.S. Military Uncategorized WMD

The Death of an Alliance, Part 60

The United States and its allies are moving forward with active naval operations  to contain the North Korean proliferation threat.   The strikingly odd thing about this is that South Korea isn’t going to be one of them.  Here is a list of nations with which the United States has more diplomatic and military synergy today than with South Korea:  Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Australia, … and France.  I guess you’re officially no longer  a U.S. ally when the United States has closer military cooperation with France than it has with your country.   The Americans weren’t exactly surprised  by this, either.

Washington has been actively pushing the PSI itself, which grants more sweeping inspection authority and, through bilateral agreements, allows interdiction in the high seas. Support by Seoul and Beijing is deemed crucial because of their shared borders with Pyongyang. A large portion of the North Korea-bound overland shipments are processed through China.

Two U.S. undersecretaries of state made a trip to Asia, including Seoul, earlier this month, and PSI cooperation was on their agendas.

Michael Green, former Asia director at the National Security Council, said he was “disappointed but not surprised” by Seoul’s decision, predicting it would only isolate South Korea from the rest of the international community.

“All the other parties are all putting sticks on the table in addition to carrots, but by not willing to put sticks on the table, the ROK doesn’t come to this discussion with a sufficient tool kit to shape the process and lead in the international effort to peacefully end the North Korean nuclear weapons program,” he told Yonhap.


The PSI does not “desperately” require Seoul’s participation to be successful, said Green, now senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“I don’t think the approach to North Korea will fail because of this.  I don’t think PSI will fail.”

“I just think it’s unfortunate from the perspective of increasing South Korea’s influence and role in the diplomacy,” he said.

As previously, the diplomatic and military benefits of maintaining a large U.S. ground component in South Korea completely escapes me.  Can anyone still make a defensible claim that South Korea really is an ally of the United States?  Can anyone name a single tangible military or diplomatic benefit South Korea has contributed to the security of the United States within the last decade?

See also The Marmot, who points out that certifiable nutcase Kim Won-Ung  has been  leading the Korean equivalent of the House International Relations Committee since June.  Sheesh.


  1. (pop quiz)

    There is only one kind of shipment that we would be able to interdict in this way, but its an important kind. Can any of you name the historical incident which makes this kind of interdiction important? (what we would be hoping to stop, in particular)


  2. I dispute the premise of your question. There are many kinds of shipment we can interdict. First, relook the text of 1718, here:

    The clause on indiction reads as follows:

    in order to ensure compliance with the requirements of this paragraph, and thereby preventing illicit trafficking in nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, their means of delivery and related materials, all Member States are called upon to take, in accordance with their national authorities and legislation, and consistent with international law, cooperative action including through inspection of cargo to and from the DPRK, as necessary;

    “This paragraph” then lists a wide range of items North Korea can’t trade in: missiles, battle tanks, combat aircraft, WMD components, listed “luxury items,” etc. Clearly, inspection may be initiated to interdict those items.

    And what if the ship is carrying dope, rhino horn, or counterfeit cigarettes? Well, if you guessed that we simply let them go, you guessed wrong. It’s the same if the cops get a warrant to search your house for dope and find bazookas instead. If they’re legitimately on the premises, it’s fair game.

    What about simply searching for dope? I’d respond that that authority was already there, even without 1718. Go back to the example of the Pong Su, which carried a load of smack to Australia. Nations that suspect drug smuggling to their territory, or under whose flags ships sail, can always arrange permission to search suspect ships on the high seas, or on arrival in port. No probable cause or search warrant is required for that, ordinarily. International treaties ban the trade in illegal drugs and counterfeit goods, so the legal basis to search for those items will already be there.

    As for the incident you refer to, I’m guessing it’s the So San, which was carrying missiles to Yemen, and which we allowed to proceed to Aden. Do I get my cookie?


  3. I can’t get riled up about something as opaque as interdiction. As they say, “What happens on the high seas, stays in the high seas”.
    For all we know, the ROK could be actively assisting navies in the region with intelligence about Nork ships. Just because they say they won’t patrol doesn’t mean they don’t. Same for the USA, I doubt we’ll be trumpetting our success or failure with a Nork ship somewhere in the Indian Ocean. I’m satisfied we are tracking and when needed boarding Nork ships.

    Of course the ROK is probably sticking another stick in our eye, but who knows?


  4. It’s true that the alliance is falling apart. But attacking Roh on PSI is different. Even with Hannara, I wonder if they would really go for PSI. If India seizes DPRK ship, then that’s just the end of the story right there–tough luck KJI. But ROK is different, because of the very fact ROK is ROK, DPRK’s sworn enemy. Even if US seizes DPRK ships, DPRK just have to live with it, but for ROK to do the very same thing CAN escalate to war.

    We are talking about Kim Jong Il’s north korea. PSI for ROK doesn’t mean stopping DPRK ships and checking what’s inside. It means actively sinking DPRK boats. To ask ROK to do PSI is a SIGNIFICANTLY different from asking them to stop Geumgang or Gaesung. I would like to remind you that ROK and DPRK had a shoot out because DPRK soldiers wanted to go blue crab fishing.

    Of course, I can understant why whitehouse would get pissed off since Roh did absolutely nothing after DPRK popped the bomb. Geumgang really had to go.


  5. I just wanted to add that KJI decided to extend his life span by going with a Military First policy. If ROK sailors start shooting and killing DRPK sailors and KJI doesn’t act–lots of his generals are going to question whether KJI is really serious about Military First. KJI isn’t in a position to make the people who is keeping him alive unhappy.


  6. Josh,

    I’m sorry, I wasn’t clear.. what I meant was that there was an important kind of shipment (missiles, as in complete missile factories) that we needed to intercept, that was too big to go through China, or on a plane.. (which is I’m sure how , they send other, smaller shipments of things like drugs, counterfeit money, etc, that they don’t want to be interdicted..)

    I wasn’t saying that they don’t send those other things, just that they would not be dumb enough to send them by boat..

    But the missile factories are too big to fly.. Like the one intercepted a few years ago, remember?


  7. Actually, it amazes me that the international community lets North Korean ships dock anywhere, go anywhere, given the situation. The only explanation is that they **DON’T REALIZE** HOW EVERY NORTH KOREAN ‘COMPANY’ IS ACTUALLY A PART OF THE ‘GOVERNMENT’.

    And that the sailors on these ships are in essence, hostages, because all of their family members would be killed if they defected.. so they are not going to volunteer to defect… in all probability..

    The entire Stalinist situation in North Korea is such a throwback to the distant past that most people like us can’t even comprehend it.. its too weird.. too cruel..



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