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World Association of International Studies

Post A Naval Blockade of N Korea?
Created by John Eipper on 09/08/17 4:31 AM

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A Naval Blockade of N Korea? (David Fleischer, Brazil, 09/08/17 4:31 am)

The Cuba '62-North Korea '17 comparison lacks a very important element--the US Naval blockade of Cuba during the Missile Crisis.

US warships actually "bumped" several unarmed Soviet commercial ships, forcing them to turn back. A complete US naval blockade of North Korea (East and West) is an option short of a "preventative" first strike. I imagine that Trump and his generals are considering this option that would cut off North Korea's petroleum supply and other strategic materials. Putin objected strongly to this type of sanction that is being considered by the UN Security Council.

JE comments:  But how would the Chinese react to a blockade?  Imagine, for argument's sake, a Chinese blockade of, say, Jamaica.

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  • Blockades Lead to War (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 09/09/17 6:30 AM)

    David Fleischer, 8 September. talks about the possibility of a naval
    blockade of North Korea. In the past however, naval blockades or equivalent
    sanctions that have tried to strangle a nation have brought only war.

    The naval blockade of Cuba was resolved because the USSR got what it
    wanted--the withdrawal of the missiles from Italy and Turkey, and a solemn
    promise that the US would not invade Cuba. (At that time the US kept its
    word, not like later with the expansion of NATO. Gorbachev
    stupidly trusted the US and did not insist on putting it in writing.)

    Let's forget the blockade of oil to Japan in 1941 that brought Pearl Harbor on
    7 December 1941.

    But I want to focus on the harassment of the Italian merchant fleet by
    France and especially the UK in 1939-'40.

    Mussolini, in spite of the Pact of Steel of 22 May 1939, tried to reach
    peace up to the last moment, and had doubts about which side to join.

    The Pact of Steel is rather controversial. Ciano handled it poorly for
    sure, but he gives one version while the infuriated Mussolini related another
    version to his daughter Edda. He even thought about firing Ciano. Most probably Ciano was
    tricked by Ribbentrop to sign something that Mussolini in reality did not

    In April 1940 Mussolini said to Edda: "It seemed that there
    was a lessening of tensions with France and UK but their naval blockade is strangling
    us." See the two Pietromachi reports of 11 May and 8 June 1940. The latter is just a confirmation, but things were already in motion by that time.

    The Italian Merchant Ships were not only stopped at sea to be checked if
    they were transporting forbidden merchandise.  They were also detained in port,
    stopped for many days and some of the cargo confiscated.

    The ship 21 April was stopped and inspected at Aden, Suez, Port Said,
    and Gibraltar.
    Can you figure the huge economic damage?

    The ship Laura C was stopped at Gibraltar for one month, as was Agata again
    at Gibraltar, Livenza, and others.

    Much merchandise, even if it was not on the list of prohibited items, was
    unloaded and confiscated. Following the owners' protests, the British
    authorities sometimes permitted the clearance providing that all expenses by the
    UK for confiscation, port expenses including piloting, expenses for
    discharging, storage and reloading were fully paid!

    Even dried grapes from Turkey were confiscated, while 200 bags of private mail
    from the US were confiscated from the liner Rex at Gibraltar. The actor David Niven was on board this ship.

    When was was finally declared, the instructions were "Italy will maintain a
    purely demonstrative attitude. France and UK have informed that they will do the
    same. Our troops shall not open fire first." This was the first time in history in which a nation declares war with the order to its
    troops not to shoot.

    But France and the UK soon started bombing the towns of the Riviera Ligure (14
    June) and Torino (12 June); we were tricked.

    JE comments:  In school we learned that the US went to war with Britain in 1812 because it interfered with US shipping.  Is the blockade an act of war in itself, or an excuse for going to war if you already want to?  Does the question matter?

    In any case, the North Korean lifeline goes overland, from China.  Tim Brown (next) explains.

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    • Submarine B-59: A Close Call of the Cuban Missile Crisis (Tor Guimaraes, USA 09/10/17 4:37 PM)
      Everyone seems to agree that the Cuban Blockade worked out thanks to the last-minute personal negotiation between Bobby Kennedy and the Soviet government. It was pleasantly surprising how the two sides were able to trust each other's words.

      One obscure incident rarely mentioned by people discussing the topic is that there was a Soviet submarine with nuclear capability which had lost communication capability with headquarters, and was being hunted down by US surface ships. The captain of the submarine thought WWIII had started and was ready to launch nuclear warheads. The on-board political officer (obviously a dirty Communist no less) interjected with a clearer head and convinced the captain not to launch the missile and for sure WWIII.

      Now, that was scary.

      JE comments:  Here is Wikipedia on the B-59 incident.  The lone officer who refused to approve the nuclear torpedo launch, Vasili Arkhipov, may be the sole reason nuclear war was averted and our planet is still hanging in there, 55 years later.  A great unsung hero.  (Arkhipov was the sub-flotilla commander, not the political commissar.)  See the second link:



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  • Would a Naval Blockade of N Korea be Possible? (Timothy Brown, USA 09/09/17 7:32 AM)
    In response to David Fleischer (8 September), naval blockades only work where ships can sail. North Korea has about 880 miles of land border with China on the Yalu River and a short land border with Russia.

    Cuba worked: Korea might not. During the Korean War, MacArthur was under orders not to approach the China-North Korea Yalu River border, apparently because China had told us it would react if we did. When he violated that order, two things happened:  China invaded Korea, greatly prolonging the war, and Truman fired MacArthur.

    Blockading North Korea's two coastlines might cut off its ocean accesses. But it wouldn't cut it off from China or Russia.  Moreover, a naval blockade that reached right up to its borders with China and Russia would both risk confrontations with those countries and greatly strengthen Korea's dependencies on China. It seems to me that we would not know in advance whether China would use its augmented influence to rein in North Korea or to push us back.

    JE comments:  Isn't North Korea already dependent on China, more or less totally?  And what can Tim Brown or anyone else tell us about the NK-Russian border?  It's only 11 miles (17 KM) long.  Is it completely fortified?  Somewhat open?  Is there any meaningful commerce or travel between the two nations?

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