What a War with North Korea Would Look Like


Kim Jong-Un is the third generation member of the ruling family to serve as dictator of North Korea. The nation is reclusive, and remains one of the last Stalinist states on the planet. Very little information is let in or out. Its people are terribly impoverished with copious amounts of what wealth the nation has being spent on its military. The young leader shows every sign of being eager for a fight, although hopefully that is largely a bluff.

The victor in a war with North Korea is hardly in doubt. However, so extensive are his conventional forces, that an invasion of the North would be incredibly bloody, and South Korea, especially its capital would suffer terrible losses. And that's all even if nuclear weapons were not used.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that “all options are on the table” to deter the threat from Pyongyang. What does that really mean? Is the use of military force really an option?

How to interpret that depends on who you are. Is that comment just a part of a continuing pattern of the U.S. response to escalation of both North Korea’s capability and rhetoric for the past two administrations?

If you are an ally of the U.S., especially those in the region, you might want begin taking inventory of your military capability. The question remains — is the military option really on the table? Would South Korea and others in the region actually green light a military operation, which could cause immediate casualties and destruction the world hasn’t seen since WWII? What are the parameters of a successful military operation?

This war would not be a “cake walk.” Even if it doesn't go nuclear, invading and occupying North Korea is an enormous military task what with the North's numerous and heavily dug in missile batteries. Even if the South, fortified by American forces, were to achieve an element of surprise, the North could immediately go nuclear, assuming it has the capability of delivering a warhead a distance of a few hundred miles.

What you would have is World War II all over again, just on a smaller piece of land and with a shorter duration.

In order to be successful, any military action against North Korea would have to amount to the largest full scale attack that world hasn’t seen since D-Day. It would have to be updated to reflect current capability, but would have to come from all sides — air, land, sea, and a new domain, cyber.

There are many scenarios involved in such a war, and none of them are good.

U.S. and South Korean ground troops would be on full alert, and likely on the defense to the north to thwart a potential ground attack from the Korean People’s Army (KPA). There would be a focus to defend attacks from tunnels prepared by the KPA for this very likelihood. The U.S. would have to be prepared to send troops to South Korea at the onset of hostilities — at least 50,000 troops to reinforce the defense and potentially go on the offensive.

Unfortunately, the war won’t go as planned for many reasons — if the North is successful in launching a nuclear weapon that destroys part of Seoul, that would change the calculus of our counter response. I don’t see the U.S. side using nuclear weapons in the initial barrage, but would surely retain the option to use them in response.

So is the military option really on the table? That depends.

Military planners need to figure out what is the true capability of the North Korean military, and in particular their first strike capability, and be right about it. We know they have a nuclear weapon, but can they deliver it accurately and in a manner that doesn’t kill its own people? Until the world is ready to accept casualties on the level of what was seen in Europe and Asia in the Second World War, the military option is really not on the table.

Hence, if this analysis is correct, the war of words seems like to continue. That is until or unless one side makes an error or a fateful decision. And that is what we must hope can be avoided.

Source: The Hill



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