Tinderbox Korea

I am unworried about the immediate danger faced by Asiana Flight carrying over 100 passengers and crew from Chengu in China to Seoul in South Korea. A couple of Korean Marine guards at the posts on Gyodong island mistook it for a military aircraft from North Korea, and discharged small-arms at it as it approached Incheon International Airport some 25 miles distant, well out of range.

Yet, if these ill-disciplined individuals had been in control of anti-aircraft guns, it could have been much worse. And the wider concern is how it reflects the sense of jitters across in South Korea at what the next display of histrionic violence by Kim Jong-il will be.

Despite previously claiming on insurance for humanitarian goods supposedly – in other words, you big fat liar – destroyed by fire when a state-owned helicopter crashed into a warehouse whilst carrying a pregnant woman from a remote island to Pyongyang, civilian air travel within North Korea is to be presumed to be non existent.

So a repeat of Iran Airlines Flight 655 is unlikely; albeit only in the sense of possible state-orchestrated mischief making which may have directed this airliner to appear out of a blindspot on the Iranian side of the Gulf of Hormuz (a scenario which would not excuse William Rogers’ belligerence and aggressive command). In a tightly guarded and heavily armed region, however, a catastrophe similar to Korean Air Lines Flight 007 appears more likely.

Or the Norks could target a civilian airliner for the sheer hell of it.