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Hither and Yon

'Accidents' and 'Collateral Killings'

Special to WorldTribune.com
By Donald Kirk
The news from Ukraine and the Middle East carries grave implications for Northeast Asia, notably the Korean Peninsula.
Just think of all those missiles and artillery shells fired by North Korea over the east coast — generally without warning commercial airlines to stay away.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un watches a missile test.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un watches a missile test.
And consider the possibilities for raining hell on South Korea (and Japan too) in a barrage of mid-range Scuds and other stuff in the North Korean inventory.
The danger of an accidental missile strike on an airplane is probably as high as that in eastern Ukraine.
Malaysian Air and others should have known enough to stay out of a war zone. The U.S. by now has also ordered its planes not to fly over North Korea. No reason to take chances while Kim Jong-Un is personally, proudly, overseeing the missile tests — nearly 100 so far.
Ok, so the North Koreans aren’t deliberately targeting anyone. Nor were the pro-Russian rebels who’ve taken over the eastern Ukraine. No doubt they just wanted to play with their new toy, handed over by their generous friend in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin, and figured, oh, this looks like a warplane, let’s get it. Having pressed the button, they were probably amazed at the deadly accuracy of the missiles.
Long-term, though, we have more to fear from deliberately planned rocket attacks by North Koreans making good on some of the rhetoric that’s been fired off by Kim Jong-Un and his propagandists. One reason may be that some North Korean units reportedly are so short on food that soldiers are advised to go home and dine on family offerings. Of course, their families don’t have much if anything either.
In these desperate straits, the North Koreans could decide now’s the time to strike at the South. Yes, we’ve been hearing such stuff for years and years, and all we get are “incidents” ? like the sinking of the Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010, bloody battles in the Yellow Sea, that kind of thing.
Yet the North Korean threat does pose some interesting parallels with what’s happening between the Israelis and Hamas in the Gaza strip, that sad stretch of Palestinian land that’s wedged between Israel’s southwest and the Mediterranean. Think about those tunnels through which Hamas was sending infiltrators. And consider all the rockets the Hamas had stocked up.
Doesn’t North Korea also have tunnels — at least four of which have long since been discovered ? through which North Korean forces could make their way to the South? And what about the rockets that North Korea could rain on the South if the generals up there ever got the nerve to go beyond rhetoric and fire off the real thing?
Attempts at historical parallels always are deeply flawed. The Hamas is a weak force, a bunch of blowhards who don’t mind sacrificing their own people for the greater good, they say, but don’t have a prayer of really harming Israel. So far they’ve lost hundreds, 70 percent civilians, under a ferocious Israeli assault that makes Israel a target for anti-Israel propaganda.
That’s fine by Hamas and the Palestinians, who love to see Israel vilified for whatever reason, but doesn’t exactly advance their cause in any real or pragmatic sense.
A serious North Korean barrage on South Korea, not just a few potshots, could be far more destructive, as would be the response of the South and its American ally. The stakes in East Asia could be a lot higher than in the Middle East, so torn up and confused that it’s impossible to predict who would win or how long the fighting would last not only in Gaza but all over the region.
On both sides of the Eurasian land mass, huge powers of indistinct intentions cast long dark shadows.
While Russia looms large over the Ukraine and over much of the eastern Europe countries once held in bondage by the old Soviet Union, so China sends pulses of fear around East Asia amid its confrontation with Japan over the Senkakus and its claims to the entire South China Sea, including the Spratlys.
Russia can’t do much about Israel and the Palestinians but does support Israel’s worst enemies, including Iran and the Assad regime in Damascus. From these vantages Russia also compels the U.S. to question how much succor to give the Netanyahu gang in Israel.
No one forgets that Israel, by far the biggest recipient of U.S. aid, gets virtually all those heavy weapons, tanks, planes and most everything else, from the U.S.
One suspects, though, if there were no Israel to blame for everything, Palestinians would be fighting other Palestinians just as Syrians are fighting Syrians, as Sunni Muslims are fighting Shiites in Iraq, as terrorists are fighting everyone from one end of the Arab world to the other — and beyond.
As for all the civilians caught in the crossfire in “targeted” bombing and shelling, too bad, can’t be helped, that’s war, isn’t it?
Columnist Donald Kirk has been observing and covering the confrontation of force in Asia for decades. He’s at kirkdon@yahoo.com.
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