How British naval tactics from 1800s could be used against North Korea

Julian Ryall
Admiral Horatio Nelson was the victor at a number of naval battles in the Napoleonic Wars - HULTON ARCHIVE

British naval tactics dating from the Napoleonic Wars of the early 1800s should be applied to isolate North Korea, according to a former United States Navy officer who has also served as an advisor to senior US politicians.

A multinational blockade would increase the pressure on Kim Jong-un and force the North Korean dictator to abandon its development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, Gregory Keeley, a retired lieutenant commander with the US Navy, wrote in an opinion article in The Hill.

Lt Cmdr Keeley said that President Donald Trump has two potential ways of dealing with North Korea - although "direct kinetic military action" and learning to live with a despotic, nuclear-armed nation, are equally bad, he said.

A third option would be to work with like-minded nations in the region to impose a physical naval blockade of North Korea, he suggested.

"Unlike sanctions, a blockade provides the capability to monitor, intercept and enforce restrictions on what can go in and out of the target nation while providing a powerful psychological and diplomatic instrument", Lt Cmdr Keeley said.

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"A naval blockade in the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea would prevent the DPRK from obtaining essential raw materials and equipment, including refined petroleum and military spares", he added. 

"A naval blockade also serves to choke export income from the lucrative coal and iron exports the regime needs to keep the lights on".

The naval forces of Japan and Australia could be relied on to support the initiative, he suggested, while South Korea, Singapore, India, Taiwan and Nato could also provide assets to isolate Pyongyang.

Lt Cmdr Keeley cites the 1962 blockade of Cuba as a relatively recent example of a successful blockade, but he points to the Royal Navy's blockade of Napoleonic France as being the most dramatic example of the power of encircling a recalcitrant regime.

"One of the most effective blockades in history was the British Royal Navy blockade of the First French Empire during the Napoleonic war", he wrote. "Britain was able to keep its shipping lanes open, and effectively cut off crucial supplies to Napoleon’s armies, ultimately winning the war".