Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Top US General: North Korea is Making Progress on Asymmetric Capabilities

While I think this is an entirely logical statement from our perspective I do worry that Kim Jong-un may not really understand the correlation of forces and the superiority of the ROK/US Combined Forces Command.  I think the pursuit of asymmetric capabilities makes sense not as a method to offset its weakness but as the logical pursuit of capabilities that will ensure victory when it executes its campaign plan by enhancing its conventional capabilities.   The pursuit of asymmetric capabilities may not be a sign of weakness from the regime's perspective but what smart militaries do.  While nuclear weapons can be an effective deterrence asymmetric capabilities are offensive in nature and designed to be employed and my fear is that they are being developed not merely for provocation but to provide the regime with capabilities that can support the overall campaign plan that focuses on achieving its single strategic objective (unification of the peninsula under regime control) to protect its single vital national interest (survival of the Kim Family Regime).

“Kim Jong-un, unlike his father Kim Jong-il, is overconfident and unpredictable,” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti remarked, adding that Kim, “realizing that he cannot win in a conventional war, [has] focused on his military development and training on asymmetric capability. I would tell you that the North Korean military is making progress in these areas.” Specifically, Gen. Scaparrotti noted that the United States’ “top concern is that we have very little warning of the North’s asymmetric attack, which could start a cycle of action and counter-actions. This underscores the need for the alliance to maintain a high level of readiness.”

Although I have no evidence to back this up because none of us can know what what is in his mind but this is a scenario that concerns me. Kim Jong-un's lack of military experience does not provide the foundation for understanding the correlation of forces.  This is made worse by the political system of the Regime which is based on personal loyalty to Kim Jong-un which may result in sycophantic generals not telling the emperor he ears no clothes but  instead telling him what he wants to hear about his superior military capabilities.  Combine this with the belief that his asymmetric capabilities provide him with a superior advantage when faced with a threat - either internal or external - it could drive Kim Jong-un to deliberately order the execution of his campaign plan to reunify the peninsula under regime control in order to guarantee survival. Of course he and the regime will not survive but the decision to execute the plan could be a very rationale one based on Kim's knowledge, experience (or lack thereof), the information he receives from his generals, and his understanding of the threat against him and his regime (again internal or external).  He may have no real choice other than to execute (from his perspective) and this obviously could lead to war.  And this is also why we have to pay so much attention to the indicators of potential regime collapse because the threat of regime collapse is probably the single most important condition that could lead to the decision to go to war (again as illogical it seems from our perspective it may be the only logical options from the Kim Family Regime perspective as it is the only option that if successful would lead to survival of the regime).

And this is why Top US General: North Korea is Making Progress on Asymmetric Capabilities
Image Credit: Flickr/ UNC - CFC - USFK

Top US General: North Korea is Making Progress on Asymmetric Capabilities

The commander of U.S. Forces Korea highlighted North Korea’s progress in developing asymmetric military capabilities.
ankit-panda
December 02, 2014


Speaking in Seoul last week, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the top commander of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) and the Combined Forces Command (CFC), remarked that the United States and South Korea were concerned by North Korea’s recent progress in developing asymmetric military capabilities. Gen. Scaparrotti offered insights that reveal the current South Korean and U.S. understanding of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, a man who despite having been in power for over two years, remains an enigma. Despite this, North Korea strategy has remained mostly consistent in recent years, with a focus on asymmetric capabilities.
“Kim Jong-un, unlike his father Kim Jong-il, is overconfident and unpredictable,” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti remarked, adding that Kim, “realizing that he cannot win in a conventional war, [has] focused on his military development and training on asymmetric capability. I would tell you that the North Korean military is making progress in these areas.” Specifically, Gen. Scaparrotti noted that the United States’ “top concern is that we have very little warning of the North’s asymmetric attack, which could start a cycle of action and counter-actions. This underscores the need for the alliance to maintain a high level of readiness.”
While North Korea has generally relied on aging and obsolete military technology bolstered by a large standing military force to stand against South Korea and the United States, it recognizes its weakness in a potential conventional war. As a result, it has focused largely on developing asymmetric capabilities that would help it deter its enemies. These capabilities include ballistic missiles, artillery, chemical and biological weapons, remotely piloted aircraft, and submarines. The North Korean regime additionally prioritizes the country’s nuclear program for the asymmetric deterrence benefits a ballistic missile-mounted nuclear device would bring Pyongyang.
During his speech, Gen. Scaparrotti additionally addressed the issue of U.S.-South Korea talks on operational control (OPCON) transfer during wartime. Following a series of negotiations, OPCON transfer was officially delayed in line with South Korean wishes. Under the current timeline, OPCON handover will occur in the mid-2020s. Gen. Scaparrotti highlighted the progress the United States and South Korea had made on C4I: command, control, communications, computers and intelligence. He called for continued progress in these areas and also stressed the need for U.S.-South Korea cooperation on ballistic missile defense, critical munitions, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). ”During this past year, we made progress in the aforementioned areas, but we must maintain irreversible momentum,” he said.

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