South Korean Naval Plight Our Own
This might be considered a continuation of the post we did the other day titled “Lessons of the Cheonan Sinking“. A new article “Navy to get new course after loss of Cheonan” from the JoongAng Daily, details how the South Koreans dropped the ball when looking too far from home for an enemy:
But under the Defense Reform plan (2005), the Navy adopted the grandiose goal of becoming a Blue Water Navy, capable of operating across the seas and oceans. Under the reform, the Navy would add advanced destroyers using sophisticated weapons systems.
In that process, Korea may have neglected its own coastal defenses.
“Because of the Blue Water Navy plan, the focus shifted away from the North Korean Navy,” said Kim Hee-sang, former head of the now-defunct National Emergency Planning Commission, which handled national crisis management. It was later integrated with the Ministry of Public Administration.
This next statement is extremely shocking:
“Retired Navy admirals say the Navy may be the weakest link of our military in wartime,” Kim added.
Here is a fleet undergoing major modification, that includes warships which are second to none anywhere in the world, the KDX series of missiles destroyers and frigates, plus small amphibious aircraft carriers and home-built subs. The Aegis ship Sejong the Great is the most heavily armed ship in the world, even more so (in terms of weapons-load) than American and Japanese vessels. Yet, here all this concentrated firepower is considered a “weak link” helpless before a simple fleet of coastal submarines and speedboats.
There’s also a budget issue. In 2009, the Navy’s budget was set at 29.6 trillion won, about 10 percent of the overall defense budget. Critics said the Navy was stretched thin trying to develop a Blue Water force.
The discrepancy in numbers between the two fleets is not balanced by the Souths technical superiority:
According to the most recent South Korean Defense White Paper published in 2008, South Korea had 68,000 Navy and Marine Corps troops with 170 vessels, mostly large destroyers. North Korea had 60,000 troops and operated 810 vessels, mostly small, including underwater destroyers, guided-missile destroyers and torpedo boats. These are the types of crafts that North Korea can use in guerrilla-type warfare.
In the last Korean sea fight, in 2009, when the South sank an enemy patrol boat, ( an incident which may have instigated the North’s retribution on the Cheonan), New Wars posted the following:
While yours truly is all for having the best equipment, it is disturbing that the wrong conclusions might be given to justify a certain end, with little doubt the South is investing heavily in new Blue Water programs for possible rivalry with China and Japan. Meanwhile, as we see here, the threat of the North isn’t going away or even subsiding:
North Korea vastly outnumbers South Korea in gunboats. But South Korea has the edge when it comes to the size and capability. The South has around 120 battleships and the North around 420, but the North has only three of more than 1,000 tons while the South has 10, including the 7,600-ton Aegis destroyer King Sejong and others in the 3,000 ton or higher class.
It’s not just the Koreans who are preparing for the wrong war, heavily investing in conventional Blue Water assets, leaving their fleets starved of the more useful and desperately required patrol vessels, and often the readiness of the ships they have–India who should know better after the horrendous Mumbai attacks were launched from the sea, America and her ongoing investment in a shrinking number of Blue Water assets, Britain with her smallest fleet in centuries, Canada threatening to tie up needed coastal warships in order to maintain her fleet of frigates and submarines. The list goes on.
Meanwhile, the essential sea control which the West depends on for the free passage of oil tankers and foodstuffs are at risk because the established navies are seeking to refight World War 3. There is hope however, coming from an unlikely source–fiscal reality. With defense budgets either stagnate or shrinking everywhere, it is forcing many to prioritize their spending, most noticeably of late in the US, but their are signs of sanity returning to other countries.
Budgetary concerns may come into play, too. Defense Reform 2020 was built on the premise that defense spending would increase by almost 10 percent annually between 2005 and 2010. But this year’s budget went up by just 3.6 percent from a year ago.
Now here with the South Koreans, we see a change in strategy to meet the most prevalent and imminent threat from the North. Would it leave her unprepared for a future conventional fight with the Chinese? Perhaps, but if she loses the fight facing her at home, it means she will be unable to manage the future obscure threat also, since you can’t have readiness without experience.