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War On A
Lake Of Death
|The arena for a coming naval confrontation of epic dimensions, known as
the Japan Sea or East Sea to Koreans, is eerily placid in the azure summer
yet stormy over the graying winter months when the Siberian high whips the
froth and fog into the powdery flakes that bury the coastal mountains in
silence. For all its peaceful appearances, the backwaters of Snow Country,
with their huddled black-hued wooden homes and verdant rice paddies, the
crystal-clear sake and translucent sashimi fanned across exquisitely colored
ceramics, is the altar for an Armageddon that will sweep humanity off the
face of this doomed planet.
Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un have chosen well the site for the sacrificial rites by which the world’s four strongest military powers will fulfill our divinity-vying forefathers’ nihilism with the will to self-destruction that proves we are not mere mammals but in our very essence demigods.
Serial Conflict or How World Wars Begin
Sending a supercarrier into the Lake of Death will trigger treaties and a lack thereof. The political complexities will then unleash a contagion of bellicose reactions, much like how the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Serb nationalists awakened dormant alliances to their promise of butchery. Thus, World War I may have stumbled at its start yet finally achieved its death toll of 17 million.
There is at present no iron-clad legal guarantees for regional peace around the Sea of Japan. The Korean Armistice Agreement of 1953 has tenuously held the belligerents to avoiding overt and extensive combat. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has withdrawn from its terms on several occasions, however, the latest exit starting in 2013. Pyongyang complains that a truce is not a substitute for a peace treaty since it allows the U.S., South Korea and more recently Japan to conduct live-fire exercises near its borders, which at any moment could plunge into an all-out invasion.
No Short-cuts through Air-Defense Hell
American military planners know that the DPRK has the world’s densest air-defense network, layered with fortified towers bristling with anti-aircraft artillery, thousands of SA-13 rocket launchers, mobile radar units, stealth detection systems, and electronic jamming, topped with the thermobaric rockets that create atmospheric vacuums impossible to fly through and the SS-300 series of high-altitude missiles to down B-2 bombers and B-52s. An aging fleet of MiG fighters will be used to chase down cruise missiles. The overland flight distance from the East Sea/Japan Sea to the Yongbyon reactor site is 200 kilometers of sheer hell, and to make matters worse, the North Koreans have a fleet of advanced MiG-27 interceptors ready to stop any F-18 that gets past the gauntlet.
Therefore the Pentagon has requested the South Korean government to fly through its airspace over land and along the Yellow Sea to strike the Yongbyan reactor, which is in the far northwest, near the Manchurian border. The Armistice, however, is what prevents Seoul from permitting the US military from using its airspace for a precision bombing campaign against Yongbyon, and the nearby rocket-launch center. Authorization of a flight path for an offensive airstrike is in clear violation of the truce.
In response to rejection by Seoul, the Trump administration has demanded cash payment for the new THAAD anti-missile technology and is threatening harsher trade tariffs on South Korean products. If that’s how close allies are humiliated, no wonder the North prefers to be an enemy that gets respect for being tough.
Under the terms of international law, South Korean assent to cooperation with an airstrike would mean both Koreas no longer being party to the Armistice, nullifying the agreement once and for all and returning the Peninsula to a state of war. That, in turn, opens the gates to another all-out conflict like the first Korean War that killed 5 million Koreans and 40,000 American soldiers. From small acorns large oaks grows, and same applies to a little bloodshed.
The People’s Republic of China is also a signatory of the Armistice, and thus Seoul’s revocation of the truce could well lead to another brutal ground war between the PLA and US Army. The nuclear reactor at Yongbyon is located only 300 km from Dalian at the mouth of the all-important Bohai Gulf, where Tianjin serves as the port of Beijing. China’s capital is only a 40-minute flight from Yongbyon.
Trading places, the equivalent would be for the PLA to ask Canada for an air lane to bomb the Indian Point nuclear reactor in New York State. How would Senators react to a pinpoint airstrike that makes the East Coast uninhabitable?
These logical consequences explain why China does not allow US warships to enter the Yellow Sea, at least not since 2010 when the supercarrier USS George Washington tried to barge into those green waters without permission and was forced to make a U-turn when surrounded by missile batteries. The American military is in Asia to help Wall Street pilfer the region’s finances, yet ironically the only time the U.S. really acted in sincere friendship, Operation Tomodachi, its naval crews were walloped with a surprise dose of airborne plutonium out of Fukushima.
There are valid reasons for not stationing American troops in Asia, since everyone in the region is thankless, with most secretly reviling their presence while the critics are just more honest in stating an opinion. Donald Trump thought his boys would be greeted as heroes, but now he’s being treated like a goat. Here as in New York, it’s his own fault for being naive.
Russia and Japan on the Verge
Due to their postwar territorial dispute over the southern Kurile islands, Japan and Russia have yet to sign a peace treaty ending their hostilities in World War II. At their recent meeting at the Kremlin, neither Prime Minister Shinzo Abe nor President Vladimir Putin indicated any progress toward that much-desired peace treaty, to the consternation of Japan’s Foreign Ministry.
Russia and Japan have the largest naval bases on the Sea of Japan/East Sea. A mere 70 kilometers from the North Korean border, Vladivostok is the headquarters of Russia’s powerful Pacific Fleet. While American bombardment of shore batteries will be concentrated on the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) naval harbor at Wonson Bay toward the south, the NKPA Northeast Command can be expected to launch flanking attacks against the U.S. flotilla. Any attempts by carrier-based F-18s or F-16s from Misawa Air Force Base in northern Japan against the Northeast sector will encroach on Russia’s territorial integrity, putting Vladivostok on red alert.
A Russian counter-offensive to push back the American threat will be led by 6 missile destroyers home-ported at Vladivostok and several squadrons of Sukhoi-35 fighters under the Eastern Military District command. If the US-Japanese alliance launches a retaliatory attack on Russian territory, then Moscow’s 20-plus submarine force in the Pacific, headed by two top-of-line Borey-class subs, can be expected each to launch 16 ICBMS, every missile armed with 10 warheads, against U.S. military bases in Asia and North America.
To the north through the Sakhalin Strait, the adjoining Okhotsk Sea is impervious to intrusion by U.S. Navy sub-killers due to the protective wall of Siberia, the Kamchatka Peninsula and Kurile archipelago. US bases throughout the Pacific and North America will be reduced to ashes and skeletons. These geographic realities are obscure at best to most people, even in Japan, Russia and China, possibly to the White House staff, which makes the North Pacific a ideal place to mount an ambush.
In the Shadow of Great-Grandfathers
The western fleet of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) is based at Maizuru, a deep bay in Kyoto Prefecture. Besides its Aegis destroyers and sub-killer submarines, Maizuru is equipped with X-band radar for tracking ballistic missiles and missile interceptors. Two MSDF submarines each are dedicated to guarding the three narrow straits connecting the Sea of Japan to the Pacific from south to north: Tsushima, Tsugaru and Soya.
Due to past restrictions against offensive naval operations and limitation to rescue and humanitarian operations, however, Japanese naval personnel lack extensive training in battle tactics, and therefore are dependent on the US Navy during offensive operations (which are prohibited under Constitution despite Prime Minister Abe’s lame attempts at reinterpretation).
The new peacetime Japanese navy is no match against Russian sub crews. By contrast, the Japanese fleet that soundly thrashed the Tsar’s armada in the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War was manned by battle-hardened crews and tireless gunners.
I’ve visited Admiral Heihachiro Togo’s flagship Mikasa in Yokosuka harbor. Built in Cumbria, England, and tiny by comparison with modern vessels, the Krupp steel-clad vessel at the lead in the counterattacks over several days took an unimaginable pounding from more than 60 shells that left gaping holes and rivers of blood above and below deck. The Mikasa, with Togo at the helm, somehow managed to press the assault to win the battle and triumph in the war. That was a generation of fearless fighters in stark contrast to today’s “techie” salarymen in uniform.
Out of Shape and Too Hefty
The USS Carl Vinson is the nuclear-powered Nimitz-class supercarrier assigned to suppress North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. The giant carrier class is named after Admiral Chester Nimitz who rallied a demoralized American naval corps after the Pearl Harbor attack. Never defensive-minded, the commander of the Pacific always pushed the attack, from Midway to the Coral Sea and on to Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
While deploying aircraft carriers, and losing them against overwhelming firepower, Nimitz preferred being a proponent of submarine warfare, and it was the American subs that finally defeated the once-dominant Japanese fleet in the Pacific War. I know because my maternal grandfather, along with 2,000 soldiers in his convoy, was killed off the Philippines by a lone American submarine.
Nimitz realized that America’s greatness strength was based on its capability to grind down the superior forces of a strategically brilliant enemy: “The U.S.'s major strength factor and weapon is its economy. If you cripple it, you cripple the military.”
That truth still holds today, when the United States sends its magnificent supercarriers to a remote corner of Asia while its once-great industrial economy has been reduced from rust to dust, and now appears to have no chance of revival following the bloodless White House coup by Wall Street hucksters and political charlatans. Crippled is hardly the description of America’s basic strategic industries since most are either dead or dying. If the President really wants to save America, stop wasting time jawboning Asia and instead purge the creepy carpetbaggers from the White House and the federal government, starting with a few of his own slimy in-laws.
In warfare, there are targets, none bigger or better than a supercarrier. Longer than three football fields, the USS Vinson is manned by a crew of 3,400 sailors and 1,400-member air company. The floating airfield is too big to fail, but if punctured by a cruise missile or nuclear torpedo too heavy to bail. The North Korea have developed clever tactics to use boat-mounted pipe-organ rocket launchers to unleash barrages of thermobaric (heat-air pressure) bombs to puncture steel hulls with blow-torch heat, which will leave the Vinson looking like Swiss cheese while sucking away the air supply for its gasping crew.
The NKPA-Navy will probably decide not to deliver the final blow to the Vinson with a torpedo firing since the Koreans do not want a couple of disabled nuclear reactors leaking onto their fishing grounds. The blasted hulk and its cargo of bodies will have to be towed to Maizuru, which will require an armada of tugboats under terms of a truce at sea.
Since the US lacks a home port in the Japan Sea (Yokosuka in on the Pacific side), its expeditionary fleet will rely on Maizuru for resupply, refueling, repair, medical support and parking shipwrecks. The concentration of US-Japan naval forces in just one port will make Maizuru a tempting target for the NKPA’s submarine-released mines and missile attacks. Modern sea mines are not floating porcupines but automated self-guided torpedoes, which can crawl the seafloor and then rise to break the keels of ships. A folkish American expression goes: “It’s as easy as shooting fish in a barrel”. Maizuru Bay is the barrel.
One of the questions in this build-up is why the Seventh Fleet failed to deploy its new generation of high-speed littoral combat ships (LCS), which were conceived as fast-attack vessels in unconventional naval warfare in green-water and brown-water environments. Cost overruns drove up the investment in each vessel from $300 million to more than $1 billion each. While the US Navy is understandably concerned about the cost-risk ratio, warships are made for combat, and losses have to be factored in, as Admiral Nimitz understood so well. The LCS was also designed as a high-tech vessel controlling unmanned drone boats and UAVs, and so the upcoming fracas in the East Sea should be an ideal test under real-world duress. If a Navy is not going to fight, what does a country need it for? It’s a NATO mindset that grips the Pentagon.
Another mystery is how the DPRK managed to massively upgrade its array of weapons over the past two years. The answer, of course, lies in the global open-market for weapons created by Pentagon procurement contracts, the CIA special-ops bureau and arms traders representing the financial sponsors of jihadism. The movie “War Dogs” depicts how a couple of losers were able to score multimillion-dollar contracts and operate with zero worries of arrest. As countries modernize their armies, they dump their older equipment at fire-sale price onto whoever is willing to haul the stuff away under pseudonyms, front companies and fake passports. The issue is not availability but price, how cheap and the profit to be made.
The China Syndrome
If radioactivity leakage from the bombed-out Yongbyon reactor forces a mass evacuation of Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Shenyang and Tsingtao, nobody should expect the Chinese to remain quietly on the sidelines even if they do not have territorial issues in the Sea of Japan. What more rationale do they need to end the American Century once and forever? That is, if the Russians don’t do the job first. What general doesn’t want to be the new Alexander who cuts the Gordian Knot and clobbers an empire, and today just by pushing a button?
In a nutshell, there are too many contested claims in this congested region, where every square inch matters to one party or another. So why did not someone with a knowledge of geopolitics from the Pentagon or the CIA explain to the President that riding armed into the Sea of Japan is like trying to join up with the Clanton brothers at the OK Corral? It’s Tombstone East.
Certainly when things go haywire, Abe’s Japan will not be spared, not that the Chinese really want to take over his radioactive islands or the Fukushima mess. Whatever might be left of Japan will be reduced to a crippled non-entity paying whatever reparations its population of walking dead can scrape together. Since my cabin in Japan is already uninhabitable due to Fukushima fallout, and after trying to reason with everyone during 12 research trips into the nuclear exclusion zone, what can I be expected to do other than call up whatever empathy is deserving for people who failed to shut down the nuclear industry and reelected Shinzo Abe?
A Beautiful Sea to be Scarred
To let readers in on some personal history, along its route north my mother boarded the last train out of Hiroshima that had just evaded the blast wave. After birth, I suffered terrible fevers and strange infections, which oddly seemed to have made me more immune or at least tolerant to radioactivity. That childhood trauma, along with Fukushima, has made me all the more appreciate the serenity along the Sea of Japan, a safe haven from radioactivity.
The diet of fish there is still free of radioactive contamination, and though the rice may be questionable, the sake remains eminently drinkable. I especially appreciate the greenery along the mountainous trails, which pass through old-style villages, oxen paths that were once used to convey fish and salt to the ancient capital Kyoto. Everywhere else in Japan is now hopelessly radioactive.
Even this little remnant of paradise is about to be stolen away by the usual suspects, the Americans, the Japanese militarists and the Russians. The only consolation is that the rest of this evil world will also be blown away. It will be a strange sensation, for sure, when the global nuclear war finally breaks out just as its demented planners had hoped in their quest to attain divinity. As for “I am Shiva” and the rest of the crazed mantra from Oppenheimer, go ahead, be the world destroyer, you fool fanatics. Quit trembling and just do it, cowards, slit your wrists to end the waiting and enter eternity.
Yoichi Shimatsu is a science journalist who has conducted radioactivity research inside the Fukushima nuclear zone since April 2011.