Friday, May 28, 2010


I have been asked by several folks about my take on the situation on the Korean Peninsula. The three reasons for this are that I have been there (stationed at Camp Stanley for a year), I am in the military, and I constantly study stuff like this. So I will put in my two cents worth.

My humble opinion is that militarily the North Koreas are in a world of hurt, but the situation is really bad politically for the US.

The NKs have two strong military cards to play. The first is the King Of Battle, their artillery. They have Corps of Artillery, and by that I mean whole Army Corps made up of nothing but FA, and its all aimed at Seoul. Thousands of MRLs (Multiple Rocket Launchers) and tube artillery (cannons) that can range Seoul and do a world of hurt. These units are in hardened positions (bunkers and caves) and have pre-surveyed firing positions and stockpiled ammunition. It would take a lot of counter-fire missions and air strikes to knock them out, figure (my estimate here, not anything offical) at least 48-72 hours to knock out over 50 to 60% of them. In that time, Seoul would be pretty badly banged up.

However, this isn't as war winning as it seems for several reasons. First off, most of this artillery is OLD, 1960s technology, and so is the ammunition. A high dud rate can be expected and accuracy is not all that (of course with this many guns and rockets you don't need much). Plus there is the fun fact that the really heavy Koksong guns have a design flaw that makes them brust after about 6 to 8 rounds of rapid firing. We know exactly where all these weapons are so knocking them out is just a function of shooting a lot. The ROK and the US Army have some pretty good systems in place to do this. Our Air Forces of course (NK ADA is probably about as good as Iraq's was and their AF is a joke), but also our counter-fire artillery systems. We and the ROKs have MLRS systems that were pretty much designed for just this. And we now have GMLRS that can outrange the NK artillery (80 Km range to their 40 to 60 kms) and never miss. 1 MLRS load of GLMRS will destroy 12 NK FA Systems and it can be fired in less than 1 minute. Computing data is already done since we know were everything is already. The only issue is there is so much of it.

The second big punch the NorKs have is their Special Forces (SF). This is a big item to worry about. They have one of the largest Special Forces in the world and they train constantly to do their worst to the South in the event of a war. They have commandos, ranger-types, SEAL-types, sniper-types, recon troops, fifth column types and air-assault types. They have special miget subs (one is suspected of the torpedo attack that started this), they have Hughes Helocopters modified to look like ROK army or civilian models, they have a whole mess of spies and people who have been passing info for years. Nasty stuff.

However, historically these guys have turned out to not be as good as thought. In 1968, the so called "Second Korean War" was fought. Lots of raids, ambushes on the DMZ, and commando raids into the South to attack ROK government facilities and an attempt on the ROK President. The deep raids failed miserably and no one in the world really noticed because this was a side show compared to Vietnam. While the SF has been training more than the standard army, they have still been cut back on. Worse, the effects of the famine have hurt them as the eligible pool of recruits is much smaller to pick from. The ROK has been training on defending against these guys for years and have gotten better at detection and interception. Even these tunnels dug under the DMZ are not such a big deal as they don't go that far behind them (if you pop up in the middle of a battalion defensive position you are in trouble, SF or not). Once they have shot their bolt, there is no way home. No sub could make south after the shooting started, and the AF would be shot down after about 2 days. Once you are on the run, you are going to get hunted down. The South doesn't have anywhere to hole up and their are no guerrilla bands to join. They would do some damage, but not enough.

And that is the main point. The two major strengths of the NorKs are not enough combined to finish off the south, only enough to do damage and make them MAD. Mad enough to decide to finish the stupidity once and for all and END it. The ROKs have enough men to do it, and their equipment is now 50 years more advanced than what the NorKs can throw (think WWII armies fighting the Coalition in Desert Storm).

The NorK Nuke threat only works on the defensive by the way, they have no method of delivery. No missile they have can carry their bomb design, they have no planes that can carry it. They could bury it and set it off after someone rolls over it, but even that is limited thanks to the mountainous terrain (blast would be channelled so small area of effect on your own soil).

So why is this bad politically for the US? Simple, what if the ROK decides to pick a fight? Or vice versa? The ROKs have every right to confront a rouge nation and the world is actually standing aside on this one. If it escalates, the US is bound by treaty to aid the south. The ROKs are in the clear to DO SOMETHING right now if they want so their is no "we can't help because they are the aggressors".

So the POTUS would get another war, and a nasty, knockdown, bloody one at that. He can fight with the allies and loose support from his base, or he can pull out and loose a LOT of international clout and a LOT of independent votes. Loose Loose if you are the current POTUS. Even worse, he has a ROK that is set up to actually want to do something, and CAN do something this time around.


  1. Need to fix your comments somehow. Spam sucks, but fully 4 out of every 5 times I try to comment, it gets eaten and won't let me post.

  2. Okay, google's working, sweet.
    Yeah, politically it gets rough, b/c if the ROKs move, our "tripwire" doesn't mean squat politically.

    Personally, my gut is that Obama would pull the trigger on this one, and reap lots of short-term political benefit from doing so. But I've been wrong before.

  3. Depends on how it works out. He would have a lot of hurt from his political base I think unless their is enough international cover for him. Might happen though, who can say. This would be much bloodier fight than what is going on and Dems don't do well in situations like that.

  4. I think its a lot more complex politically when you factor China into all of this. I doubt China will sit idly by should a war start between the Koreas. In fact, I bet the Chinese would love to let some of their newer equipment get "tried out" by their Nork "Ally" against US/ROK military equipment.
    I just can't see China doing nothing - they lose too much face if they do and that in Chinese culture will drive them to do something should hostilities break out, which may tie the US hands in regards to economic warfare.
    Or so I think anyway.

  5. That is kind of the point though, if SK does something China may not get a vote on it. And what if they just decide that NK getting spanked is what they need to push them into reform, or what if they just decide to grab some of NK territory and let SK have the rest? Make a buffer they absolutely control?

  6. If SK acts, China's out. If SK doesn't act, China may own the northern half of the peninsula. Not good for SK.