Monday, January 20, 2014


S. Korea Sends Anti-Piracy Troops to Gulf of Aden  original story fromYonhap News Agency

Ships of the South Korean Navy visiting Pearl Harbor (Photo: U.S. Navy)  If you are from South Korea ...this is not your grandfather's navy

"BUSAN, Jan. 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korea dispatched the 15th batch of troops to the Gulf of Aden on Thursday to continue its part in the worldwide effort to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia, the Navy said.
A 4,500-ton destroyer departed the southern port city of Busan to conduct anti-piracy missions for six months starting in February. Its voyage is expected to take approximately one month, naval officials said.
"Somali waters are the main shipping route and the lifeline of our economy. Put utmost efforts for your readiness," Adm. Hwang Ki-chul, the Navy chief of Staff, said during a send-off ceremony at the port....."
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South Korean Amphibious assault ship and approaching landing craft (PD) 

  Yonhap News Agency's English Services is a highly reliable source of Korean area information from on the ground sources fluent in the regional native languages. It is a subscription service and worth the price for those seriously interested in the region. South Korea is a major trading nation and like all modern trading nations today is highly dependent on sea lines of communication. Much of South Korea's trade must move through the pirate infested waters off of Somalia. The South Koreans have contributed to the international effort to combat this piracy problem since 2009. They don't send large numbers of ships but what they send are right sized and their compliments are larger and more diverse in capabilities , especially opposed boarding operations and projection of power ashore than many of the EU and U.S. naval elements. The ship(s) and its compliment are collectively called the "Cheonghae Unit".  The ship is usually a 4,500 ton destroyer, but look at the personnel that come with it. The total contingent is 300 strong and includes special forces including under water demolition teams, SEAL type teams, marines, and naval pilots. The accomplishments of this often single ship element have been incredible. 
 In the fifteen deployments since 2009 the unit has rescued a total of 25 ships in 17 operations, safely escorted 6,872 ships of which 3,332 were South Korean. In January of 2012 a South Korean SEAL type unit forcefully boarded a South Korean freighter that had been hijacked by Somali pirates, successfully rescuing the 21 crew members and killing 8 pirates. Deployments are on average 6 months long. The bottom line is that the South Korean Navy is carrying its own water protecting its national shipping and extending security service to a nearly equal number of international ships. At the same time the unique capabilities represented by the large compliment of the unit in terms of power projection ashore or in opposed boardings has to give the pirates of Somalia pause. The South Koreans are not the only small navy participating in the international effort off of Somalia, but they deployed for the 15th time on January 16, 2014 from the port of Busan. Thanks to the  YonHap News Agency we noted their departure and this seemed like a good time to note the South Korean contribution to the international effort and as a by product point out the importance that a contribution by a small navy can be to such an effort. Its not just The U.S. and EU out there and the quality of the small navies efforts is second to none. They have a big impact. 

The South Korean Navy, friendly but not to be messed with.
We also bring up South Korea now because we haven't paid them much attention in our discussions of the the tensions in the China Seas, especially the island disputes. Just as much of South Korea's seaborne commerce must pass Somalia it also must often pass through the troubled China Seas, as is the case with much of U.S. Pacific and Indian ocean trade. Like the U.S., South Korea has a vested interest in the continuance of the China Seas as international waters subject to the accepted Convention on the Law of the Sea relative to territorial seas, customs enforcement zones, and Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). Like the U.S., South Korea has no vested interest in who owns what island but a big interest in the Chinese attempt to claim the China Seas as virtual territorial waters including parts of the duly recognized EEZs of ,and even territorial waters of other states.
 If naval war were to break out between China and any of South Korea's neighbors her witch sister of the North would probably attack South Korea's mainland. The hordes of North Korea would probably have to be pushed back using tactical nuclear weapons. The death throws of the Witch of the North would probably include the nuclear destruction of several cities at least one in South Korea and possibly as far away as Honolulu. There is only one possible end result of the outbreak of naval war over the islands and EEZs of the China seas. China's present regime ends up hung from lamp posts like Mussolini at the end of WWII. The economy of China would sink with the PLAN Navy. The PLAN Navy could be defeated right now by a combination of Japan and the smaller area navies even without U.S. assistance. No one is interested in invading the mainland. Eventually the Chinese population will realize that as they start to starve, and will turn on the regime that first turned them onto the road to prosperity then turned them onto the road to destruction. The Dragon has missed the point of history in the region.
 The Dragon's neighbors aren't struggling colonial out posts, poverty struck, or awaiting "liberation". Increasingly they are thriving free market economies in democratic republics. They are not vassal states of anyone, including the U.S. and when they combine efforts they are very formidable by themselves. They are not dependent on U.S., Indian, or Australian aid. Bullying them, the present tactic is not going to work. China like everybody else needs to protect its sea lines of communication and in fact needs a viable navy and coast guard. But given its geography its best assurance of free access through the relatively narrow passages to the sea through the Island chains that surround the China seas is good relations, even collective security arrangements, with its coastal and island neighbors. These relatively small states must be treated as equals by China and not vassals. While each is individually far less powerful than China, collectively they are a lean mean fighting machine. Their freedoms and sovereignty were hard won and will not be surrendered on a Dragon's demand.
  If China wants to lead the region it has to gain the trust of these truly independent and competent nations. To do that the Dragon must immediately abandon its attempts at stealing territory, negotiate in good faith and in accordance with modern established international law, not ancient legends, on the blurry boundaries of some EEZ areas ( as do the outer Island states with each other) . Then China must start to right size its navy and coast guard to do the job that must be done, protecting China's sea lines of communication and contributing to world order, not creating instability as is now the case. China has to realize that "world order" doesn't mean that the Middle Kingdom draws all other states to itself as vassals. It doesn't mean that China starts a new era of colonialism. It may well mean that China may have to self impose some limits on its naval development similar to what Japan does now in order to establish the trust that must precede regional leadership among free peoples. 
 China doesn't yet have the history of armed invasion, brutal occupation, and out right imperial aggression that Japan displayed during WWII in these island nations.  That history is why Japan has self regulated its military posture into minimal self defense. But today because of Chinese naval aggression the Philippines, brutally invaded and occupied by Japan less than a century ago now is moving into a closer alliance with Japan and publicly articulating its lack of objection to Japan building up its military strength. In Japan while there is still popular opposition to the ownership of offensive weapons systems and alliances that require Japan to aid in the defense of others, agitation for change is afoot directly caused by fear of the Dragon. The Dragon's aggressive territorial posture toward  the islands revives memories of Japan's former negative behavior, but no one really fears Japan today, Japan is simply looked on as the strongest of the island states and a potential ally but for her own constitutional limits. The best way for China to diffuse the militarization of Japan is to cease and desist aggressive naval behavior. This isn't 1939. Those island states whose territory the Dragon covets aren't quiet little backwaters but robust armed republics.  The Dragon's aggressive naval behavior is causing it to be surrounded by potential enemies instead of friendly neighbors. Aggressive naval behavior is getting China nowhere fast.

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