After the White House spokesman's remarks about deploy US flexible deterrent options (e.g., B-52, B-2, and F-22) to restrain the ROK from unilateral action today I am afraid this scenario becomes more likely:
It might calculate that a bold gesture would sow doubt and dissent in South Korea, drive a risk-averse United States to back down and restrain its eager ally, and hand China a fait accompli in which Beijing has no alternative to protecting its upstart neighbor.
This is an interesting scenario below but my assessment is that once the first major hostile attack by north Korea occurs (not a provocation but an attack such as artillery rounds falling on Seoul), the Alliance is going to execute its defense plan of the Republic of Korea which will rapidly transition to the complete destruction of the north Korean military and the regime. There will be no time for such conspiring by the Chinese nor a negotiated settlement that allows for a weakened north Korea to remain. Once artillery falls on Seoul the ROK military will defend the country and complete execution of the war plan will take place. There will be no time for secret missions to secure nukes (assuming they could be detected) The fighting will be too intense for such missions, just as it will be in Pyongyang – even if the Chinese could somehow force a transition and install a pro-China leader it would be moot because by the time that could occur such a leader would have no command and control system and could not lead the military, let alone the nation. Attack on Seoul leads to the complete destruction of the nKPA, period. And then the unification process will follow the post-conflict stability operations.
But we should keep in mind a couple of things. The north is unlikely to start a war unless it can achieve surprise and it believes it has the correlation of forces it believes it needs to be successful (which means no US forces on the Peninsula). The only reason for attacking without those two conditions will be if the regime is threatened and its only hope of survival is execution of its campaign plan. The miscalculation will occur if Kim Jong-un thinks the regime is threatened with imminent destruction or collapse which is why all responses to provocations must take place immediately and decisively at the point of provocation. Striking deep targets later after the provocation will likely be interpreted as a threat to the regime but a swift response at the point of provocation will not lead to war. However, like artillery falling on Seoul, a long range missile toward Japan or Guam (or Hawaii or the the US mainland) cannot be treated as a mere provocation. Such an act ail demand international action and in my opinion the plan for the defense of Korea will be executed.
I also believe that once it starts even China will want it finished and will be more than happy to turn over the north to the ROK to conduct unification with its only demands that it secure the northern boarder and that it honors the agreements regarding mineral resources it made with north Korea. It will also attempt to co-opt or coerce the ROK into ensuring there are no foreign forces on the Korean Peninsula which is one its strategic objectives.
Again the bottom line is that once the north uses its artillery on Seoul or a long range missile fired at US interests the defense plan will be executed. To do anything less will mean even more loss of blood and treasure over the long run. Any half step or delay will allow the north to bring devastating fire on the ROK and a greater number of casualties (military and civilian) will occur if the defense plan is not fully executed. I know that political leaders and strategists will want to contemplate and assess and try to "manage" the situation (like a SECDEF managing the flow of forces through approval of RFFs vice execution of the TPFDD). The more management and the less execution of the plan that takes place the more blood and treasure will be sacrificed. This is one situation where the Generals are going to have to be trusted to execute the very well constructed plan they have developed after the first blow is received from the north and not be second guessed by those who think they can finesse the situation. Rapid and decisive execution of the defense plan is called for and must be supported by the political leadership. We have to execute completely and seek rapid achievement of the strategic end state.
What war on the Korean Peninsula would look like.
BY PATRICK M. CRONIN | APRIL 3, 2013
The Korean Peninsula is on a knife's edge, one fateful step from war. While Koreans are accustomed to periodic spikes in tensions, the risk of renewed hostilities appears higher than at any time in the past 60 years, when American, North Korean, and Chinese generals signed an armistice agreement. Far more than 1 million people died in the Korean War, with at least that many troops and civilians injured over the course of the three-year campaign.
The exact leadership dynamics at play in Pyongyang remain mysterious, but the domestic survival of the Kim family dynasty appears to hinge on maintaining a credible nuclear and missile threat -- backed up by a local great power, China. To achieve the former, Kim Jong Un appears willing to risk the latter. His regime's unrelenting verbal threats are intended to rally domestic support, and its reckless brinksmanship is aimed at forcing the outside world to back down and back off. In the past days and weeks -- adding to the tension created by its recent nuclear and missile tests -- Pyongyang has severed a hotline with Seoul, renounced the 1953 armistice, conducted cyberattacks, and, against its own financial interests, closed down the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which is the only economic thread holding together relations with the South.
There is no single red line that, when crossed, would trigger war, but the potential for miscalculation and escalation is high. North Korea has a penchant for causing international incidents -- in 2010 alone it used a mini-submarine to sink the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan and shelled South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island. The brazen and unprovoked killing of military personnel and civilians shocked many South Koreans, some of whom faulted then-President Lee Myung Bak for a tepid response. The new president, Park Geun Hye (South Korea's "Iron Lady") is determined not to echo that weakness and has vowed a strong response to any direct provocation. Meanwhile, the United States, via the annual Foal Eagle and Key Resolve exercises, has many troops, ships, and planes on maneuvers in the region and, as an additional show of resolve, flew long-range B-2 stealth bombers from Missouri to Korea and dispatched F-22 fighter jets as well.
The desire to show strength, the fear of looking weak, and the presence of tons of hardware provides more than enough tinder that a spark could start a peninsula-wide conflagration. An accident -- such as a straying missile, an incident at sea or in the air, a shooting near the Northern Limit Line or the Demilitarized Zone -- could trigger an action-reaction cycle that could spiral out of control if Pyongyang, running out of threats or low-level provocations, were to gamble on a more daring move. It might calculate that a bold gesture would sow doubt and dissent in South Korea, drive a risk-averse United States to back down and restrain its eager ally, and hand China a fait accompli in which Beijing has no alternative to protecting its upstart neighbor. It might be very wrong.
Let's say that the North decides to fire its new mobile KN-08 intermediate-range ballistic missile, capable of reaching U.S. bases in Guam. An X-band radar based in Japan detects the launch, cueing missile defenses aboard Japanese and U.S. ships. The U.S.S. Stetham, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer equipped with Aegis phased-array radars, fires its SM-3 missiles, which hit and shatter the KN-08 warhead as it begins its final descent. The successful intercept is immediately touted internationally as a victory, but, now desperate for tactical advantage that will allow it to preserve its nuclear and missile programs, the North Korean leadership orders an assault on South Korean patrol vessels and military fortifications built after the 2010 shelling incident.
The regime feels safe in striking out along the maritime boundary because the two sides have repeatedly skirmished in the area in the past 15 years. But President Park, determined to show backbone, dispatches on-alert F-15K fighter aircraft armed with AGM-84E SLAM-Expanded Response air-to-ground missiles to destroy the North Korean installations responsible for the latest assault. For good measure, they also bomb a North Korean mini-submarine pier as belated payback for the sinking of Cheonan. North Korean soldiers and military officers are killed in the attack. Pyongyang vows a merciless response and launches a risky salvo of rockets into downtown Seoul, in hope of shocking the Blue House into seeking an immediate cessation of fighting. But far from ending the tit-for-tat attacks, North Korean actions have now triggered the Second Korean War.
U.S. and ROK Combined Forces Command implements a pre-arranged plan -- perhaps using submarine-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles and Massive Ordnance Penetrator bombs dropped from a B-2 -- to eliminate North Korea's two major missile launch facilities: Tonghae in the northeast and Sohae in the northwest, both of which are fairly close to the Chinese border. North Korea responds with more rockets and Scud missiles, accompanied by North Korean Central News announcements suggesting that they could be armed with biological agents. China, seeking to restrain all sides, pours troops and materiel across the border to protect its interests and instigates a secret plan to replace Kim Jong Un with a senior general who understands the North's total dependence on its only ally. The resulting confusion leads to a belief that North Korea, and not just the Kim regime, is collapsing. Meanwhile, the United States quietly embarks on a secret mission to secure North Korea's nuclear weapons.
Even now, however, the Second Korean War has only just begun because, as conflict breaks out, all participants expand their strategic goals. South Korea -- which initially had hoped only to force North Korea to calm down enough to re-enter negotiations on nuclear weapons, expanded inter-Korean economic ties, and human rights -- now believes North Korea is going to collapse and starts to implement an assertive reunification policy. The U.S. policy of deterrence and strategic patience has failed, so Washington decides to pursue active denuclearization and regime change. It joins with Seoul in planning postwar reconstruction in which the peninsula is reunified.
China, which was slow to curb its ally's proliferation and never had a good handle on Kim Jong Un, seeks to ensure that the new leader of North Korea can restore stability. China also wants a new leader in Pyongyang to adopt a pro-China policy -- one which includes continued preferential access to North Korean mineral deposits for its state-owned enterprises. Russia supports China, and it is promised unfettered access to the warm-water port in the Rason Special Economic Zone in northeastern North Korea.
(Continued at the link below)