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North Korea Accuses South of Provoking Naval Clash

As predicted, North Korea’s account of this week’s Yellow Sea battle is jarringly at odds with what the South reports:

When the [North Korean] patrol boat was sailing back after confirming the object at about 11: 20 a group of warships of the south Korean forces chased it and perpetrated such a grave provocation as firing at it.

The patrol boat of the north side, which has been always combat-ready, lost no time to deal a prompt retaliatory blow at the provokers. Much flurried by this, the group of warships of the south Korean forces hastily took to flight to the waters of their side. [KCNA]

Today, the North is doing what it does best: issuing vague threats in stilted, unintentionally comical language. Sure, you could read the AP’s translation of it, but how much fun would that be? For the full effect, you just can’t beat the original:

The south Korean forces will be forced to pay dearly for the grave armed provocation perpetrated by them in the waters of the north side in the West Sea of Korea on November 10. This warning is served by papers Thursday in signed commentaries.

Rodong Sinmun observes: The south Korean military authorities are now making much fuss in a bid to mislead the public opinion, describing the proper measure for self-defence taken by the north against a group of warships of the south Korean forces as “the third skirmish in the West Sea.” This is like a thief crying “Stop the thief!” [….]

The artillery pieces of the KPA convinced of justice and afire with hatred are now leveled at the provokers. The south Korean military had better face up to the trend of the times and behave itself. Minju Joson urges the south Korean military authorities to stop digging their own graves, make an apology to the nation for the armed provocation and take a responsible measure against the recurrence of the similar case. [KCNA]

Duly noted.

“Our unchanged principle is no forgiveness and merciless punishment for warmongers who infringe upon our republic’s dignity and sovereignty,” said the Rodong Sinmun newspaper. It did not specify how the North would punish the South. [Washington Post, Blaine Harden]

“Warmongers will be forced to pay a costly price,” the North’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said Thursday in a commentary carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. “We never utter empty words.” [AP, Kwang-Tae Kim]

President Bush removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 11, 2008. Discuss among yourselves.

Just in case you thought North Korea had established a monopolistic supremacy in imaginative analysis, the Hankyoreh cites “experts” who warn that the Yankees (whose nearest significant naval presence is at Chinhae, on the opposite side of the country) might get involved. Reading further, however, the report only names one of the “experts,” a China expert at a place called Sungkyunkwan University. Whomever the august strategists on the Hanky’s shadow war cabinet are — my money says they’re third-year Peace Studies majors at Kwangju University — their advice is to tie the hands of the commanders. Yi Sun Shin could not be reached for comment.

chamsuri-20mm-gun-reuters-photo.JPGOther papers analyze the reasons why these “clashes” always end with North Korea towing a smoking, perforated hulk back to port. One reason is the lavish application of firepower, but another is the technology that puts steel on target:

South Korea’s 150-ton Chamsuri 325 speed boats and North Korea’s 131-ton Shanghai class patrol boats are similar in size, and there are no major differences in their armament capacities. The Chamsuri is armed with 40 mm and 20 mm cannon and 12.7 mm K-6 machine guns. The main armaments of the North Korean patrol boat are 37 mm and 25 mm cannon. But the decisive factor is the ships’ ability to deliver accurate fire.

The cannon mounted on the Chamsuri are computer-controlled and capable of delivering accurate fire even when the boats are bobbing on choppy waters. The 40 mm cannon were made by Italian arms manufacturer Breda. The 20 mm Sea Vulcan gun is capable of firing between 2,700 and 3,300 rounds per minute on its targets. In contrast, North Korea’s Shanghai class patrol boats were manufactured in the 1960s and their guns must be fired manually. That makes it difficult to focus fire on a single target while the vessels are bobbing up and down. [Chosun Ilbo]

Having spent (too) much time examining the North Korean navy in port on Google Earth, I’ve found that it consists of (a) a very small number of blue-water warships at Nampo, (b) several dozen modern patrol ships — possibly Osa class –and hovercraft, and (c) large numbers of small patrol boats in various stages of repair.

North Korea largely has a brown-water navy whose composition and deployment suggest that they’re designed to protect its two long coastlines against infiltration by lightly armed boats. It’s simply not designed for modern naval warfare. I wonder why the North’s favorite method of provocation is to pick naval skirmishes that inevitably just get its sailors killed. Boats aren’t cheap, either. Just ask any Kennedy.


  1. Perhaps the better North Korean vessels and sailors are used for smuggling “ice” and other contraband to Japan?


  2. “I wonder why the North’s favorite method of provocation is to pick naval skirmishes that inevitably just get its sailors killed.”

    Actually, I have been wondering, does anyone know if the North Korean military keeps political minders attached to commanding officers? Because if this is so, then I would think that even if the North Korean captain understands the risk of engaging a South Korean vessel, he would find it difficult to turn down a fight in which national dignity was at stake. I mean, attacking a better armed boat on the unforgiving sea is very different from taking pot shots at an unsuspecting woman tourist strolling on the beach.



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