Just War and Just Battle: The Examination of North Korea’s Attack against the ROKS Cheonan Based on the Just War Principles
In March 2010, a North Korean submarine fired a torpedo against the South Korean ship Cheonan, which resulted in the deaths of 46 sailors. Is its surprise attack justified? The academic examination has rarely been made over whether North Korea’s use of military force is justified in this battle. As the just war theory to date has dealt mostly with major wars, it also can guide us to judge whether this limited warfare is just or not. The just war principles are composed of three axes: before, in and after wars. First, North Korea’s provocation had neither right cause nor right intension because it attacked the Cheonan preventively, not preemptively, and was intended to achieve its domestic objective, the stable succession of the Kim regime. Second, North Korea also did not observe in-war principles in the sense that it attacked and sank the Cheonan unproportionally to maximize the effectiveness of revenge. Third, North Korea was not interested in post-battle settlements but intended to aggravate tensions in the region, which is not compliant with post-war principles. The examination sheds some light on the need to expand the scope of just war principles from war to limited warfare and battles particularly in the sense that it helps restrain unethical warfare and maintain the rules-based international order. This expansion also will contribute to not only the richness of the just war theory but also further leading it to evolve into a grand theory of war.
Keywords: just war theory, the ROKS Cheonan Incident, preventive strike, limited warfare, jus ad bellum, sea battle