By Oh Young-jin
Assistant Managing Editor
DOKDO ― Five leaders stand together at a small landing area with a large banner behind reading, ``Victory of Peace,'' in three languages ― Korean, English and Japanese.
The five, from left, are Chinese President Hu Jintao; South Korean President Lee Myung-bak; U.S. President Barack Obama; new Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi; United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
Their gathering comes six months after the bloody ``Battle of Dokdo'' between the ``accidental allies'' of South and North Korea on the one hand and Japan on the other. Today's ceremony is international confirmation of South Korea's territorial claim to Dokdo and is owed to U.S. Secretary of State Richard Holbrook's behind-the-scenes mediation efforts…
Obviously, this is an imaginary dispatch from South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo, the rocky islets at the center of contention between Seoul and Tokyo after the latter's latest territorial claim of the two rocks located in the middle of the East Sea.
To many observers, what is happening may seem a case of deja vu. As in the case of previous Japanese verbal provocations, Seoul's anti-Japanese sentiment is palpable. Large numbers of Koreans have demonstrated on the streets of Seoul, with some even pricking their fingers to write their condemnation in blood. In response to public sentiment, politicians are entertaining the idea of sending a contingent of ROK marines to garrison the islands. Currently, a company of combat police, armed only with personal firearms, is stationed on a rotation basis. The Defense Ministry has announced plans to conduct this year two joint drills involving its navy and air force in waters off Dokdo, adding that they are routine exercises and scheduled well in advance of this recent Dokdo fracas.
Japan has so far refused to get dragged into a war of words stoked up by Seoul, perhaps biding its time to disrupt Seoul's ``continuous and peaceful display of sovereignty'' over Dokdo in the hope of taking it into the international arena.
The United States may be too consumed by election fever in the run-up to the presidential poll in November to do more than ask its two allies to calm down. Moreover, the ongoing spat between Korea and Japan, two adversaries whose animosity dates back 1,000 years, is too familiar to take too seriously. After all, it is not the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nuclear defiance or Iraq or Afghanistan. To many, Dokdo may have the same ring to it as Darfur or Chechnya. For those, read on.
Obama is not convinced whether it was a good decision to come to this barren island. But Holbrook and his deputy Chris Hill had insisted it could be a golden opportunity to rebut public conception that the first black U.S. President lacked national security experience and also show he possessed diplomatic prowess.
Never one to waste a good photo-op, Obama urges the other four to clasp hands before the phalanxes of photographers. He mutters inaudibly to himself that it should be worth it after the phased Withdrawal from Iraq is brought to a halt amid raging insurgency and no progress is expected between Israel and Palestine on the latter's statehood.
Then, the Dokdo crisis comes. Obama recalls intelligence reports over a naval clash between South Korea and Japan that developed close to an all-out war, including North Korean missile attacks on Oki Island, 82 nautical miles from Dokdo and the closest Japanese territory. South Korea's Ulleung Island, 48 nautical miles from Dokdo, is spared from Japanese counterattacks that are halted before reaching their peak due to U.S. intervention.
From the background briefings, he gathers that it started with the intrusion of a Japanese naval vessel into South Korean territorial waters near Dokdo cordoned off for a ROK Navy-Air Force joint drill. The 7,600-ton class Aegis destroyer ``Sejongdaewang,'' the first to be built under the KDX-III project, fired a warning salvo over the Japanese Congo class warship which continued toward the ROK Naval battle group. Next, a Mitsubishi-built F-15J fighter and bomber brokes away from a formation patrolling the area.
The Japanese Koku Jieitai jet launched an anti-ship missile at Sejongdaewang. It is not known whether this was a mistake or intentional. Before the engagment, the pilot stopped radio contact with the rest of the formation, refusing repeated commands from Japan's B767-platform airborne command and control center. The pilot's grandfather served in the imperial Japanese navy's losing effort in the Battle of Midway in the Pacific theater of the Second World War. One of many unsolved questions is why the Japanese jet was carrying anti-ship missiles with it during a patrol mission in the first place. There is no pilot account available.
One of two ROK Air Force F-15Ks responded in self-defense without clearance from the command center, firing an AIM-120 medium-range air-to-air missile at the aggressor aircraft. Reinforcements moved in and the battle escalated to a full-fledged conflict. Then, an inscrutable North Korea did a strange thing, as it often does. It fired a Taepodong missile it has been fueling for days, apparently as part of a pressure tactic to wangle more concessions from Washington. The missile, basically retro-engineered from a Soviet-era Scud, was supposed to follow a designated trajectory over the midsection of Japan but ends up landing off Oki Island of Japan.
After this, pulling apart the three warring parties proved to be a monumental task for Obama, it taking nothing less than assurances of his personal appearance at this meeting to bring the four other participants together. In the meantime, Prime Minister Koizumi, a close friend of former President George Bush, overcomes his first awkward moments with Obama. He is here after an internal power struggle with Fukuda. President Lee sees his popularity propped up as a wartime commander in chief, and still has a couple more years to try and add flesh and bones to his ``747'' campaign pledge. Chinese President Hu sees his country's standing skyrocket after his 11th hour intervention. Obama is keenly aware that Hu could have taken center among the five for its military and mediation powers, dispelling his concern that the future may belong to this Middle Kingdom. U.N Secretary General Ban is happy to see the conflict involving his fatherland settled at this stage. Kim Jong-il looks sullen, which is not unusual. Obama, the real McCoy, in Washington, D.C. watches it all from his hideaway, with a smile widening on his face.
This scenario ends on a rather happy note, although the denouement is preceded by a bloody battle, which I would name the ``Battle of Dokdo,'' and of whose casualties and material damages I intentionally omit. This omission is due to the fictional nature of my column of which the purpose is to draw attention to military tensions that can flare up because of the oft-clashing interests of the countries in this region and the United States, the erstwhile protector of regional law and order. I am sure that I share with my readers the sincere hope that the Battle of Dokdo does not leave this column.
From Brian in Jeollanam-do
A few days ago he wrote a piece called "Let's Get Even With Japan." Today he brings us something called "The Eagle (Obama) Has Landed" while apparently under the influence of LSD on loan from his colleague Kim Heung-sook:
Whew, you had me worried. What a masterful piece of satire. Again, like I said in response to his earlier column, they ran a disclaimer under my piece, yet feel comfortable running inflammatory shit like this from the assistant managing editor?
I have read some insane and inane material in my life. I have never quiet ready anything like this before. I read this a few times and I still can not believe that a so-called major Korean Newspaper would print something this totally off-base. The logic is insane, at best, it borders on insanity of a fool , at the worst. The above article is worth a read at least one time. I still can not believe that this man basically wants Korea to shoot itself in the foot.