Sources on North Korea: Beal’s Crisis in Korea

November 19, 2011 6:30 AM

Tim Beal, recently retired from the University of Victoria in New Zealand, has long maintained a contrarian website with substantial North Korean content. He has recently renamed it Asian Geopolitics. We disagree with some core premises of his new book, Crisis in Korea: America, China, and the Risk of War, but he was nice enough to send us a copy. Given that we are appropriately modest about what anyone knows, we leave it up to you.

The first part of the book provides an historical overview from the colonial times to the present, and includes chapters titled “The Rise of China and the Decline of America” and “Obama’s Strategic Paralysis.” But Beal’s real preoccupation is the Cheonan. Beal catalogues in some detail all the possible doubts about the LMB investigation, from political motives to the various anomalies that are bound to crop up in any investigation of a complex event. He puts particular weight on the Russian investigation team that was finally allowed partial access in May, after the Korean investigation had essentially been completed. That report has to our knowledge never been published but it was skeptical. Beal holds to the possibility that the incident could have resulted from the ship running aground or even from friendly fire.  We are reminded of Seunghun Lee (Department of Physics, University of Virginia) and J.J. Suh (SAIS) who also went long with the theory that the LMB investigation was flawed.

The last part of the book is particularly alarmist. Beal believes that the current vogue of “collapsism,” about which we are also skeptical, could lead the US and Korea to take risky military steps or even launch a wholesale invasion. Militaries are in the business of contingency planning, but even the most hawkish of the hawks doesn’t see this as a likely eventuality.

We were reminded strongly of John Feffer’s work, and particularly his North Korea/South Korea: US Policy and the Korean Peninsula. As we always say: caveat emptor.

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