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NightWatch 20101126


For the Night of 26 November

The Offshore Islands Confrontation

South Korea: Correction: The initial South Korean news reports that presidential aide Lee was named to be the new National Defense Minister proved incorrect. The South Korean government has named former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Kim Kwan Jin as its new defense minister. He is a tough guy.

South Korea: Intelligence failure. Yesterday, 25 November, Chosun Ilbo published annotated color photos of North Korean gun and rocket launcher emplacements just north of Yeonpyeong Island.

The article contained before and after color images of North Korean multiple round rocket launchers (MRLs) being deployed north of the South Korean-held island, days before the attack on Yeonpyeong-do. In the before image, no MRL batteries were present. In the "after" image, the first of several was detected. This change in activity took place before the attack on the 23rd , EDT.

The article quoted South Korean sources who said South Korean intelligence knew the North Koreans were reinforcing coastal artillery units that are permanently based in the South Hwanghae Province with mobile longer range 122-mm MRL batteries. The South Koreans imaged the steady deployment of an entire MRL battalion, but no increase in readiness or heightened alert status was ordered.

The North Koreans warned in August that would not respect the South's occupation of the offshore islands.

Comment: South Korean officials at first said that artillery shelled Yeonpyeong-do. In the course of the week, they said the attack involved a mix of 170 artillery shells and rockets. The later explanation appears to have been closer to the truth, but the South has not revealed what ordnance struck the fishing village.

This year to date, the North Koreans have killed 50 South Koreans. No North Koreans have been killed.

For new analysts, the Chosun Ilbo article illustrates a fundamental precept of intelligence: intelligence knowledge is not the same as actionable intelligence. Unless intelligence leads to executive action to minimize damage and avoid surprise, it is work for research assistants. In South Korea, this failure of analysis contributed to the dismissal of the Minister of National Defense.

Diplomacy: Update. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi met North Korean Ambassador to China Chi Jae Ryong and spoke via telephone to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung Hwan on 26 November, according to Xinhua.

China gives the utmost attention to, and is very concerned with, the situation, Yang said, adding that leaders must now control the situation to ensure similar incidents do not recur.

North Korea: Comment. News reports of artillery practice and images of rising smoke appear to have alarmed some US news agencies. There were no rounds fired at South Korean territory. The North engaged in gunnery practice, apparently.

The risk of additional shelling in this confrontation should not be diminished. Despite flippant comments by US officials, it is not at all clear that the shelling this week was a "one-off" incident. Such as judgment is premature and irresponsible because the Allies do not yet know what the North's motives for the attack.

End of NightWatch for 26 November.

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