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Posted on Jul 17, 2007 in Armchair Reading, Front Page Features

The Next War?

By John Antal

4. While the artillery and infiltration attacks continue, the North Korean Air Force would launch a suicide raid on a few vital targets that are beyond the reach of North Korean artillery. The North Korean Air Force is no match for the South Korean or U.S. air force, but it may be capable of one, violent attack. It is highly likely that the North Koreans would arm their fighter-bombers with persistent nerve agent weapons to deny South Korean and U.S. air forces the use of their airfields.

5. Long range missile attacks, using persistent chemical weapons, would occur on South Korea’s major ports. The intent of these attacks is to deny U.S. and Allied forces the use of existing port facilities in South Korea.

6. Just before the sun rises, the North Korean Army would attack all along the DMZ. The initial attacks would be by North Korean infantry divisions. The main punch of the NKPA attack would be along several strike sectors that have been devastated by artillery fire and non-persistent chemical agents. After a hole was punched in the DMZ defenses, North Korean mobile forces would attack. The North Korean Army has approximately 3,800 main battle tanks and 2,270 armored personnel carriers and would use these to support the rapid exploitation of a weak spot in the South Korean defenses. The Kaesong-Munsan and Chorwon avenues of approach would most likely be the main strike sectors. The intent of these attacks is to overwhelm the stunned South Korean defenses along the DMZ and quickly move south toward the South Korean capital at Seoul.

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7. The North Koreans expect to be in Seoul in 5-7 days. Once they capture Seoul (or at least surround the city), they would move to the next step: Negotiation from a position of strength.

8. The North Koreans will issue an ultimatum to the U.S., South Korea and Japan for an immediate cease fire under terms set by Kim Jong Il. If these terms are not met, Kim will threaten the devastation of Tokyo and major cities in South Korea with nuclear tipped No-Dong missiles.

ASSESSMENT

Sound far fetched? Some no doubt will argue that the North Korean threat is a myth and that the North Korean armed forces are so outclassed by the U.S. and ROK militaries that the North Koreans would have to be suicidal to start a war. They further argue that the North’s economy is a shambles and the military has not conducted large scale maneuvers or training exercises in years. At best, they’d claim, the North Koreans could cause havoc for a week or so until they were utterly defeated.

Maybe so, but the North Korean attack of 1950 came as a surprise and when the North Koreans charged across the border they sent U.S. and ROK forces reeling south. Since then, the United States and the Republic of Korea have successfully deterred a major North Korean attack largely due to the presence of U.S. and ROK conventional military forces. Kim Jong Il is now trying to shift this balance by deploying missiles that could carry chemical, biological or nuclear weapons that can range every major city in Korea, Japan and beyond. With the announcement of the October 9, 2006 nuclear test, he may now have a nuclear weapon. It seems clear that Kim understands that the key enabler for the North Koreans to successfully wage war against the U.S. and the Republic of Korea is the development of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.

As a minimum, the perception of a nuclear weapon delivered by a North Korean rocket gives Kim Jong Il a bargaining chip that he will use to stay in power and, as his nuclear capability matures, it remains to be seen if Kim will remain deterred from attempting to secure his goal of Korean reunification. In the meantime, the United States and the Republic of Korea will have to rethink the current state of deterrence and decide how best to cooperate to keep a very dangerous, unpredictable and ruthless autocrat from starting “the Next War” in Korean War.

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The Range of North Korean Missiles today

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1 Comment

  1. Interesting scenerio, but what you have failed to address is covert operations. Since by definition, what these operations might consist of is unknown, but doubtless some thought has been given to covert methods of dismantling Pyongyang’s command and control capabilities, possibly including the assassination of key leadership figures. This article also assumes an order of battle that closely follows that of the first Korean conflict. With the availability of UAV’s, stealth aircraft and highly accurate cruise missles, that is unlikely. While poor weather may ground conventional aircraft, it would not necessarily be an issue for Tomahawks with GPS guidance which would no doubt be heavily used against air defense and command and control facilities. The only real threat would be from NKPA infantry and artillery, a significant threat, but one that is heavily reliant on a vulnerable logistics system. As an army commander, I would concentrate my forces, particularly my attack helicopter forces against NKPA supply lines and hope to interdict them to a degree that it significantly slows the advance of infantry units until the weather improves enough to resume air operations.

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