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Korea and Credible Commitment

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Korea and Credible Commitment"

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South Korea attempts some deterrence:

South Korea will swiftly and strongly respond with force until North Korea surrenders if the communist state launches another assault, the South’s new defence minister said.

Kim Kwan-Jin issued the warning on Saturday, during his inauguration speech after President Lee Myung-Bak officially appointed the retired four-star general as the new defence chief following a parliamentary confirmation hearing Friday. Kim Kwan-Jin replaced Kim Tae-Young, who came under fire over the military’s allegedly feeble response to North Korea’s deadly shelling of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island near the tense Yellow Sea border on November 23.

“If North Korea launches another military attack on our territory and people, we must swiftly and strongly respond with force and punish them thoroughly until they surrender,” the new defence minister said. “We do not want war, but we must never be afraid of it,” he said, adding South Korea faces “the worst crisis since the Korean War,” which ended in an armistice in 1953.

The problem here obviously is credibility. Read Robert Farley, but dwell particularly on the fact that not only would a successful ROK/DPRK war be costly for the ROK in terms of losses, but the curious fact that victory itself would be a disaster for South Korean living standards. Ask a (West) German someday about the cost of reunification, and consider that the task facing Korea would be an order of magnitude more difficult.

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