Saturday, March 9, 2013

How Credible Are North Korea's Threats?

The outcome of a war started by the north is not in doubt.  However, the war itself will be on a scale of devastation that the US has not experienced since the Korean War.  It will not be a Grenada, or Just Cause or Desert Storm or Iraqi Freedom (the March-April 2003 period).  People can call the nKPA a relic of the Cold War but the fact is as good as the militaries of the ROK/US Alliance are they cannot prevent the north from inflicting horrific damage on Seoui and the northern part of South Korea if the north executes its campaign plan.  We should not be lulled by those who assess that north Korea is an anachronism.  Yes, the declining resources of the north have severely impacted the nKPA but they still retain capabilities that cannot be totally countered before they inflict serious damage.  And then we will have to discuss the complexity of what comes after the defeat of the nKPA and how the situation in the north is dealt with including the resistance that will rise out of the so-called "guerrilla dynasty" (thanks to Adrian Buzo for coining that term in the title of his book).  I believe that people who discount the military threat posed by war as well as after war have not really looked at the situation in sufficient depth to render those judgments.   As always, I am guilty of being chicken little and the boy who cried wolf and I will gladly accept the "I told you so's" if my analysis is proven wrong.  I truly hope I am wrong but again I always believe in Sun Tzu's dictum, "never assume the enemy will not attack, make yourself invincible."

And as for Professor Lopez, I think his imagination has not gone far enough here:
George Lopez, a political science professor at the University of Notre Dame, is more emphatic. Even if the North had a small, deliverable weapon, he says, "I think most of the bets are that they do not have the capability to reliably reach a target." 
"They don't seem to have the booster they need to get a workable weapon to land where they want it to," Lopez says. 
"Could they build something, load it on an airplane and drop it over South Korea? Maybe, but it would pretty difficult, probably impossible."

Seems to me while we are waiting for the missile to be developed to reach the continental US, the north already has the capability to explode a device in a US harbor.  Crude, but it is possible.  And while Professor Lopez is thinking conventionally, I think we can be assured that the north is thinking unconventionally and asymmetrically (yes we can argue the cost and benefits of executing such an operation but the capability exists).  All warfare is based on deception, again so said the Master Sun Tzu.

One bit of irony in all this.  One of the objectives of the Kim Family Regime is to get the international community and in particular the US to pay attention to it.  For the time being they are succeeding.

How Credible Are North Korea's Threats?
March 09, 2013 5:39 AM

North Korea's rhetoric has been particularly aggressive recently, but analysts say it remains difficult to gauge the country's intentions and its military capabilities.

When it comes to talking a big game, no one does it better than the North Koreans.

Just this week, Pyongyang vowed to turn Seoul, the capital of archrival South Korea, into a "sea of fire," promised to launch a "pre-emptive strike on the headquarters of the aggressors" (read: the United States) and called on its army to "annihilate the enemy."

And that's nothing new; the state-controlled Korean Central News Agency churns out similar fare daily.
Most experts and Korea watchers believe the latest rhetoric is just the usual propaganda engine cranked up to 11. But if North Korea should suddenly move to make its threats a reality, how bad could it be? Are the North's nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles push-button ready? What about its massive tank and artillery forces?

South Korea's Defense Ministry says the North's air force consists of 820 fighter jets, but that Pyongyang lacks enough fuel to fly them much.

By contrast, South Korea has just 460 jets, but most are combat ready. Likewise, the North has a nearly 2-to-1 numerical advantage in tanks (4,200 to South Korea's 2,400), but according to Reuters, Seoul's armor is "more modern and better maintained."

A Large Military With Limited Capabilities

Jennifer Lind, an associate professor at Dartmouth College, says a big part of the reason that Pyongyang has been so keen to acquire nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles is precisely because its 1.1 million-strong army, the world's fourth largest, is a paper tiger.

She points to a detailed analysis of North Korea's conventional capability done by some of her colleagues in 1995 that showed Pyongyang was "pretty hopelessly outgunned" by the U.S. and South Korean forces.

"They had completely inferior tanks and artillery," she says. "Their air force was so antiquated that it would have been shot out of the sky in the first few hours of a conflict."

Instead of improving, the situation deteriorated in the intervening 18 years, Lind says, likely because of North Korea's isolation and its long-running food shortages.

"As bleak as things looked back then, I think they've only gotten worse," she says.

'A Cold War Relic'
(Continued at the link below)

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