By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
Unless these dogs are high on methamphetamines, the footage has clearly been manipulated, sped up as they launch over walls and through half-lit rings of fire moving at herculean speeds. As the handlers shout and make angry gestures, the dogs pounce on paper likenesses of South Korea's defense minister, Kim Kwan-jin (NoKo's "Enemy No. 1"). Tactically speaking, these dogs -- of which there appear to be only five or six -- have all the precision and training of a rabid mob. I suppose that might be frightening in its own right, but it would be a mistake to assume a military dog is a super threat just because he/she is savage. The really "dangerous" dogs are the ones who are impeccably controlled by their handlers.
So, who should be afraid of North Korea's war dogs? Probably no one.
I sent the clip over to a career dog handler over at the USAF Academy, Kennel Master Chris Jakubin, who after viewing the footage of NoKo's dogs attacking stuffed mannequins said it had the intimidating power of a Benny Hill skit. All it needs, he said, is the music.
I always read the Pentagon casualty notices and MIA notices. This one jumped out at me yesterday, as it would to anyone familiar with the history of the Chosin Reservoir campaign.
Lt. Col. Don Faith, Jr. was the unfortunate leader of one of the biggest disasters in American military history, taking over command of the Army regiment on the east side of Chosin after the commander of the 31st Infantry Regiment was killed and the other two battalion commanders were badly wounded. The regiment, badly outnumbered and hampered by inept general officers, suffered a 90 percent casualty rate. Its colors now are displayed in Beijing, I am told.
However, the sacrifice of the Army regiment bought much-needed time for the Marine division consolidating on the west side of the reservoir.
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that a serviceman, who was unaccounted-for from the Korean War, has been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Lt. Col. Don C. Faith Jr. of Washington, Ind., will be buried April 17, in Arlington National Cemetery. Faith was a veteran of World War II and went on to serve in the Korean War. In late 1950, Faith's 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, which was attached to the 31st Regimental Combat Team (RCT), was advancing along the eastern side of the Chosin Reservoir, in North Korea. From Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, 1950, the Chinese People's Volunteer Forces (CPVF) encircled and attempted to overrun the U.S. position. During this series of attacks, Faith's commander went missing, and Faith assumed command of the 31st RCT. As the battle continued, the 31st RCT, which came to be known as "Task Force Faith," was forced to withdraw south along Route 5 to a more defensible position. During the withdrawal, Faith continuously rallied his troops, and personally led an assault on a CPVF position.
Records compiled after the battle of the Chosin Reservoir, to include eyewitness reports from survivors of the battle, indicated that Faith was seriously injured by shrapnel on Dec. 1, 1950, and subsequently died from those injuries on Dec. 2, 1950. His body was not recovered by U.S. forces at that time. Faith was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor -- the United States' highest military honor -- for personal acts of exceptional valor during the battle.
In 2004, a joint U.S. and Democratic People's Republic of North Korea (D.P.R.K) team surveyed the area where Faith was last seen. His remains were located and returned to the U.S. for identification.
To identify Faith's remains, scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) used circumstantial evidence, compiled by DPMO and JPAC researchers, and forensic identification tools, such as dental comparison. They also used mitochondrial DNA -- which matched Faith's brother.
By Lt. Gen. John H. Cushman, U.S. Army (Ret.)
Best Defense guest columnist
This is what the president should say:
Organs of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea have recently made announcements of that nation's readiness to attack with long range weapons targets of the United States.
It is time for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to cease such behavior and to join the community of nations.
The United States has no intention to attack the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
If under any pretext the Democratic People's Republic of Korea attacks the United States, we will respond with devastating might. Their nation will be a wasteland.
Leaders of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea have built military weaponry that can serve no useful purpose.
I repeat, it is time for them to cease such behavior and to join the community of nations.
End of conference
General Cushman commanded the 101st Airborne Division, the Army Combined Arms Center, and the ROK/US field army defending Korea's Western Sector. He served three tours in Vietnam. He also is author of Command and Control of Theater Forces: The Korea Command and Other Cases (1986).
Word arrives from across the wide Pacific that the Chinese military conducted a bridge placement exercise at a Yalu River crossing, a hand grenade's throw from North Korea.
This article speculates that this is a move that signals that the Chinese are worried about refugee flows should Lil Kim's regime collapse. They'd need to bridge to insert troops to create a buffer zone along the border. And maybe also quietly collect those nukes (which is a mission I would support -- better they have them than some nut in NoKo).
Speaking of NoKo, a friend asks how FP can rank it 21st on the list of most failing states. He thinks it should be much higher. I suspect he is correct.
Looking at this propaganda leaflet from the Korean War (telling North Koreans their leaders were living well while they starved) at how much the young Kim Il Sung looked like his grandson, Kim Jong Un, the new kid on the communist monarchy's block. Except grandpa's eyes were much harder.
Meanwhile, today is Kim Jong Il's birthday.
By Joseph Natividad
Best Defense Pyongyang deputy bureau chief
An English literature professor from Southern California by day and a
world-class magician by night, Dale Salwak holds the distinction of being the
only American invited to perform his act in North Korea. At SAIS recently,
Salwak chronicled his experiences in Pyongyang in 2009 and this past April for
the Grand Magic Show, the largest ever in the country's history. His
perspective on North Korea offered a look beyond stereotypes of a totalitarian
system, mass famine, and nuclear proliferation, and focused instead on magic as
a great leveler which emphasized entertainment value before political
differences between two countries.
--Magic, as a trade, is taken very seriously in North Korea. Similar in structure to the Chinese system, admission into its exclusive society is followed by a father-son bond of lifelong apprenticeship. Isolated from the West and having limited or no access to DVDs, books and the Internet, North Korean magicians have devised their own methods to magic that have long been known to performers like Salwak. A typical range of acts includes balancing telephones on handkerchiefs and life-sized dolls performing choreographed dance routines to traditional music. The local performers Salwak encountered on his trips cherished every new trick acquired and pleaded with him to share current "world trends" on magic.
--The culmination of Kim Jong Il's investment in the arts took place this past April at the Grand Magic Show, a tribute to the late Kim Il Sung. Like his father, Kim Jong Il appears to hold a great interest in magic and the circus, dating back to the country's early history of Soviet influence. In a place where high-tech entertainment is hard to come by, the Grand Magic Show dazzled a crowd of 150,000 at May Day Stadium, which is the site of the Arirang Games, an annual two-month-long gymnastics festival also in honor of Kim Il Sung. As a spectator at the Grand Magic Show, Salwak watched as the country's most famous magician, Kim Chol, appeared in a cloud of smoke and fireworks, forcing a bus full of giddy local residents to levitate several feet above the ground, and later, make a horse, an elephant and a helicopter materialize out of thin air. What would have otherwise invoked a roaring response from a typical American audience, the crowd respectfully cheered with subdued, tepid applause.
SHAUN TANDON/AFP/Getty Images
That seems a bit extreme, even for Pyongyang. But a South Korean press quotes a South Korean government source as saying that:
"Thirty people have been confirmed to have died or gone missing until recently. About 10 partners of inter-Korean talks with the South were executed by firing and about 20 others were said to have died in traffic accidents."
"As of now, the North has no partners to talk with the South. There will likely be major change in inter-Korean relations."
(HT to D "House" M)
1. North Korea, complete arseholes -- even the Chinese have outgrown them.
2. Russia, a whole country run like The Sopranos only with less charm and public spiritedness.
3. Iran, such manifest dips***s that even their neighbours want them dead.
Ok, the ban is back on now.
Essargee - Office of Government Reports/U.S. National Archive
I think it is pretty clear that the NoKos aren't going to change their behavior unless compelled to do so. So I was struck by this quick note from an expert that laid out some possible steps to do just that.
By Dean Cheng
Best Defense guest columnist
I think there are a range of actions that could be taken, if there were the fortitude to do so.Dean Cheng is a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation for Chinese political and security affairs.
On the military side, a steady stream of exercises on Korea's east and west coasts, to tie down NK forces, force them to maintain them at a high alert, and prevent them from going into the countryside to help with the spring planting and/or dealing w/ natural disasters.
Deployment of UAV detachments and other advanced capabilities into the Korean peninsula, again, to maintain the pressure, and be able to respond promptly to the next North Korean provocation.
On the non-military side, clamping down on Department 39 activities throughout the region and globally. Pressuring banks that deal w/ the NKs to cease and desist. (The Chinese, who are loath to do much on the NK peninsula directly, WERE willing to cooperate against the Banco Delta Asia group when the US gave them the stark choice of US or NK business.) We should increase efforts to get all the UN P-5 guys (especially the PRC) to live up to the UN sanctions that THEY HAVE ALL AGREED UPON to impose since NK is still pursuing nuclear and missile efforts.
Raising the issue of NK with both Chinese PLA officers during the Gates visit (and stopping the delusional idea that the PLA is somehow divorced or apart from the CCP on such issues), and with President Hu Jintao during the Hu state visit to the US. Making it clear that the US will both NOT be bullied out of the Yellow Sea (the gyrations about the George Washington battlegroup are, frankly, shameful and unworthy of the US as a major power) AND will stand by its ROK ally.
And that's just the first set of steps …
I personally think we should ignore North Korea to the degree possible, and respond only indirectly, at times and places of our choosing. Like just freezing the regime's personal accounts whenever they are detected. Or quietly messing up luxury goods being shipped to North Korea.
Here's a take of one of my CNAS colleagues.
By Bailey Culp
Best Defense East Asian provocations deputy bureau chief
Things are certainly heating up on the Korean peninsula. Just yesterday, it was reported that North Korea had killed two South Korean soldiers and wounded three civilians after firing artillery rounds onto Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea. This provocation comes a few days after the revelation of a modern nuclear enrichment facility and only a few months after the sinking of the Cheonan, when North Korea is reliably reported to have torpedoed a South Korean naval vessel and killed 46 sailors.
As it happens, on Monday I strolled over to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to see what the illuminati were thinking about NoKo. The discussion began with an analysis regarding North Korea's recent nuclear development, publicized in a report by scientist and Stanford professor Siegfried S. Hecker, who visited Yongbyon Nuclear Complex earlier this month. According to one panelist, this news "confirms our worst suspicions." Nevertheless, while it comes as a surprise that the facilities are much more sophisticated than we expected, it is no surprise the North Koreans were seeking to advance their nuclear capabilities and have improved upon existing infrastructure.
Bottom line is that North Korea seeks survival as its core interest, but we don't know quite what the regime is willing to do to achieve survival. Recent provocations help gauge the levels of vulnerability felt by the North Korean regime and are indicative of how far the regime will go.
Ultimately, the United States is going to have to accept North Korea for what it is, a small, troublesome possessor of nuclear weapons, rather than what we want it to be -- a denuclearized, internationally compliant nation. This does not mean the recent actions of North Korea will be excused or that neighboring countries will acquiesce to its continued provocations. It is difficult to take the offensive with a regime so shrouded and unpredictable, and that has nothing to lose and everything to gain, so it is likely the international community will remain on the defensive, seeking to contain this mess until it eventually, sooner or probably later, somehow collapses.
Finally, I'm ending my Week of General Shelton Posts with a couple of things in his memoirs that struck me as revelatory. Which is only to say that I hadn't heard about them before, and for 17 years I covered this stuff full-time.
First, he reports, a bit mysteriously, that late in the Clinton administration, the president's authorization codes to use nuclear weapons strike were lost. He doesn't really explain what happened or who knew about it, except that the guy who was supposed to make sure once a month that an aide to the president had the codes kept getting the runaround, and putting up with it. It turned out that an aide to the president had misplaced the codes, and had no idea where they were. The situation only came to light when it was time to collect the old codes and replace them with new ones, and the aide apparently confessed. Shelton tells the story a bit oddly -- I had to read this section a few times. I am guessing that the story is about the nuclear "football" that a military aide carries. It made me wonder what happened to that aide. Also, what would have happened if the president had decided to launch a nuclear strike? (392-393)
Second, Shelton reports that when he was chief of the Special Operations Command before becoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs in 1997, the CIA learned that a ship was coming out of North Korea carrying "an illegal weapon." (He isn't more specific, but I am guessing it is some sort of missile or missile-related technology.) And the ship was going to pass through the Panama Canal. So, he says, part of SEAL Team Six went in and was able to "'immobilize' in a special way without leaving a trace." (279) I was glad to hear this -- you always hope that this is the sort of thing Special Operators do, but obviously you never hear much about it. In fact, I was sort of surprised that Shelton felt able to disclose it. But keep it in mind the next time an Iranian missile launch mysteriously fails. Hmmm…
If you buy the book, I'd advise starting about halfway through. Every quotation I have used from the book this week has come after page 250.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
For a long time I have been content to let North Korea slowly implode on its own timetable. But if they are going to get all hostile and sink other nation's ships, maybe it is time to put them on 24-hour lockdown. Or maybe the French could just start greenpeacing NoKo ships in random world ports, especially ones carrying luxury goods for the Korean monarchy.
Update: It looks like my theory will be tested somewhat, as North Korea just announced that it severing all ties to South Korea, and the SoKos are saying NoKo ships can't transit their waters. If the NoKos are really frisky, they may even lob something at a U.S. warship.
It looks like the crazy NoKos did indeed sink the South Korean ship, killing 46 sailors. Anyone have a good idea how Seoul should respond to this? I wonder if a year-long international ban on all North Korean ship traffic, including merchant ships, might be the way to go.
HONG JIN-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images
John Byron, our chief contrarian correspondent, recently wrote about stopping what he sees as the runaway military welfare train. The North Korean navy recently has provided an counter-example of what happens when a military is starved for support. North Korean patrol ships are getting pushy in contested waters, apparently because the crab season is about to begin, and (according to proven provider John McCreary) Pyongyang's military mariners survive in part by crabbing and so in late spring start laying claim to crustacean-rich waters. I have this image in my head of the USS Harry S Truman cruising the Med with seine nets out.
US Army Korea - IMCOM/ via flickr
By Daniel Saraceno
Best Defense deputy chief, worrisome Korean incidents bureau
Panel discussions over hot button issues often devolve to polarized extremes, though sometimes offering that special moment where you realize all is not lost in the world of politics and reason. Such was the case at last week's "what if?" session at the Korea Economic Institute, which focused on regional reactions if North Korea were to be definitively blamed for the destruction of the 1,200-ton South Korean naval corvette Cheonan and the death of 46 sailors. By the way, North Korean culpability is a possibility which for 80% of South Koreans is an unquestionable fact, according to the panel.
Surely this topic would promise to elicit worst-case Apocalyptic scenarios of retaliation, Taepodong nuclear strikes, four horsemen and the obligatory nod to the Mayans for getting it right in regards to 2012 -- the date which North Korea has been looking forward to as the 100th birthday of its Great Leader Kim Il Song. Or so I thought.
I've been around the block enough to have seen predictions of a North Korean collapse come and go. But this comment from proven provider John McCreary got my attention:
During the weekend, foreign diplomats, accredited in Pyongyang, claimed that large spontaneous rallies protesting the currency devaluation and replacement have been breaking out in the North Korean capital and other major cities. The Army has been put on a heightened state of alert in case of mass acts of disobedience.
I'm interested that in all the e-mails I've gotten, and responses posted on this blog about triple-dipping retired generals getting paid to "mentor" the active duty military while at the same time working in the defense industry, and also collecting their pensions, not a single person has contended that, yes, George Marshall would approve of this behavior. As a friend of mine says, this is a good gut-check: WWGMD?
Also, another friend points out that one of the dangers of this whole "mentoring" this is that if you are not careful, you wind up bringing in people who simply reinforce existing prejudices, instead of challenging them. For example, just how well mentored was Gen. Tommy R. Franks in his mishandling of Afghanistan in 2001-02 and then in his bungled invasion of Iraq in 2003? (And while we're on the subject of money, who remembers that Franks charged a group $100,000 to help them raise money for wounded vets -- and that it later turned out that the group only delivered 25 percent of its funds to its supposed beneficiaries?) WWGMD?
Department of Defense
My item on the bad blood between our ambassador in Iraq, Christopher Hill, and our top officer there, Gen. Raymond Odierno, provoked some interesting comments and e-mails, especially from those who encountered him on Korean issues.
This is one that was posted by Joel Wit, a longtime Korea expert who, according to his bio, "served as senior advisor to Ambassador Robert L. Galluci from 1993-1995, where he developed strategies to help resolve the crisis over North Korea's weapons program, and as Coordinator for the U.S.-North Korea's weapons program and as Coordinator for the U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework from 1995-1999, where he was the official in charge of implementation":
As someone who follows Iraq only as closely as any foreign-policy generalist but who specializes in North Korea, I can tell you none of us would be surprised by the problems between Chris Hill and the U.S. military in that country. When he worked on North Korea issues at the end of the Bush administration, Hill was not willing to listen to anyone who knew the issues and had his own little team of groupies who worshipped the ground he walked on (or at least pretended to). While there are a number of reasons why we are in trouble with the North today, not the least of which is the North Koreans themselves, Hill wouldn't listen to experts or anyone else about how to deal with a country that he knew nothing about. Sounds like he is repeating his performance in Iraq. Lets hope the consequences arent as bad.
And this is a story I recieved by e-mail from someone in Washington intimately familiar with all this:
During the NK talks, he supposedly coached the North Koreans on what answers to give, so then he could go back and tell Washington they said the right language. The technique finally blew up at the end when he told Bush that if the president took them off the terror list they would agree to a verification plan. He had none of this in writing but Bush and Condi agreed -- and then when the U.S. went back to North Korea, they denied they had ever agreed to what Hill said they had agreed to.
I have been told that the Obama folks, once they looked at the negotiating record on North Korea (after Hill was off to Iraq), they were absolutely appalled at what they discovered.
Meanwhile, Hill is telling people that he’s never met me. I guess he doesn’t remember a conversation we had in his office in the embassy in Skopje, Macedonia, in the late '90s.
Finally, Lady Emma Sky, the always-interesting political advisor to General Odierno, surfaces to report that she has "smacked [Tom Ricks's] bottom and told me I was totally wrong in my portrayal of the relationship of these two people."
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
I said I was gonna ignore North Korea, and I still intend to. But I was struck by this comment by proven provider John McCreary in his NightWatch:
During the past 40 years North Korean leaders have been blustery but fundamentally risk averse. They have done nothing that would risk the total destruction of their state -- which means Pyongyang for all practical and symbolic purposes -- until now.... The actions in the past two days represent risk accepting behavior, defiance bordering on recklessness. This behavior began shortly after Kim Chong-il's stroke in August 2008. If Kim is ordering these actions, he has had a personality change, which can occur if dementia follows a stroke, according to medical authorities."
The surprise of 2009 may be the collapse of North Korea. I know this has been predicted before, including by me, but smart guys I know are saying it more. "Once we see the loss of military coherency and the ability of the Kim Family Regime to have central governing effectiveness we are likely to see regime collapse," comments an old friend who is an Army officer.
Of course, there's also Cuba. Which ancien regime goes first?
Why does North Korea remind me of Dick Cheney? I think it is because I wish that both would just go away, and also because the best way to deal them is to ignore them.
Here's a link to a guess on what Cheney is up to with his fear-mongering. I think trying to stave off the inevitable is a losing game. I would like everything to come out in a Truth & Reconciliation Commission. But if it doesn't, I think it will leak out over the years with a steady dribble of memoirs, lawsuits and incriminating documents surfacing. And there is a poetic justice in that sort of water torture.
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Besides what I saw in Team America, I don't know much about North Korea -- since 9/11, I've been busy elsewhere. But people who do keep an eye on Pyongyang are raising eyebrows over the noises out of there this morning. John McCreary's NightWatch is alarmed by the regime's demand in a party newspaper for support from its people. "When a Communist Party organ – Rodong Sinmun is the mouthpiece of the Korean Workers' Party – makes an appeal to the people to support the regime, that signifies an existential threat," McCreary, a veteran DIA analyst, observes. Stay tuned. This might surpass Pakistan as Obama's first crisis.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.