web analytics

A lesson from South Korea

Written By: - Date published: 9:00 am, May 30th, 2017 - 16 comments
Categories: International, war - Tags: ,

Another month, another U.S.-Korean film co-production. Starring Liam Neeson as General Macarthur, it’s the Battle for Incheon: Operation Chromite.

Gentlemen, start chewing your cigars.

But perhaps it’s time we started looking again at how bad the situation is: how close to war they are getting. This is an exceedingly dangerous year.
So far, Trump is very clear not to alienate Seoul, Tokyo or Beijing, preferring instead to use the bully pulpit of calculated ambiguity and rhetorical provocation than any serious commitment to full blown military action. In a taped interview in late April on CBS, President Trump was resolutely not talking about the possibility of military action, saying: “It is a chess game. I just don’t want people to know what my thinking is.”

So far, the leadership of North Korea are also bullying from the pulpit, but they are far less ambiguous. They are pretty consistent in their messaging that they view the U.S. military presence in their vicinity as a threat, which they want to completely destroy.

They are also clear about what they want to hit on the U.S. mainland.

So far, seems pretty much the same as the last five years or so. Well, not really. The North Korean missiles are getting better, going further, the tests happening more often.

But you may wonder: what is of risk to little old us at the bottom of the world? Answer: firstly, Korea is the 6th largest export destination for what we make and sell. That’s over $2 billion our exporters get, and it’s growing. And in imports, it’s where my Galaxy 8 comes from. More seriously, a big reason is that we would likely be drawn into it just as we were last time. And another is: nuclear war.

New Zealand governments tend to back military interventions only when they have a U.N. Security Council mandate. But when we back them, we usually send some of our troops to be in harms’ way. My uncle fought in the Korean War. He was a gunner. He never wanted to speak about it, and no one pushed him to.

But what is largely unspoken about the Korean War is itself unspeakable: nuclear weapons and nuclear war. This is what all the sanctions are about, what all the missile testing is about. So here’s a little reminder of where this went last time.

The great tactical seaborn invasion of Incheon that Liam Neeson figures himself into, was the beginning of the provocation that brought China and Soviet Russia man to man and plane to plane with the U.N. coalition led by the United States.

After that it goes even darker. President Truman seriously considered using nuclear weapons in that war.

At a November 1950 press conference, he told reporters that he would take whatever steps were necessary to win in Korea, including the use of nuclear weapons. Those weapons, he added, would be controlled by military commanders in the field. In the following year he allowed nine nuclear bombs with fissile cores to be transferred into Air Force custody and transported to Okinawa. Further atomic-capable B-29s were sent to Okinawa. That is pretty close to nuclear war.

Armchair historians can argue whether the United States exercised considerable restraint in that war, whether the nuclear option was something to reasonably consider to turn the tide of a losing battle, or whether both sides carefully husbanded their strength and took some care moving up the escalatory ladder.

But you can say with some confidence that in the Korean War, nuclear escalation would have gone terribly for everyone involved. The United States would have caused dreadful pain to uncertain strategic advantage, potentially causing the Chinese and Russian Communist powers to escalate. The physical and human terrain of Korea would have endured awful suffering. The moral mandate of the U.N. resolutions authorising military intervention would have evaporated. And the world would have lost the nascent nuclear taboo, a taboo critical to the world surviving the escalation in nuclear bomb-making and bomb-testing capacity that continued into the 1980s.

In the washup, New Zealand did OK out of it. We got long term military security through the 1951 ANZUS Treaty which served its purpose during the Cold War, and a massive wool boom that got the economy through the remainder of the 1950s.

But what that history and near-history of the Korean War demonstrates is that even if it’s a pre-emptive strike to take out missile and nuclear capabilities, North Korea may feel it has to respond. This is the dilemma that strategists and policymakers face. It’s real, now.

Nor is some great U.N. coalition of forces a guarantee that they will prevail. If you want to see how very close the U.S. and its United Nations-mandated allies came to massive defeat, check out just one example at the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir.

This is a dangerous year. It’s really easy to follow Australia and Britain and build a fortress of self-involvement around oneself. But world has a terrible reputation for getting into our faces when we don’t want it to. Diplomacy defies death, but it only takes one dumb thing to really set things off. It’s only in my parents’ generation that South Korean President Park was nearly assassinated, recorded here:

The last time we had a Prime Minister with the capacity to take a major international stand on anything, was Helen Clark, but there have been others. If we have forgotten as a country that we have demonstrated the capacity to stand up for the powerless and be good diplomats, we have forgotten one major thing that made the world look up here, not down. I would like the next government to remember that, in this exceedingly dangerous year.

16 comments on “A lesson from South Korea”

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    And the world would have lost the nascent nuclear taboo, a taboo critical to the world surviving the escalation in nuclear bomb-making and bomb-testing capacity that continued into the 1980s.

    And is being ramped up again by the US.

  2. mauī 2

    Another blockbuster film and keeps the citizens primed for war.

  3. Sanctuary 3

    McArthur was the one demanding the use of nuclear weapons. When he went public Truman sacked him (at considerable political cost) to show the military does not get to debate national policy with the elected leadership.

    • Ad 3.1

      Bradley and Joint Chiefs supported it. Truman was preparing.

      But MacArthur was fired by Truman for his comments on Formosa, and others.

  4. RedLogix 4

    My uncle fought in the Korean War. He was a gunner. He never wanted to speak about it, and no one pushed him to.

    We have the war diary of my grand-auntie’s husband. He fought through every major battle of WW1 the NZ Divisions were involved and remarkably came home without a scratch. It’s a dry read, short on drama, long on implied horror.

    Like most he never spoke of it. Except once; at a family lunch my father asked him some question about it. There was a long pause, I remember my aunt looking apprehensive. Then uncle said, “Only a fool goes to a war”.

    And that apparently was all he ever said.

    As for a nuclear war now. I think for fear of the unsupportable consequences world leaders will likely step back. That will be the moment everything changes. Or not, in which case we will have change imposed on us.

  5. greywarshark 5

    Not something to bet on garibaldi, pray about, I think. Betting and lightly considering is just an example of a type of madness that seems inherent in human nature.

  6. dukeofurl 6

    The video shows the attempted assassination of Park who was speaking at a hotel conference in 1974, however he was not injured while his wife and one other was killed.
    In 1979 he was assassinated by his KCIA chief at a dinner at the official residence.

  7. A major concern that everyone is overlooking is China.

    Don’t forget it was their troops that poured across the Yalu in huge numbers. Don’t forget for the Chinese regime to survive it needs North Korea to act as a buffer.
    Don’t forget that China has come a very long way since 1950. It has a large and increasingly modern military.

    Long story short, don’t forget China.

    • dukeofurl 7.1

      For the two Koreas to re-unify, maybe China wants something big for it in return. ?
      Taiwan ?
      With US forces out of a unified Korea, that could be seen by China as a plus. They dont really need North Korea as a buffer in this modern age but having no US troops on peninsula would be preferred option.

      • Gabby 7.1.1

        Though how keen the South would be to take on rebuilding the North, and whether the Taiwanese would jump up to take one for the team, debatable. Sounds like a good deal for China though.

    • Stuart Munro 7.2

      It’s been a while since China engaged a first world enemy though, and judging by their naval defeat in 1895 (http://sinojapanesewar.com/yalu.htm) they might not hurry to confront any large power.

      Bullying the Philippines or the Malay states is a very different thing from engaging large modern professional forces. Even if China could restrain a US offensive it would only lose ground to Russia.

      Why does China need North Korea anyway? Because it doesn’t fancy an engagement on its own soil. Trump may be stupid enough, China not so much.

  8. Wayne 8

    There will not be a war in Korea. But China will be able to use the current crisis to strengthen its standing. Trump has given them the green light to come up with the political solution. Probably a strategic error by him. It means China now gets to set the agenda. Of course that might be best given their geographical position.
    And NZ might welcome joint US Chinese leadership in the Asia Pacific region. Safer for us and everyone else.

    • Stuart Munro 8.1

      Certainly compared to Gnat leadership, the Chinese would be a vast improvement. Almost anything would be.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Govt to protect jobs and businesses with extra support
    In-principle decision to extend wage subsidy to support businesses and protect jobs Support will be nationwide in recognition of Auckland’s position in NZ economy and the impact of Level 2 Mortgage deferral scheme to be extended to support households The Government is taking action to support businesses and protect jobs ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • National Does the Nation a Disservice
    Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters today called for National Party and Opposition leader Judith Collins to stop undermining democracy. “New Zealanders are sadly being fed a steady stream of misinformation about the pre-election period from the National Party,” said Mr Peters. “Its effect is to sow doubt about the legitimacy ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Speech at the graduation of Wing 340
    Graduation of Wing 340 2pm, 13 August 2020, The Royal New Zealand Police College [CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY] Introduction Ladies and gentlemen, it is a privilege to be here today to celebrate the graduation of Wing 340. Let us begin by acknowledging the presence of Coalition Government colleague, Police Minister the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • More Police deployed for COVID efforts
    More Police are being deployed to the frontline to help manage the COVID response, after the graduation today of 56 new officers. “The ceremonies for the graduation of Wing 340 at the Royal New Zealand Police College were trimmed to take account of new Alert Level 2 restrictions in Wellington,” ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Transitional housing provides much needed support for Taumarunui whānau
                                                                     Transitional housing provides much needed support for Taumarunui whānau   New emergency and transitional homes will help ease a housing shortage in Taumarunui and provide whānau with much needed support, say Māori Development Minister, Nanaia Mahuta and Whānau Ora Minister, Peeni Henare.  The Ministers officially opened five two-bedroom units ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Government announces plan to tackle problem plastics and seven single-use plastic items
    Following the success of the phase out of single-use plastic shopping bags, the Government now has plans to phase out more single-use and problem plastics to reduce waste and protect the environment announced Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage. The proposals are to phase-out: some hard-to-recycle PVC and polystyrene ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • New opportunities for Kōpū marine facilities
    A commercial and industrial site in Thames-Coromandel will receive $8.2 million to revamp its marine-servicing infrastructure and create new economic development opportunities, Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones has announced. This project is being supported from the $3 billion ‘shovel ready’ fund set aside in Budget 2020 to kick-start the post COVID-19 ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • PM comments on Auckland COVID-19 case
    After 102 days we have our first cases of Covid-19 outside of a Managed Isolation or Quarantine facility in New Zealand. Shortly I will ask Dr Bloomfield to set out the details of the case. While we have all worked incredibly hard to prevent this scenario, we have also planned ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Significant investment in Raukūmara Pae Maunga to prevent Raukūmara forest collapse
    An iwi-Crown approach programme to restore the Raukūmara forest on the East Coast of the North Island and boost employment opportunities for whānau, particularly rangatahi/young people, will receive $34 million funding, Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage has announced. “Raukūmara Pae Maunga is a partnership with Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Ngāti Porou, and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • New partnership central to delivering more Māori housing
    Government agencies and partners are working closer together to provide more Māori Housing through the Te MAIHI o te Whare Māori – the Māori and Iwi Housing Innovation Framework for Action (MAIHI). MAIHI is a kaupapa Māori approach that drives a system change to give effect and impact on Māori ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Manawatū Gorge replacement highway drives forward
    Site work is soon to begin on Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway, the project to replace the former SH3 route through the Manawatū Gorge, Transport Minister Phil Twyford said today. Phil Twyford was today in Woodville at the signing of a formal agreement by members of the Alliance ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Pacific Ministers meet to discuss regional economic priorities
    The Pacific Islands Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM) begins today and will focus on the major economic and social impacts of COVID-19 on the Pacific.  FEMM is an important congregation of Economic Ministers and senior officials from around the region, and for the first time, the annual meeting will be ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Formal apology and payment to George Nepata
    Cabinet has approved a formal apology and ex gratia payment to former soldier George Nepata, announced Defence Minister Ron Mark. This payment is to recognise the New Zealand Defence Force’s failure to provide Mr Nepata with a safe system of work in April 1989 when, as a result of an ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Report into Iain Lees-Galloway’s expenditure
    A report undertaken by Ministerial Services into Iain Lees-Galloway’s ministerial expenditure has found no evidence of any inappropriate transactions or spending. Ministerial Services undertook a line by line review of all his expenditure, including staff and spouse expenses for the period 1 January 2019 to 30 June 2020.  “I commissioned ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Managed isolation charges to start 11 August
    Managed isolation charges for returnees will come into force from 12.01am Tuesday 11th August, after they passed their last cabinet milestone today, Housing Minister Megan Woods said. “The new charging system balances the rights of New Zealanders to return home and helps reduce pressure on the managed isolation and quarantine ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Update on New Zealand and the Cook Islands travel bubble
    The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Henry Puna have welcomed the completion of phase one in the establishment of a travel bubble between New Zealand and the Cook Island. Negotiations on the text of an ‘Arrangement to Facilitate Quarantine-Free Travel ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • One-stop ‘jobs and training’ shop goes live
    The Government has launched a new online, phone and onsite service to help New Zealanders connect to a range of employment support and products for workers and businesses affected by COVID-19, announced Minister of Education Chris Hipkins and Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni. Connected.govt.nz is a one-stop-shop for jobseekers, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • MSD security guards to be paid Living Wage
    Security guards contracted to the Ministry of Social Development will be paid at least the Living Wage from next month supporting the Government’s commitment towards fair pay and employment conditions, announced Minister for  Social Development Carmel Sepuloni.   “MSD was  among the first government agencies to pay its employees the living ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • New strategy to ensure nature thrives
    The Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage today launched Te Mana o te Taiao, the Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy - a way forward that envisions Aotearoa New Zealand as a place where ecosystems are healthy and resilient, and people embrace the natural world. “Many of New Zealand’s plants and wildlife species ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Provider Languages Fund will support Pacific Wellbeing approach
    “Pacific languages, cultures and identity are essential to the health, wellbeing and lifetime success of our Pacific peoples and their communities in Aotearoa. The strength and resilience of Pacific Aotearoa is not only vital to their own prosperity but integral to the prosperity of all New Zealanders, and is particularly ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • COVID-19: More funding for schools and boost to construction sector
    ·       $38 million to help schools cover unexpected costs related to COVID-19 ·       $69 million upgrade for online learning ·       $107 million contingency funding to support school construction suppliers facing additional costs due to the lockdown. The Government is releasing $214 million from the COVID-19 response and recovery fund to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Stay safe on the tracks – Rail Safety Week
    Despite the Government installing safety upgrades around the country, people should still take care around rail crossings, said Transport Minister Phil Twyford launching Rail Safety Week. Phil Twyford said installing safety infrastructure is crucial, but we are encouraging people to be more careful around trains too. “We’re making good progress ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Government backs Manawatū social housing project
    The Government is providing a cash injection to help Palmerston North City Council complete a programme to provide 78 social housing units for vulnerable tenants. The $4.7 million to build 28 units in the Papaioea Place redevelopment comes from the $3 billion set aside for infrastructure in the Government’s COVID-19 ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Major funding boost for Predator Free Banks Peninsula
    A pest free Banks Peninsula/Te Pātaka o Rākaihautū is one step closer with a $5.11 million boost to accelerate this project and create jobs, announced Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage in Canterbury today. “This is a game changer for this ambitious project to restore the native wildlife and plants on Ōtautahi/Christchurch’s doorstep ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Major investment for indoor sports in Hawke’s Bay
    A Government grant of $6.4 million will expand the Pettigrew Arena in Taradale with new indoor courts of national standard. “The project is likely to take 18 months with approximately 300 people employed through the process,” Grant Robertson said. “The expansion will increase the indoor court space up to 11 ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • New infrastructure for Far North tourist town
    The Far North tourist destination of Mangonui is to receive Government funding to improve waterfront infrastructure, open up access to the harbour and improve water quality, Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones has announced. A total of $6.5 million from the $3 billion set aside in the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Government remains committed to Women’s Cricket World Cup
    The Government has re-affirmed its commitment to supporting the hosting of the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup, which the ICC has delayed from 2021 to 2022. “This is obviously a disappointing decision for cricket players and fans around the world and for the White Ferns and their supporters here at ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Green light for Te Awa River Ride in $220m nationwide cycleways investment
    Cyclists and walkers will now have a safer way to get around Taupō, Tūrangi, and between Hamilton and Cambridge, with funding for shared paths and Te Awa River Ride, Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter announced today. “The Te Awa River Ride is the latest part of massive growth ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Six major ‘shovel-ready’ cycleways funded in Christchurch
    Six major cycle routes will be completed in Christchurch thanks to funding from the Government’s investment in shovel-ready infrastructure as part of the COVID-19 recovery Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter announced today. $125 million will be invested to kick-start construction and fund the completion of the following cycleway ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • New Police facilities for Whanganui
    Plans are underway for a brand new state-of-the-art hub for Whanganui’s justice and social agencies, following confirmation the ageing Whanganui Central Police Station is to be replaced. Police Minister Stuart Nash has announced $25 million in new infrastructure spending to improve facilities for the wider community, and for staff who ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Relativity adjustment for Waikato-Tainui and Ngāi Tahu
    An adjustment payment has been made to Waikato-Tainui and Ngāi Tahu under the relativity mechanisms in their 1995 and 1997 Treaty of Waitangi settlements, Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Andrew Little announced today. The latest payments to Waikato-Tainui and Ngāi Tahu are $2,700,000 and $2,600,000 respectively to ensure the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Auckland rail upgrades pick up steam
    Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Transport Minister Phil Twyford today kicked off the start of the Auckland NZ Upgrade Programme rail projects which will support over 400 jobs and help unlock our biggest city. Both ministers marked the start of enabling works on the third main rail line project ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • PGF support for Wairoa creates jobs
    The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) investment of $3.78 million in Wairoa will create much needed economic stimulus and jobs, Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau announced today. PGF projects announced today include: $200,000 loan to Nuhaka Kiwifruit Holdings Ltd (operated by Pine Valley Orchard Ltd) to increase the productivity ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Public and Māori housing to trial renewable energy technology
    Tenants in public and Māori housing may be benefiting from their own affordable renewable energy in future – a fund to trial renewable energy technology for public and Māori housing has today been announced by Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods and Associate Minister for Housing (Māori Housing) Nanaia Mahuta. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • $2.7m for Hokianga infrastructure
    Hokianga will receive $2.7 million to redevelop four of its wharves and upgrade its water supply, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has announced. Far North District Council will receive $1.8 million from the Provincial Growth Fund for the work on the wharves. “The work will include the construction of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • New fund to support housing and construction sector
    A $350 million Residential Development Response Fund is being established to support the residential construction sector and to minimise the economic impact from COVID-19, the Housing Minister Dr Megan Woods has announced. “The Residential Development Response Fund will help to progress stalled or at-risk developments that support our broader housing ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Government investment to boost Auckland’s community recycling network
    As part of a broader plan to divert waste from landfill, the Government today announced $10.67 million for new infrastructure as part of the Resource Recovery Network across the Auckland region. “This key investment in Auckland’s community recycling network is part of the Government’s Infrastructure Reference Group ‘shovel ready’ projects ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Te Papa transformation starts at Cameron Road
    The Government is investing $45 million in the first stage of an ambitious urban development project for Tauranga that will employ up to 250 people and help the region grow, Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford announced today. Phil Twyford says the funding has been allocated out of the $3 billion ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • PGF supports Hawke’s Bay community and environmental projects
    The Government is investing more than $1.6 million from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) for a wide range of community and environmental projects in Hawke’s Bay, Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau announced today. These announcements today are part of the Government’s commitment to supporting regional economies in the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Low-emissions options for heavy transport a step closer
    Getting low-emission trucks on the road is a step closer with investment in infrastructure to support hydrogen vehicles, the Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods has announced. The Infrastructure Reference Group has provisionally approved $20 million for New Plymouth company Hiringa Energy to establish a nationwide network of hydrogen-fuelling stations. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago