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What Putin Knows About North Korea That Western Pundits Don’t

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At the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed confidence that there would not be another large-scale military conflict on the Korean peninsula. Russian political observer Anatoly Wasserman explains what it is that the Russian president knows that many observers don’t.

Addressing participants of the forum on Thursday, Putin said he believed all the parties involved in the standoff in the Korean peninsula are likely to “have enough common sense and understanding that they bear a responsibility to the people in the region, and [that] we could solve this problem by diplomatic means.”

“Like my South Korean counterpart, I am sure that there will not be a large-scale conflict, especially one involving the use of weapons of mass destruction,” the Russian leader added.

Putin also recalled that in 2005, the parties to the conflict were on the verge of reaching an agreement on Pyongyang’s nuclear program. “Agreements were reached under which North Korea assumed responsibility to curtail its nuclear and missile programs. All other parties in this process promised to contribute to this. But then, someone started demanding from North Korea what it did not promise, and gradually the situation deteriorated to the present state,” he said.

Analyzing the Russian president’s remarks in an article for RIA Novosti, Anatoly Wasserman took note of the fact that “first of all, Putin diplomatically avoided naming this ‘someone’. It’s like in the famous anecdote about a group of woodland critters including a fox sitting down in the woods to play cards, one of them saying ‘if someone cheats, they’ll get a slap in the face –their sneaky orange face.'”

“In the conflict, we’re discussing here, it’s equally obvious just who it was that may have demanded from North Korea something that Pyongyang never promised,” the political observer wrote.

“Factually,” Wasserman suggested, “among all the potential parties in the conflict on the Korean peninsula, only one is known for its inadequacy. Specifically, it was the same one that the Russian president was referring to a few days earlier at a press conference following the BRICS summit, when he said that these were the people who would confuse Austria with Australia.”

In the case of the Koreas, the observer suggested that both of them are rational enough, “if only because the conflict that’s developing today is just another stage of a confrontation that’s been going on in the peninsula since the beginning of the 20th century, when Korea was first occupied and thoroughly genocided by Japan. Then, after Japan was expelled, there were those who sought to turn the territory…into their own strategic base, and who would use this base for another genocide of Korea.”

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The Israeli Military May Soon Allow Women to Fight in Tanks

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Israel has begun an experimental program to see whether women should be allowed to fight in tanks. The move comes as Russia has decided to allow women to pilot military jets, and the U.S. Marine Corps graduated its first female armor officer in April.

The Israeli project is using female soldiers who just finished their basic training. “For the past two weeks, 15 women have been participating in the program, testing their ability to operate tanks, including lifting shells, loading them, driving and firing,” an Israeli military spokesman told the Jerusalem Post earlier this month.

“The focus of the program is to examine the physical abilities of these troops who are divided into teams, each led by a male soldier in command of a Merkava Mark III tank – the most numerous model in front-line service,” the Post said. “Throughout all phases of the program, the women will be accompanied by experienced tank commanders, doctors, nutritionists and fitness experts.”

However, the Israel Defense Force test is also notable because of what it is not. Rather than mixed-gender crews, the tanks will be operated by female-only crews. The IDF has also said that the female-only tanks will not be committed directly into combat zones, but rather will be used for border security.

Why is the IDF considering women as tankers? The answer is not feminism but desperation. “The Armored Corps, in recent years, has become one of the least popular units for recruits because it is said to have the worst service conditions and fewer weekends off than other corps,” the Post pointed out.

Already the project has drawn fire. A former top Israeli commander says female tankers “would undermine in a very dangerous way the delicate and sensitive balance in an already volatile area of the IDF.” Much of that volatility is coming from ultra-Orthodox soldiers who object to serving alongside women.

“If we put two people into a closed box, there’s no way something won’t happen,” warns former IDF chief rabbi Yisrael Weiss. “We can’t put a couple, a man and a woman, a male soldier and a female soldier, into a closed box for a week and expect that nothing will happen. You’ll get a little tank soldier in another nine months.”

Israel is unusual in that women as well as men are subject to the draft, though about 50 percent of women qualify for exemptions on grounds such as religious belief, while about 25 percent of men get the same exemption. Women have long been employed in support roles, such as training snipers—even when women themselves are not employed as combat snipers. The Israeli Air Force graduated its first female fighter pilot in 2001.

The IDF already has women in combat units, notably the Caracal infantry battalion. But unlike regular tank crews or the women in the pilot project, Caracal is a co-ed unit where women serve in combat alongside men.

For the United States, the issue about women tankers isn’t so much religious belief as in Israel, though some of the opposition does seem to be rooted in American conservative dogma that a woman’s place isn’t in the turret. But for both the United States and Israel, the real question will boil down to how well women can do the job. Though tankers get to ride rather than walk to work, it’s still a physically demanding job to change a broken track or load shells. And, as the IDF rabbi pointed out, it is putting young men and women into a confined space—though not a very romantic one.

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North Korea Building Their First Nuclear Submarine

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North Korea launched a new ballistic missile from submarine

Japanese media outlets are reporting that North Korea is clandestinely building a nuclear-powered submarine that they hope to have operational by 2020. The reports come from an anonymous but “informed” source.

Japanese newspaper Sekai Nippo claims that the “informed” source “familiar with the North Korea situation” told them that the DPRK has been clandestinely building the nuclear submarine, which would be a massive leap forward from the current DPRK Navy, which may maintain a fleet of 50 to 60 diesel-electric submarines.

The source went on to claim that Chinese and Russian engineers have been lending their expertise to the DPRK at North Korea’s Nampo Naval Shipyard, in North Korea’s manufacturing capital.

While nuclear submarines are significantly more difficult and expensive to produce than conventional diesel-electric ones, they are also faster, more powerful, more versatile, and have a wider range since they can stay underwater for much longer without needing to resurface and refuel.

Nuclear submarines are often paired with ballistic missiles, and they can greatly increase a nation’s power projection and are a stealthier launch method than firing from a ground-based silo. Analysts have suspected that the DPRK is interested in nuclear submarines for this reason, as Pyongyang has greatly bolstered their missile program in recent years.

In the US Navy, nuclear submarines armed with ballistic missiles form part of the Nuclear Triad, which guarantees the ability of the United States to return fire in the event of a sudden nuclear strike, since finding and destroying all missile submarines before they can launch their missiles is effectively impossible.

Since 2014, North Korea has test launched their Pukguksong-1 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) at least six times. An operational Pukguksong-1 could be loaded into a nuclear submarine, which could then maneuver into international waters and fire a missile that would be nearly impossible to intercept. The Pukguksong-1 could also hypothetically be equipped with a small nuclear warhead.

The US military has been closely monitoring the North Korean navy after what they suspect was an “ejection test” of the Pukguksong-1 in August. In May, think tank 38 North claimed that satellite imagery identified what appeared to be a test site for SLBMs at Nampo.

As the US bloc continue to ramp up military and economic pressure on North Korea, Pyongyang has given no indications of blinking. “The increased moves of the US and its vassal forces to impose sanctions and pressure on the DPRK will only increase our pace towards the ultimate completion of the state nuclear force,” said their state news agency in a Monday press release.

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