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Fwd: North Korea -- Is There a Military Solution?

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  • Greg Cannon
    ... Red Alert: North Korea -- Is There a Military Solution? Summary Whatever the political realities may seem to dictate after a North Korean nuclear test, an
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 9, 2006
      --- "Strategic Forecasting, Inc."
      <noreply@...> wrote:

      > Date: Mon, 9 Oct 2006 08:42:04 -0500
      > To: gregcannon1@...
      > From: "Strategic Forecasting, Inc."
      > <noreply@...>
      > Subject: Stratfor Red Alert - Breaking Intelligence
      Red Alert: North Korea -- Is There a Military

      Whatever the political realities may seem to dictate
      after a North Korean nuclear test, an overt military
      strike -- even one limited to cruise missiles -- is
      not in the cards. The consequences of even the most
      restrained attack could be devastating.


      The reported detonation of a nuclear device by North
      Korea on Oct. 9 raises the question of potential
      military action against North Korea. The rationale for
      such a strike would be simple. North Korea, given its
      rhetoric, cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons.
      Therefore, an attack to deny them the facilities with
      which to convert their device into a weapon and deploy
      it is essential. If such an attack were to take place,
      it is assumed, the United States would play the
      dominant or even sole role.

      This scenario assumes that North Korea is as
      aggressive as its rhetoric.

      But what about North Korea's well-armed neighbors --
      Russia, China, South Korea, Japan? Would they not be
      willing to assume the major burden of an attack
      against North Korea? Is the United States really
      willing to go it alone, even while engaged in combat
      in Iraq and Afghanistan?

      Leaving these obvious political questions aside for
      the moment, let's reverse the issue by posing it in
      military terms: What would a U.S. strike against North
      Korea look like?

      The USS Kitty Hawk is currently sitting in port at
      Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. The USS Enterprise is
      operating in the Arabian Sea, while the Nimitz and the
      Stennis are conducting exercises off the coast of
      California. All are an ocean away, and none is less
      than a week's transit from the region. Nevertheless,
      naval cruise missiles are readily available, as are
      long-range strikes by B-2A Spirit stealth bombers and
      B-52H Stratofortresses and B-1B Lancers currently
      supporting NATO operations in Afghanistan out of Diego
      Garcia. A more robust strike package would take longer
      to deploy.

      When U.S. military planners have nightmares, they have
      nightmares about war with North Korea. Even the idea
      of limited strikes against the isolated nation is
      fraught with potential escalations. The problem is the
      mission. A limited attack against nuclear facilities
      might destabilize North Korea or lead North Korea to
      the conclusion that the United States would intend
      regime change.

      Regime preservation is the entire point of its nuclear
      capability. Therefore, it is quite conceivable that
      Kim Jong-Il and his advisors -- or other factions
      --might construe even the most limited military
      strikes against targets directly related to missile
      development or a nuclear program as an act threatening
      the regime, and therefore one that necessitates a
      fierce response. Regime survival could very easily
      entail a full, unlimited reprisal by the Korean
      People's Army (KPA) to any military strike whatsoever
      on North Korean soil.

      North Korea has some 10,000 fortified artillery pieces
      trained on Seoul. It is essential to understand that
      South Korea's capital city, a major population center
      and the industrial heartland of South Korea, is within
      range of conventional artillery. The United States has
      been moving its forces out of range of these guns, but
      the South Koreans cannot move their capital.

      Add to this the fact that North Korea has more than
      100 No-Dong missiles that can reach deep into South
      Korea, as well as to Japan, and we can see that the
      possibility for retaliation is very real. Although the
      No-Dong has not always been the most reliable weapon,
      just the possibility of dozens of strikes against U.S.
      forces in Korea and other cities in Korea and Japan
      presents a daunting scenario.

      North Korea has cultivated a reputation for
      unpredictability. Although it has been fairly
      conservative in its actions compared to its rhetoric,
      the fact is that no one can predict North Korea's
      response to strikes against its nuclear facilities.
      And with Seoul at risk -- a city of 20 million people
      -- the ability to take risks is limited.

      The United States must assume, for the sake of
      planning, that U.S. airstrikes would be followed by
      massed artillery fire on Seoul. Now, massed artillery
      is itself not immune to countermeasures. But North
      Korea's artillery lies deep inside caves and
      fortifications all along the western section of the
      demilitarized zone (DMZ). An air campaign against
      these guns would take a long time, during which
      enormous damage would be done to Seoul and the South
      Korean economy -- perhaps on the order of several
      hundred thousand high-explosive rounds per hour. Even
      using tactical nuclear weapons against this artillery
      would pose serious threats to Seoul. The radiation
      from even low-yield weapons could force the evacuation
      of the city.

      The option of moving north into the North Korean
      defensive belt is an option, but an enormously costly
      one. North Korea has a huge army and, on the
      defensive, it can be formidable. Fifty years of
      concerted military fortification would make
      Hezbollah's preparations in southern Lebanon look like
      child's play. Moving U.S. and South Korean armor into
      this defensive belt could break it, but only with
      substantial casualties and without the certainty of
      success. A massive stalemate along the DMZ, if it
      developed, would work in favor of the larger,
      defensive force.

      Moreover, the North Koreans would have the option of
      moving south. Now, in U.S. thinking, this is the ideal
      scenario. The North Korean force on the move, outside
      of its fortifications, would be vulnerable to U.S. and
      South Korean airstrikes and superior ground maneuver
      and fire capabilities. In most war games, the defeat
      of North Korea requires the KPA to move south,
      exposing itself to counterstrikes.

      However, the same war-gaming has also supposed at
      least 30 days for the activation and mobilization of
      U.S. forces for a counterattack. U.S. and South Korean
      forces would maintain an elastic defense against the
      North; as in the first war, forces would be rushed
      into the region, stabilizing the front, and then a
      counterattack would develop, breaking the North Korean
      army and allowing a move north.

      There are three problems with this strategy. The first
      is that the elastic strategy would inevitably lead to
      the fall of Seoul and, if the 1950 model were a guide,
      a much deeper withdrawal along the Korean Peninsula.
      Second, the ability of the U.S. Army to deploy
      substantial forces to Korea within a 30-day window is
      highly dubious. Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom both
      required much longer periods of time.

      Finally, the U.S. Army is already fighting two major
      ground wars and is stretched to the breaking point.
      The rotation schedule is now so tight that units are
      already spending more time in Iraq than they are home
      between rotations. The idea that the U.S. Army has a
      multidivisional force available for deployment in
      South Korea would require a national mobilization not
      seen since the last Korean War.

      It comes down to this: If the United States strikes at
      North Korea's nuclear capabilities, it does so placing
      a bet. And that bet is that North Korea will not
      respond. That might be true, but if it is not true, it
      poses a battlefield problem to which neither South
      Korea nor the United States will be able to respond.
      In one scenario, the North Koreans bombard Seoul and
      the United States makes a doomed attempt at shutting
      down the massive artillery barrage. By the time the
      guns are silenced -- even in the best-case scenarios
      -- Seoul will be a mess. In another scenario, the
      North Korean army executes an offensive of even
      minimal competence, which costs South Korea its
      capital and industrial heartland. The third is a
      guerrilla onslaught from the elite of the North Korean
      Army, deployed by mini-subs and tunnels under the DMZ.
      The guerrillas pour into the south and wreak havoc on
      U.S. military installations.

      That is how a U.S. strike -- and its outcome -- might
      look. Now, what about the Chinese and Russians? They
      are, of course, not likely to support such a U.S.
      attack (and could even supply North Korea in an
      extended war). Add in the fact that South Korea would
      not be willing to risk destroying Seoul and you arrive
      at a situation where even a U.S. nuclear strike
      against nuclear and non-nuclear targets would pose an
      unacceptable threat to South Korea.

      There are two advantages the United States has. The
      first is time. There is a huge difference between a
      nuclear device and a deployable nuclear weapon. The
      latter has to be shaped into a small, rugged package
      able to be launched on a missile or dropped from a
      plane. Causing atomic fission is not the same as
      having a weapon.

      The second advantage is distance. The United States is
      safe and far away from North Korea. Four other powers
      -- Russia, China, South Korea and Japan -- have much
      more to fear from North Korea than the United States
      does. The United States will always act unilaterally
      if it feels that it has no other way to protect its
      national interest. As it is, however, U.S. national
      interest is not at stake.

      South Korea faces nothing less than national
      destruction in an all-out war. South Korea knows this
      and it will vigorously oppose any overt military
      action. Nor does China profit from a destabilized
      North Korea and a heavy-handed U.S. military move in
      its backyard. Nevertheless, if North Korea is a
      threat, it is first a threat to its immediate
      neighbors, one or more of whom can deal with North

      In the end, North Korea wants regime survival. In the
      end, allowing the North Koran regime to survive is
      something that has been acceptable for over half a
      century. When you play out the options, the
      acquisition of a nuclear device -- especially one
      neither robust nor deployable -- does not, by itself,
      compel the United States to act, nor does it give the
      United States a militarily satisfactory option. The
      most important issue is the transfer of North Korean
      nuclear technology to other countries and groups. That
      is something the six-party talk participants have an
      equal interest in and might have the leverage to

      Every situation does not have a satisfactory military
      solution. This seems to be one of them.

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