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Close to 200 ships full of dead bodies have been found off the coast of Japan over the past two yearsand experts think North Korea is to blame.
TOKYO Since 2013, more than 175 abandoned ships have been found floating off the coast of Japan, with scores of unidentified bodies.
Most of the ships and the dead are believed to have come from North Korea. But what happened to these ships, what happened on board to the crew, and why have 10 ships and 23 bodies been found within just the last two months?
The bodies are often severely decomposed and documents or photos that would help identify the deceased are sorely lacking. Japanese officials are investigating but there are no clear answers, although there are reasonable theories to explain the phenomenon.
On Wednesday, the Japanese Coast Guard discovered an unidentified body in an abandoned fishing ship off the coast of Niigata Prefecture’s Sado City, in the Sea of Japan. The ship had been found on Nov. 14 but was only successfully taken out of the water and inspected yesterday. According the Coast Guard, they received word from the Sado City Fishermens Association that a strange ship was floating in the harbor last month.
The wooden ship, 45 feet long, was found capsized; its hull blackened and discolored. There was Korean writing (hangul) and what appeared to be numbers on the body of the ship as well.
The rough ocean conditions made entering the ship impossible and the Coast Guard only succeeded in raising the boat on Wednesday afternoon. Upon searching the ship, they found fishing equipment. The dead man inside was wearing a black sweater and slacks and an orange life vest; his head was partially skeletonized. He is believed to have died within the last three to four months.
The Japanese Coast Guard announced that since October, there have been 10 wooden ships found abandoned and floating off the coasts of Japan, ranging from Hokkaido in the North to Fukui Prefecture in the Chubu region. From these 10 ships, 24 bodies have been recovered, all male.
Most of the men are believed to have died within the last four months.
Because of the fragments of Korean writing found on the ships and the life vests, the primitive structure of the vessels, and the particular fishing equipment found aboard, the Japanese authorities and most experts believe the majority of the ships are from North Korea.
The first of the ships was found around Oct. 27. On Nov. 20, three boats were found adrift near the city of Wajima, which is on the west coast of Japan. One of the boats contained 10 bodies, already heavily decomposed, and had written on its hull in hangul, Koreans People Army, the proper name of the North Korea military forces. There were also pieces of what appeared to be a North Korean flag.
Was it a failed spy mission? A boat full of defectors?
Neither answer seems likely.
A few days later on Nov. 22, near the coast of Fukui Prefecture, another wooden fishing vessel was found with seven bodies inside. Four of the bodies were partly skeletons, with some skulls having been detached from the remains, probably due to decomposition rather than a deliberate amputation.
The surge in the appearance of these deadly ghost ships may be due to the plans of the Great Leader gone off-course.
Kim Jong-Un, has been visiting fishery stations in North Korea since this summer and reportedly ordered the military and civilian populace to increase the production of marine products.
Satoru Miyamoto, an associate professor of Seigakuin University, who is an expert on North Korean affairs, told Japanese public broadcaster NHK, In North Korea, all companies exist under the auspices of either the government, the party or the military. These ships all appear to be fishing vessels under military control. The drive by Kim Jong-Un to raise the fishing haul probably resulted in many poorly prepared vessels going out to sea.
NHK reported on Nov. 25 that, since 2013, there have been a total of 175 abandoned ships that have floated into the waters surrounding Japan, which are believed to be from North Korea.
Hidenori Sakanaka, former chief of the Tokyo Immigration Bureau, who now runs a nonprofit group promoting immigration to Japan, told The Daily Beast that North Korean ships running adrift in Japan had been happening for years.
Its possible that some of the ships that came here were people seeking to escape the oppressive North Korean regime, but seems unlikely.
The last time North Korean defectors reached Japan was in 2011.
On Sept. 13, 2011, the Japanese Coast Guard found and rescued a small wooden ship, about 26 feet in length, off the coast of Wajima. The six adults and three children aboard were briefly given refuge in Japan and were then transported to South Korea.
Diplomatic relations between Japan and North Korea are particularly strained due to unresolved abduction issues.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the North Korean government abducted at least 17 Japanese citizens, primarily to train North Korean spies.
While some of the abductees were allowed to return to Japan, the Japanese government feels that North Korea is still holding many others hostage and has not clarified the fates of suspected abductees.
Read more: http://www.thedailybeast.com
The Littoral Combat Ship was supposed to represent the future of small, fast, and flexible warships. Instead it was beset by significant flaws and questions of reliability.
After years of work costing billions of dollars, the U.S. Navy is scaling back its controversial effort to build a fleet of small, speedy, flexible warships for near-shore patrolsa fleet plagued by design flaws, mismanagement and technical malfunctions.
But the Navys not cutting the fleet by choiceand not everyone is happy with the change. The decision to reduce the Littoral Combat Ship program from 52 ships to 40, while also building them all at one shipyard, reflects an ongoing conflict inside the Pentagon over Americas military strategy.
On one side are the advocates of what defense planners call presencethat is, stationing lots of inexpensive troops, planes and ships near potential hotspots in order to reassure Americas allies and ward off its enemies, theoretically preventing war without anyone firing a shot.
On the opposite side are capability proponents who prefer concentrating smaller numbers of more sophisticated, and thus more expensive, forces in the United States and at Americas main overseas bases, holding back these troops and weapons until an actual shooting war breaks out and the U.S. military must decisively intervene.
The ship cut is a win for the capabilities crowdand signals a continued shift in U.S. strategy away from long-term, large-scale military deployments toward a more reserved, arguably more cautious approach to warfare.
The order to reduce the Littoral Combat Ship program came from Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, a champion of capability, in a Dec. 14 memo to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, a presence advocate.
Carter told Mabus that the sailing branch wont be getting all of the Littoral Combat Ships it wants. This plan reduces, somewhat, the number of LCS available for presence operations, Carter wrote.
Instead, the Pentagon boss directed the Navy chief to take some of the roughly $5 billion the extra dozen ships would have cost and spend it on fighter jets, missiles and dronesweaponry that Carter argued would have the necessary capabilities and posture to defeat even our most advanced potential adversaries.
The Navy had been counting on the full 52-ship production run of small, nimble and fast Littoral Combat Ships, each crewed by a relatively small contingent of just 75 sailors, to boost the fleets ability to sail in shallow coastal waters, save on manpower costs and grow the fleet from todays 282 frontline warships to a goal of more than 300 ships starting in 2019. Cutting some Littoral Combat Ships will slightly reduce the fleets rate of growth.
In any event, changes to the program have been a long time coming. Conceived in the 1990s, a decade of extraordinarysome would say foolishtechnological ambition among military planners, the Littoral Combat Ship initiative has suffered more than its share of scandal, failure, and embarrassment.
Early on, the per-ship price doubled to around $500 million. Designing the warships took years longer than planners had predicted. And rather than selecting just one shipbuilder to actually manufacture the vessels, the Pentagon tapped twoLockheed Martin and Austal, each producing its own, unique version of the Littoral Combat Ship. This dual construction strategy resulted in two totally different ship types each requiring their own supply chains and crew-training programs, an arguably wasteful redundancy.
Worse, when the roughly 400-foot-long ships finally began entering service in 2008, the Navy discovered serious technical shortfalls. The early ships rusted too quickly. Their main guns vibrated so much that they couldnt shoot straight. The Navy wanted to build a bunch of plug-and-play module kits including different combinations of sensors and weapons, each tailored for different kinds of combat against submarines, undersea mines or other ships. But seven years after LCS 1, the Lockheed-built USS Freedom arrived at her home base in San Diego without any war-ready modules.
And even with the modules, the Littoral Combat Ships are lightly armed, each with a single 57-millimeter gun and a few short-range missiles. This spring the Navy rolled out a plan to add more missiles to some Littoral Combat Ships, but theyll still be toothless compared to the Navys larger destroyers and cruisers, all of which boast a 127-millimeter gun and around a hundred long-range missiles.
The new warships are also unreliable. Today the Navy has six Littoral Combat Ships in commission. But between them, the vessels have completed just two overseas deployments in seven years. Based on recent averages, six Navy warships of any other class should, as a group, be able to complete a dozen deployments in that span of time.
The latest embarrassment occurred on Dec. 11 when USS Milwaukee, the brand-new LCS 6, broke down while sailing from Lockheeds Wisconsin shipyard to Florida. A tugboat hauled the powerless vessel to a Navy base in Virginia for potentially weeks of repairs.
Just three days later Carter canceled a dozen of the ships and warned that either Lockheed or Austal would be removed from the programalthough, to be fair, the defense secretarys decision was months in the making and wasnt a specific reaction to Milwaukees stranding. Carters memo sparked a fresh round of debate between the Pentagons capabilities crowd and their presence rivals.
Shocking is how retired Navy captain Jerry Hendrix, now an analyst with the Center for a New American Security think tank in Washington, D.C., described Carters memo. Hendrixs articles in professional journals over the years have helped advance the presence cause.
Cutting Littoral Combat Ships relegates the maritime mission to the back seat, Hendrix told The Daily Beast, adding that the reduction is very much in line with Ash Carters technological approach to defensethat science is now going to come forward and magically change defense and we wont need ships to service forward presence.
But Norman Polmar, an author and naval expert who has been aboard two Littoral Combat Ships, said the changes to the troubled program are good for America and the Navy. Numbers are important, Polmar said, but you also have to have hardcore combat capability.
Having canceled a dozen Littoral Combat Ships and freed up potentially billions of dollars and hundreds of sailors, the Navy should hurry up and design a tougher, more heavily-armed and more reliable small warship, Polmar said. That memo should have been written five years ago.
Read more: http://www.thedailybeast.com
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Two US Navy boats carrying 1o American soldiers were seized in the Persian Gulf on Tuesday after possibly drifting into Iranian waters, NBC reports. The boats, and the soldiers, are being detained at Farsi Island by Iranian military troops.
According to reports, the soldiers were training at sea when one of the boats may have experienced mechanical failure. It’s believed both vessels could havedrifted into Iranian territory, where they were seized by the nations coast guard.
Though the nine male soldiers and one female soldier are currently being detained, Iranian authorities have confirmed they are safe. They will be released into American custody soon, though officials have not specified when.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters,
We have been in contact with Iran and have received assurances that the crew and the vessels will be returned promptly.
Some, including retired Army General Barry McCaffrey, are criticizing the seizure as a failure on the part of the American government. In an interview, he said,
We simply cant allow ground, air or naval units to be seized by a foreign hostile power This is an affront to our military presence in the Gulf and will unsettle our allies in the region.
Insiders say officials first lost contact with the boats around noon as they were passing between Kuwait and Bahrain. Contact was not re-established prior to the soldiers capture.
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Container ships are a lot tougher than you might give them credit for. The boats are the engine for a large percentage of the world’s economy and they can take an impressive beating from the sea. As evidence, I present to you the following video of one cargo ship literally being bent by the rough seas, yet still coming out in one piece.
Isn’t modern engineering wonderful? Now just try not to have any nightmares about an angry ocean rising up and swallowing you whole…