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TinotopiaLog → Confusing North Korean B.S. ( 4 Mar 2003)
Tuesday 04 March 2003

Confusing North Korean B.S.

All day, NPR news has been reporting that the North Koreans “attempted” to “force down” the U.S. spy plane that they intercepted yesterday.

NPR quotes an unidentified U.S. official who is “familiar” with a videotape of the incident, presumably taken from the spy plane. He’s quoted as saying that a North Korean can be seen waving his arm in a downward direction, and that one of the North Korean pilots activated his targeting radar.

He continues to say that the fire-control radar was not activated, but that this doesn’t matter because the Koreans were armed with heat-seeking missiles. And that this doesn’t matter anyway because the range was so short that the Koreans could have shot down the spy plane with their cannons. (I’ll add links and direct quotes here if and when I find a print source for the same information; I haven’t yet been able to.)

Let’s examine this unidentified official’s statements and NPR’s conclusions a little more closely:

  1. The North Koreans intercepted a U.S. plane, at very close range.
  2. At least one North Korean made a hand signal indicating that he wanted the American plane to land.
  3. At least one North Korean activated his targeting radar
  4. But this isn’t as serious as it might have been because he did not activate his fire-control radar
  5. But that isn’t necessarily true because they weren’t using radar-guided missiles
  6. And they were close enough to have shot down the American plane with guns, anyway, had they chosen to do so.
  7. Therefore, the North Koreans attempted and failed to force the American plane down.

None of this makes the slightest bit of sense, either as an account of actual events, as a governmental information release, or as a news story. #7 is particularly idiotic; in a story where we’re given information about several ways in which the Koreans could have shot the plane down, but didn’t, it’s hard to conclude that they “attempted” to force the plane down.

I’m willing to accept that actual events don’t always make sense. But the point of a government leak is to spin the account of events in a direction favorable to your point of view, and the purpose of a news organization is to make sense out of random information. Neither of those things has happened in this case. NPR has taken this spaghetti mess of a leak and is reporting it in what looks like unedited form.

Posted by tino at 23:40 4.03.03
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I think what’s going on is that the White House is trying to have it both ways with their leak: for domestic consumption this is yet another example why North Korea is Evil(tm), but at the same time trying to play it down so that the North Koreans think they’ve rattled us.

Posted by: rrp at March 5, 2003 11:47 AM