Skip to comments.Navy 'Too Weak' For Big Role In Korea Blockade (UK)
Posted on 10/15/2006 6:58:44 PM PDT by blam
Navy 'too weak' for big role in Korea blockade
By Thomas Harding, Damien McElroy in Washington and Richard Spencer in Beijing
Plans to impose a blockade of North Korea to prevent the regime acquiring nuclear weapons were thrown in disarray last night.
China said it would oppose attempts to inspect suspect vessels and Royal Navy commanders said Britain was unable to make a significant military commitment to the proposed United Nations naval task force.
The United States is leading attempts to put together a force that would prevent suspect cargoes from entering the Marxist dictatorship and stop North Korea exporting weapons of mass destruction technology to rogue regimes such as Iran and terrorist groups.
Attempts to assemble the force began in earnest yesterday after the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution late on Saturday imposing tough arms and financial sanctions against Pyongyang following its claim that it had test-fired a nuclear warhead last week.
The UN resolution prompted an angry response from North Korea, which said it would regard the imposition of sanctions as an act of war and described the resolution itself as "gangster-like".
China, which voted in favour of the resolution at the Security Council, immediately cast doubt over the effectiveness of the proposed naval force when government officials said they did not approve of the inspections regime and would not take part.
Amended rules of engagement have been drawn up for the US 7th fleet, which is based in North Asia, and Pentagon officials said yesterday that they could count on support from the vessels of 15 "core" members of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which was set up in 2003 to prevent North Korea acquiring weapons of mass destruction technology, and includes Britain, Australia, Japan, and Singapore.
Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, will this week begin an intensive round of shuttle diplomacy, visiting China, South Korea, Japan and Russia in an attempt to shore up support for the UN resolution.
But senior Royal Navy officers last night cast serious doubt over Britain's ability to make a significant naval contribution to the proposed UN force, claiming that drastic cuts in government spending on the navy over the past decade had severely reduced their ability to participate in major foreign operations.
"I am staggered that the Government is trying to make this commitment when it knows what our Armed Forces are going through," a senior Royal Navy officer last night told The Daily Telegraph.
"But it knows that to keep our presence on the Security Council Britain needs to demonstrate what we can do."
Defence experts predicted that the most the Royal Navy could contribute was a single frigate, a Royal Fleet auxiliary support vessel and a Trafalgar class hunter killer submarine.
But senior navy officers expressed deep concern about their ability to defend their ships against a hostile missile or fighter threat after a decision was enforced six months ago to scrap the Sea Harrier fighter.
As a result of government cutbacks any British ships deployed to the South China Sea to enforce the UN resolution would depend on the American or French navies to provide "beyond visual range" air defence with their aircraft carriers.
The Navy has been cut by almost a third since Labour came into power, and the admission by Royal Navy commanders that they were struggling to find suitable ships to deploy to the UN force will raise further questions about the Labour government's handling of the armed forces' budget. Britain's military commitments to Iraq and North Korea have exposed glaring deficiencies in resources and equipment.
The approval of the Security Council resolution bolsters the right of US naval commanders to stop and search suspect vessels. North Korean trade will now be liable to constant scrutiny.
The nerve-centre of the non-proliferation web around the Korean peninsula is the USS Kitty Hawk, a nuclear powered aircraft carrier that commands a fleet of 60 ships and 350 aircraft.
China has repeatedly promised to tighten restrictions on North Korean shipments but any crackdown has so far been limited. A Chinese vessel carrying North Korean radar was intercepted in the Mediterranean last month.
Security experts also fear that increased US air and sea activity around China will raise the risk of a clash with the 600-ship strong People's Liberation Army Navy.
The Telegraph (UK)
By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent
Drastic cutbacks in spending on the Royal Navy during the past decade means commanders are struggling to assemble a task force to participate in the UN-sanctioned blockade of North Korea.
Navy chiefs have also expressed deep concern about their ability to defend their ships against a hostile missile or fighter threat after a decision was enforced six months ago to scrap the Sea Harrier fighter. Ships will be entirely reliant on the American or French navies to provide "beyond visual range" air defence with aircraft carriers.
The Navy has been cut by almost a third since Labour came to power and commanders believe that any British contribution would amount to one or two ships. While the Navy has operational experience of interdicting drugs and arms smugglers in the Gulf and Caribbean, its resources are severely limited.
Since 1997, the number of frigates and destroyers has shrunk from 35 to 25 warships, one of three aircraft carriers has been taken out of service and the hunter killer submarine force has been cut by two boats to 10. There are 38,000 sailors in the Navy.
The Government was publicly warned that 25 frigates and destroyers were inadequate for the demands being made on the Fleet by the recently retired First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Alan West.
"We need far more hulls for what they want us to do," a senior Navy officer told The Daily Telegraph. "We cannot be in all these places at once. I am staggered that the Government is trying to make this commitment when it knows what our Armed Forces are going through."
Ministry of Defence sources said that because the UN resolution required an international effort "any contribution by us would be looked at" and deploying a warship was "always a possibility".
The Foreign Office said it would be liaising with its security council partners this week "to discuss the practical implementation of the resolution".
A frigate would be able to carry out stop and search missions with its helicopters and armed boarding parties. A Trafalgar or Swiftsure class submarine could also be used to covertly gather intelligence off the North Korean coast.
But without the Sea Harriers the ships will be vulnerable to attack if there are no US Navy Aegis class ships in the area. "Without Sea Harrier we are screwed and we cannot really protect ourselves adequately from the missile threat," the Navy officer said.
The Fleet will not have adequate air defence until the first Type 45 destroyer enters service in three years.
Richard Scott, the Navy editor of Jane's Defence Weekly, said recent cuts had placed "far greater limitations" on the number of tasks the Navy could undertake.
Admiral Nelson is spinning in his grave.
If Condi thinks China is not loving all this, she is a fool.
I've become very leery of news stories that are almost completely crafted around an anonymous source.
Doofus. All we need are naval mines laid by aircraft.
oh come on, how many submarines do you need to send Lil kims ships to the sea floor?
This tidbit was misplaced on the article about Kim's life style. I think it was meant to be on one of these articles.
Kitty Hawk is not nuclear powered.
Well, perhaps the Royal Navy ought to just stay at home and protect the British Isles. It appears that's about all they're equipped for at this point. Looks like it's "Lead, follow or get out of the way." Pathetic.
The Telegraph (UK)
If you want to engage in gunboat diplomacy, it helps to have some gunboats. Britain has been in the vanguard of those pressing for sanctions on North Korea after its detonation of a nuclear device.
Now that the UN Security Council has authorised those sanctions, it falls to us to assist in their enforcement in any way we can, in particular via a blockade of North Korean trade.
But, just as the Army has been starved of the resources to do its job in Iraq and Afghanistan, so there are serious question marks over whether the Navy is equipped for this task.
Since Labour came to power in 1997, the Navy has lost a third of its ships. We should be able to rustle up a couple of frigates or destroyers, a submarine, even an aircraft carrier.
But as the Sea Harrier was withdrawn from service earlier this year, and its replacement does not arrive until 2013, those ships will be defenceless against missile fire.
Unless our fleet shelters under the protection of the French or the Americans, its air defences are pitiful; were the Falklands crisis to recur today, our task force would be sunk before ever sighting Port Stanley.
The threat of North Korea's missiles is not the only reason for trepidation. Even if Kim Jong-il accepts the presence of foreign vessels off his coast, it is easy to imagine a situation in which a misunderstanding or accident could spark an exchange of fire that escalates irreversibly.
The incident need not even involve North Korea: to have a Japanese and American fleet in its waters is the stuff of nightmares for China. Nor is the success of sanctions assured even if the naval operation works.
Is China able or willing to seal its vast border with the country? What will be done if, for example, an Iranian 747 flies into Pyongyang? Will Mr Kim, a leader happy to accept the starvation of millions of his own people, be especially touched by their suffering if his stockpiles of lobster and cognac remain intact?
Also, keeping ships on station and on alert is an expensive business; the temptation for an intervention force to sail back to port after winning a few token concessions will be great.
But the ships must still be sent and British vessels must, if called for, be among them. We cannot have a repeat of the Lebanese situation, when fine words at the United Nations translated into embarrassingly low troop commitments.
Containing Mr Kim is not just about making sure that North Korea does not destabilise the international scene any further. It is about ensuring that other nations that might be tempted into nuclear adventurism see that there is effective punishment for defying the international order.
The lessons of North Korea will be learnt across the globe in Malaysia and Indonesia, in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and, above all, in Iran. As a result, dealing with Mr Kim will be one of the most vital and delicate diplomatic and military tasks of the coming years. It will be a disgrace if Labour's neglect of our Armed Forces renders us unable to play our part.
Wrong outfit. They're talking about the Royal Navy.
All we need from the RN is some of their stock of aerial-laid naval mines - enough to close NK ports to merchant shipping.
The resolution didn't authorize a blockade, although that would have been more fun.
NK doesn't have an army. They're not even an armed mob anymore. The ROK could conquer NK in six weeks without any help from America.
So in other words, blam, we're on our own.