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South Korean navy ship sinking near border with North Korea
March 26, 2010 7:59 AM   Subscribe

Reports coming through that a South Korean Navy Ship with 104 crew is currently sinking off Baengnyeong island in the Yellow Sea near the North Korean Border. No reports of casualties and causation yet to be determined. No word from the North Korean Korean Central News Agency.
posted by numberstation (41 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fuck.

.
posted by kmz at 8:01 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think I'd be hoping the sharks got to me before the North Koreans. Hope they make it back to the free world safely. And I hope there's an innocent explanation for this.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:05 AM on March 26, 2010


The BBC - which tends not to speculate - reports that it may be due to an engagement resulting in the South Korean ship being hit by a torpedo.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:05 AM on March 26, 2010


I really hope this is an accident, and I really hope the South Korean rescue mission gets there before anyone from the DPRK decides to go and "help."

ON preview: shit.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 8:06 AM on March 26, 2010


Also, from 9 hours ago:

"US Navy Commander says N. Korea's Provocation Under Watch

The head of US forces in the Pacific Admiral Robert Willard says the US has been closely observing North Korea's strengthening of its naval force in the last few weeks.
Speaking to reporters in Washington on Thursday Willard said the US is vigilant of the North's possible provocation on the West Sea but noted that it considers the resumption of the six-party nuclear talks an utmost priority.

He added the currency debacle in North Korea as well as leader Kim Jong-il's health and the succession issue are also under close watch."
posted by MuffinMan at 8:08 AM on March 26, 2010


This is not good.
posted by localhuman at 8:11 AM on March 26, 2010


Interesting.... The BBC link is currently suggesting the South Korean ship fired at an 'unidentified' ship, that may have launched a torpedo in response. I wonder why 'unidentified'...?

The first link also implies to be that the ship has already gone down.
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 8:18 AM on March 26, 2010


Damn, is it World War III already?
posted by WalterMitty at 8:19 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


As the BBC article notes, firefights between the South Korean and North Korean navies aren't exactly uncommon. If this was a battle, it's about the fourth serious one (involving fatalities) since 1999. Extremely bad, of course, and I sincerely hope that the survivors are quickly rescued, but let's not be running off to the bomb shelters just yet.
posted by Zonker at 8:23 AM on March 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


Shit.

I just watched the Fog of War the other day, and it strikes me how similar this is to what started Vietnam. Of course in that situation, it turned out that there was no torpedo, but we had responded already.

So I guess the thing to learn is not to overreact when you don't have all the facts yet.
posted by jpdoane at 8:27 AM on March 26, 2010


Zonker: Agreed as this wiki listing shows border skirmishes both on land and at sea are sporadic but almost continuous. Appears to be no immediate escalation at this time though this story is clearly going to run for some time yet.
posted by numberstation at 8:27 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, and holy fuck am I glad that Obama is president and not GW
posted by jpdoane at 8:28 AM on March 26, 2010 [10 favorites]


Damn, is it World War III already?

Actually, naval skirmishes between SK and NK have been pretty normal, although 100 sailors drowning or being captured by North Korea hasn't happened for quite some time.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:45 AM on March 26, 2010


So I guess the thing to learn is not to overreact when you don't have all the facts yet.

Yeah, and if we hadn't learned it from Vietnam, I would hope the whole "WMD's in Iraq" thing would have really reinforced the point for people paying attention.
posted by quin at 8:54 AM on March 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Reports are that 59 were rescued, the rest dead or missing.
posted by Lord_Pall at 9:07 AM on March 26, 2010


I'm following this on STRATFOR's free (non-member) alerts and they're talking about what would happen in the event of a war between the Koreas. I hope it doesn't go there.
posted by immlass at 9:21 AM on March 26, 2010


One Free Korea (which is a really good and interesting NK-related blog) says:

Assuming this is what it appears to be — a calculated North Korean attack — look for President Lee to avoid escalating a military conflict that looks increasingly like a desperate grasp from a dying regime. A more statesmanlike and more likely response would be for President Lee to simply cut off all trade with, and aid to, North Korea until Kim Jong Il apologizes for the attack.

It will be interesting to see what the United States does at this moment of need to stand by South Korea and show the North that provocations have consequences. A mealy-mouthed expression of concern from a State Department spokesman won’t do it.

posted by jamesonandwater at 9:35 AM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


.

So I guess the thing to learn is not to overreact when you don't have all the facts yet.

Yes. It's the middle of the night in Korea now, and the incident occurred four hours from the mainland, so we won't get any hard details in the West for some while. I'd wait to make any sort of diplomatic forecast.
posted by Iridic at 9:43 AM on March 26, 2010


[A few comments removed. If people could consider focusing their "I don't think this is a good post" energy on flagging rather than arguing about it in-thread, that would be helpful. There's a metatalk thread sort of on this subject right now if you want to takl about it more there. Thank you.]
posted by cortex at 10:17 AM on March 26, 2010


. for the lives lost, and a question: why would a dying regime want war? Is it just sheer lunacy? Or is it an envelope of lunacy around a rational goal?
posted by angrycat at 10:20 AM on March 26, 2010


My wife and I live in South Korea, as do my eldest daughter and her husband. We love it here, but shit like this makes us nervous.
posted by Chasuk at 10:23 AM on March 26, 2010


No word from the North Korean Korean Central News Agency.

KCNA really needs to stop using third parties in Japan and get their own server with a .kp address. Then again I guess they can't do that until Pyongyang gets its first WRT54G router -- which will undoubtedly serve the entire city, sitting there on top of someone's TV with 2-mile Ethernet cables snaking out to various ministries.
posted by crapmatic at 10:30 AM on March 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Reports are that 59 were rescued, the rest dead or missing.

Damn.
posted by delmoi at 10:32 AM on March 26, 2010


. for the lives lost, and a question: why would a dying regime want war? Is it just sheer lunacy? Or is it an envelope of lunacy around a rational goal?

We'll never know who ordered the attack. It could have been the captain of the boat, it could be that the South Koreans fired first, and it could be that elements in the Millitary decided to do this on their own in order to antagonize the west and make diplomacy more difficult for Kim Jong il and his son, forcing them to rely on them more. Apparently Kim is a "moderate" over there, while the military establishment is even more hard core.
posted by delmoi at 10:35 AM on March 26, 2010


. for the lives lost, and a question: why would a dying regime want war? Is it just sheer lunacy? Or is it an envelope of lunacy around a rational goal?
posted by angrycat at 1:20 PM on March 26


This is easy to understand if you stop thinking of it as one regime and start thinking of NK as being made of of factions and power blocs. Part of the display of power is for one bock to demonstrate to others that they have enough control over the military to launch this kind of an action,l thereby implying that they have more than enough control to isolate/arrest/kill anyone who tries to grab power after Kim Jong-Il dies.

Furthermore, it sends a warning to the rest of the world: Do not attempt to take advantage of any internal conflict or chaos that takes place following Dear Leader's death to try to overthrow the entire regime.

Nonetheless, this is a very bad and very stupid thing NK has done. S Koreans patience with the status quo was already wearing thin before this.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:41 AM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


And now, the diplomatic forecast. Tempers are a bit high for this time of year in the Middle East and throughout parts of Europe. The local tornado which caused an Israeli official to be evacuated from London appears to be spreading to the European mainland and is expected to hit Paris some time next week. A low pressure area from the US is bringing in isolated frost to Jerusalem. Continued fog of war in parts of Iraq, visibility very low. Milder in Moscow with continued sunny spells. In North Korea, expect grapefruit size hail to the chief.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:54 AM on March 26, 2010 [18 favorites]


NKs have to keep firing shots across the bow to prevent the SKs from getting too aggressive with this whole sunshine, let's be friends thing, which (see Pastabagel's very good comment) is really the biggest threat to Dear Leader's regime. Unfortunately this shot seems to have actually hit the bow, or maybe the stern. Saber-rattling is a fine art, friends, and it may be that they've crossed the line into getting-taken-seriously territory, which would be bad for them, possibly also bad for the rest of us.
Of course, they counterfeit money, steal people, and set off fucking nukes whenever they want, and still can't seem to get much more than food aid from the rest of the world, so who knows.
posted by $0up at 11:07 AM on March 26, 2010


Also, let me set a wider global context: if the NK regime falls, the SK takeover of the north will represent a tremendous threat to China's economic resurgence. You'd have a massive, very cheap, and very hungry labor force coming online under the auspices of the massively hypercompetitive and successful SKorean manufacturing industries. They would not be paid prevailing SKorean wage rates, but they'd be paid more than they are being paid now. There is already a test case village in the DMZ where NKs are being paid meager wages to make products for SK companies that are sold in SK.

Relatively peaceful reunification would allow SKorea to continue to compete aggressively on price against China while simultaneously innovating to keep pace with Japan.

Reunification of Korea would not follow the German model--people need to get this out of their heads. The culture is different, the plight of the NK's is much worse than East Germans, and most importantly, the stakes for South Korea's economic future could not be higher.

So the economic interests align this way: the US wants peaceful reunification followed by massive SK investment in the north to extend Koreas export dominance. It wants this because China is playing dirty on currency exchange and imports. Long run, continued economic growth in China will lead to increased military spending, and the US will not under any circumstances allow anyone to challenge its position as global superpower. China was ugliness in Korea because that maintains the status quo and has the possibility of disrupting the Korean juggernaut. Japan would rather compete with Korea than China, so they are likely to want peace in the region.

Russia is the other player. And Russia, true to form, wants chaos in the east to solidify its position in the west. War on the eastern border justifies a military buildup throughout, including the west, which ensures it has continued influence in Eastern Europe.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:24 AM on March 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


I swear I saw a headline go through my RSS today about NK threatening nukes against the US and SK. It was a little alarming by itself, and all the more so in light of this event.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:29 AM on March 26, 2010


You're right, here's the AFP take.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:44 AM on March 26, 2010


Thanks! I hit up all my usual newsfeed haunts, but couldn't find it again.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:13 PM on March 26, 2010


A more statesmanlike and more likely response would be for President Lee to simply cut off all trade with, and aid to,

You mean fearful tribute.
posted by qvantamon at 2:26 PM on March 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I do wonder if cutting off all aid and quickly starving the entire population to death might not be more kind in the long run, than to continue what is now several generations of slow starvation.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:13 PM on March 26, 2010


Starving the entire population to death? Not sure they need any help with that.
posted by surrendering monkey at 3:24 PM on March 26, 2010


Stratfor says it wasn't NK.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:57 PM on March 26, 2010


Magazine explosion?
posted by Lord_Pall at 5:30 PM on March 26, 2010


Hm, fff, I saw that, but given the several paragraphs dedicated to how the South tries to defuse these kinds of skirmishes, I kinda read it as "SK says it wasn't NK. We'll roll with that."
posted by qvantamon at 5:45 PM on March 26, 2010


"And now, the diplomatic forecast ..."
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:54 AM on March 26


eponysterical
posted by Jacqueline at 7:31 PM on March 26, 2010


Latest South Korean news here: "South Korean officials are not ruling out the possibility of a North Korean attack in the sinking of one of the South's naval vessels. About half the more than 100 people on board the ship were rescued, and search efforts are still under way for the remaining crew. An explosion damaged the ship in a historically tense disputed border area."

I haven't heard any mention of mines. There must be a ton of them in that area, some dating back to the early 1950's. Who knows.
posted by bardic at 9:32 PM on March 26, 2010


Also, let me set a wider global context: if the NK regime falls, the SK takeover of the north will represent a tremendous threat to China's economic resurgence. You'd have a massive, very cheap, and very hungry labor force coming online under the auspices of the massively hypercompetitive and successful SKorean manufacturing industries.

Only if by "massive" you mean "two orders of magnitude smaller then china's population". China may have gotten it's start with cheap labor, but they've put a ton of money into infrastructure to support massive manufacturing. Keep in mind that China just became the world's #1 exporter, just passing Germany, a country not known for cheap labor.

Building infrastructure in NK will take a long time. And in any event there are tons of other countries that will be competing with China. Of course what China will lose is a "reliable" ally on their border that will basically do whatever they want (since they control the oil supply)
posted by delmoi at 6:48 AM on March 27, 2010


"Magazine explosion?"

That's what I'm hoping. We'll have to wait and see if that hole in the hull was a result of an explosion from the inside or the outside.

The ship began sinking on Friday, but 59 sailors are still dead. That's what gets me thinking...
posted by tbonicus at 9:39 PM on March 28, 2010


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