Monday, May 24, 2010

Sure, let's hold joint naval exercises, what a great idea...

In response to the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel two months ago, apparently by North Korea, the U.S. has announced that it will hold joint naval exercises with the South. The main point of this kind of thing is to demonstrate U.S. support for the South. However, if the presence of 28,500 U.S. soldiers in South Korea does not already show enough support for the South, it's hard to see that joint naval exercises will add much. As Selig Harrison observed on the NewsHour tonight, there are other steps that might make more sense, such as, for starters, settling the long-running maritime boundary dispute between the two Koreas. Even though the disputed boundary apparently did not figure in the latest incident, it has been an ongoing source of tension. I don't know the details of this dispute at all, but in theory at least most maritime boundary disputes are not that intractable (unless they involve title to islands, which I don't believe is the case here). Lock the parties in a big room or two, along with a bunch of experts, maps, surveys, fancy technical equipment, food and drink, and let no one out until the thing is settled. With the maritime boundary issue out of the way, they could get on to some other matters, like finally negotiating a formal end to the Korean War.

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