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North Korea (Superthread)

Edward Campbell

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GAP said:
... By reuniting the two countries, China is seen as a benefactor that can make things happen when America couldn't. It lessens the American strength in the area and brings the Korea's under the Chinese umbrella if only for trade and regional influence.

Yes, indeed.  But the Chinese are cautious and they observed how much trouble the digestion of East Germany posed for the West German economy.  The social and economic gulfs between NK and SK are, I think, far greater than was the case between EG and WG.  The reconstruction of NK will consume much, maybe too much for China's taste, of SK and Japanese capital.

Money will cost more, something - someone? - will have to give.  The US dollar is a weak reserve currency and it is not clear to me that the US Federal Reserve bank has full control over it so may not be able to 'back-stop' the reunification of Korea circa 2010 as it did the reunification of Germany circa 1990.  The Euro is not ready for prime time and Asia's economy, alone, is not up to the costs of full-scale, à la Germany, reunification of Korea, so: who pays?

The answer is: China.

If reunification is the chosen path then there can be little hope of telling the NK people to “wait a while longer, starve a little more,” etc.  As with Germany, once political integration is in place the people are entitled to share the wealth.

China holds a significant portion of US debt – in essence it props up the US dollar with its own growth.  China needs, desperately needs, continued, high US consumption to finance Chinese expansion.  It does that by, essentially, providing an import subsidy to the US in the form of artificially low prices.  It will, soon, need to divert some of its reserves (US debt) to Korea.  It will want SK and Japanese help – with their hard currencies.  China will need to find new investments to offset SK and Japanese money diverted, for a generation or two, to Korea, because China needs to sustain its own growth – see my conversation with Echo-9 about a week ago.

It gives me a headache, but I still suspect that China will try for some, quite limited, reunification so that it can try to restrain the rate at which NK will consume the available capital.

 

Colin Parkinson

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SmartAssIrishMan said:
Yes but remember, it was Saddam, not Kim Jong that had the weapons of mass destruction, way to drop the ball Bush, way to drop the ball, If anyone needs me i'll be building my fallout shelter........



Except for the minor points that Iraq had a active WMD program, that the nuke portion of it was only discovered after his brother –inlaw defected, that they had used WMD’s against their population and their historical enemy Iran. Iraq also got caught building a nuke capable long range rocket that broke the UN resolution on Iraq owning offensive weapons.
The sanctions were collapsing and Saddam would have started rebuilding his WMD programs in short order, we would then be facing the scenario of a nuke armed Iran and Iraq, both quite likely to use tactical nukes. The last war cost the countries 1.2 million dead.

The only reason that the US hasn’t bombed the crap out of the NK is the fact that NK can destroy most of Seoul in a few hours by conventional artillery and that the US is in no position to fight a 1 million man army holed up in very easily defended terrain on the doorstep of China. A Korean war will make Vietnam, Iraq & Afghanistan combined look like a cakewalk.  
 

Old Guy

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Edward, I think, has the best overall take on the Chinese situation and intentions.  However, China is not in complete control of her own future, much less the future of other Asian countries.  Her burgeoning economy is creating internal problems of political and practical nature.  She has several million surplus young men reaching adulthood in the next few years -- a consequence of one-child per family laws.  Islamist radicals are a worrisome threat, as is the growing power of India.  Then there is Taiwan and increasingly powerful competition from other countries on the Pacific Rim.

As for war with North Korea -- it is unlikely to come to that.  The NK can't 'destroy most of Seoul in a few hours', Colin.  Any artillery strike of that magnitude invites counter-battery fire and the guns are open to air attack, at least when they're in firing position.  I don't mean to say that NK couldn't damage Seoul heavily, but only that such action would be costly to them and take some time.

Like the entire situation, NK effectiveness in attacking SK is an unknown quantity, but bound to be effected by other factors. 

jim
 

Colin Parkinson

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My information is that they have 13,000 guns within range, most are protected and all would have stockpiled ammo and target data. It would takes days to destroy that many guns. Even if they only had 24hrs to fire, and were able to put out an average of 1 rd every 3 minutes, that is still is 6,240,000 rds hitting the city  :eek:  (crap even I had to check my figures, several times) Even if only half those guns shoot the 24 hrs at that rate it is still 3,000,000 rds!!!

Could they sustain it after the intial attack, highly unlikely, they would shoot till destroyed or out of ammo and I doubt they have the ability to move much resupply even without being attacked.

I also doubt that the combined resources of the US and SK could effectivly dent the intial bombardment in time to prevent huge numbers of causlities. I hope the SK has a functional civil defence plan still.

an article


North Korean guns, clear and present danger to South
By Jon Herskovitz  |  June 27, 2006

SEOUL (Reuters) - If the world is alarmed about a North Korean long-range missile, for most South Koreans it is just one more addition to their neighbor's arsenal which could already devastate around half the population in a few hours.

Seoul, Tokyo and Washington have all warned Pyongyang not to test-fire a long-range missile, which has apparently been prepared for launch, saying it would imperil regional security and bring a harsh response.

The first time North Korea tried out a long-range missile -- in 1998, firing it over Japan -- it sent panicked regional financial markets into a tailspin.

But for South Korea, a more immediate danger may be North Korea's artillery.

The capital Seoul, only 60 km (37 miles) south of the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone that has divided the peninsula since the end of the Korean War in 1953, has long been within range of one of the world's most powerful artillery batteries.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said the North had amassed more than 13,000 pieces of artillery and multiple rocket launchers, much of it aimed at Seoul.

Jane's International Defense Review estimates that if North Korea launched an all-out barrage, it could achieve an initial fire rate of 300,000 to 500,000 shells per hour into the Seoul area -- home to about half the country's 48.5 million people.

The biggest are 170-mm self-propelled artillery guns and 240-mm multiple rocket launchers. It also has hundreds of Scud missiles that could hit any part of South Korea.

North Korea is also thought to have been working to attach chemical and biological weapons to its long-range artillery.

"The threat from the North's artillery is the indiscriminate firing against our capital region and urban centers with its multiple rocket launchers and field artillery," a South Korean defense officer said.

Military experts note that South Korean and U.S. forces have worked for decades to perfect a counter strike. They also say that impoverished North Korea probably has not kept all of its guns in working order and may be short of shells.

But as a relatively basic weapons system, a rain of artillery would be the North's most effective and reliable way to hit the South fast and hard, they add.

Ordinary South Koreans appear to have become largely used to the threat, paying decreasing attention over the years to regular civil defense drills that were once mandatory.

The two Koreas are technically still at war because the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in a truce and not a peace treaty.

Though the North keeps most of its 1.2-million-man army near the border, the two Koreas have reached agreements in recent years aimed at reducing military tensions.

Japan, South Korea and the United States, along with China and Russia, have been locked in three years of now-stalled negotiations talks to dismantle North Korea's nuclear program.

Officials and military analysts say Pyongyang wants to develop a long-range missile to be able to carry a nuclear warhead.

But according to a recent survey by a state-funded research group, South Koreans view China -- and not North Korea -- as the biggest threat to their security 10 years from now.

(With additional reporting by Jack Kim)

http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2006/06/27/north_korean_guns_clear_and_present_danger_to_south?mode=PF
 

Brad Sallows

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Finally, a use for all those greenbacks the Chinese are holding: renovating NK.
 

Old Guy

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Ha-ha!  Okay.  Whatever.  I think the article is cherry-picking information designed to make the NK army seem more than they are.  Let's try to be realistic. 

I don't doubt that NK has 10-13,000 artillery pieces.  I do doubt that even a majority of these are capable of hitting Seoul from 37+ miles.  In fact, the 170mm gun is the only one known to be able to reach that far.  The guns couldn't be packed in layers right at the DMZ.  They have to be spread out somewhat in bunkers and protected caves, etc.  The article seems to assume that every artillery piece in the NK army will be arranged on the DMZ with much of it concentrated on Seoul.  From a practical military standpoint, I find that to be ludicrous. 

According to Global Security, which presents its information with plenty of caveats, the NK have around 8,000 artillery pieces (about 4500 SP and 3500 towed), plus about 3500 artillery rockets.  South Korean sources estimate that the NK have 400-500 long-range artillery pieces within range of Seoul.  Given realistic firing rates, these could sustain a rate of around 5,000 rounds per minute until their ready ammunition was expended.  Since weapon attrition would begin immediately and no one can sustain those rates of fire for very long, added to the difficulties inherent in hitting a specific target at extreme range, the damage to Seoul within the first few hours would be tremendous, but the city would not be 'wiped out.'  After the first few rounds any fire direction signals would be jammed and all subsequent rounds would be area-targeted.

Cities are hard to kill.  If the NK struck without warning, civilian casualties would be heavy and initial targets highly likely to be put out of action.  After that, though, artillery effectiveness would degenerate to a crap shoot.  A lethal situation for anyone in the wrong place at the wrong time, but not militarily effective.

Hell.  I didn't intend to kick off a discussion.  Suffice it to say that the variation between the possible and the probable is very great in this situation, just as it is in most military scenarios.

jim
 

midget-boyd91

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Well, if Kim whatcha-ma-call-him wants to see actions like naval blockades as an act of war.. what should the detonation of a nuclear device be taken as? If he is that eager to get in a scuffle Western countries and Japan should take THAT as an act of war. Saddam thought that his 4 000 tanks and million men would be a massive war.... 4 days and he was done... Kim has mostly MiG-17's and 21's and rag-tag equipment.
Fifty bucks says NK loses.

More seriously though, North and South Korea have been scratching their trigger fingers for decades.. no doubt that it will eventually happen, so it would be quicker and safer to have it happen sooner rather than later when they actually know HOW to use the nukes. If they take is as a declaration of war to put up naval blockades, thats their problem, soon afterwards the people will have food and can be with relatives in SK.
 

Colin Parkinson

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The reality is that anyone who does know what the real situation is, will not/can not release that information, we have to operate on best guesses. The NK army will have a short window to inflict as much damge as possible. I do agree that they lack the ability to fight sustanied operation and will be destroyed in place, but not before they carry out their main task.

Using your figures, 5,000 rds per minute hitting the city and immediate areas, that's 300,000 rds in one hour. If they were so bold to launch an attack in afternoon rush hour with no warning, the number of dead and wounded would overwhelm the civil defence units. I don't think we in the west have seen that amount of artillery fired since WWII and have little first hand comprehension of it's effect. All of the bombardments we have seen recently have been by our own allies and generally designed to minimize damage beyond the immediate target. The bombardment would be all over the place and continuous for quite some time, it would cause a great deal of destruction, secondary fires, panic and collapse of the functioning infrastructure, once the initial bombardment is over, the population will be in a hurry to get out of range and out of the way of a possible ground invasion, the city will grind to halt and be effectively destroyed for some time, certainly until the threat is clearly dealt with. Look at how long it is taking for New Orleans to rebound. If the attack is not follwed up with an invasion by either side, and the border remains the same, peoples confidence will be shaken and reluctant to return. this will have a effect on the economy of SK and it's Asian partners. Even if the artillery is mostly destroyed, it will take a great deal of time to restore the confidence and the damage done.

You can be sure that the possible effect is not lost on the SK government.
 

midget-boyd91

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I agree with what Colin P said.. the only thing that I see that is wrong with that is the fact that the US keeps 30 000 troops on the border to deter any such attacks. The bulk of the SK military is also very near the DMZ.
 

geo

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midget - if you read some of Tomahawk 6s posts, you'll note that the US' troop strength in SK is down from those heddy days....

That peace dividend strikes again
 

GAP

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I'm under the impression that there was a major drawdown citing the peace dividend, and then another smaller one as Iraq ramped up. I have no clue what the US has there now that is effective immediately. I am sure the NK's know though.

There was a piece a year or so ago, maybe longer, that even had pics of how extensively tunneled  the DMZ was. The tunnels were big enough to allow three tanks side by side to egress. Guess what that does for the guys between the exit points and the DMZ.
 

Old Guy

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Colin, I think you and I are on the same page.  I think the NK would be lucky to keep up that rate of fire for more than thirty minutes, but even area targeting at a far reduced rate will cause a lot of damage.  I think SK civil defense abilities are a lot better than average, but they would certainly be overwhelmed by the casualties.

midget -- the US troop presence is much reduced, as geo points out.  However, their presence near the DMZ is actually a liability, due to the fact that their bases are all within easy artillery range of the North.  At present, the troops are being shifted south, out of harm's way.  Someone finally realized that major formations of US (and ROK) troops are a better deterrent if they're situated out of artillery range.

geo -- peace dividend.  Yeah.  Kind of leaves a bad taste, don't it?

jim
 

Colin Parkinson

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I think they were placed up front during the cold war to act as a "tripwire", so the Soviets and Chinese knew that any invasion of SK would be a direct attack on US Forces and escalate the conflict immediately. The advantage of this deployment does not outweigh the disadvantages and the actually withdrawal was hampered by acquiring land to build the new bases.
 

Old Guy

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The new main base, according to Army Times, houses both US Army and associated ROK command elements.  The move has cost a lot of money and, again according to AT, isn't completed yet.

jim
 

tomahawk6

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Its true that the North Koreans have significant forces close to the DMZ, but so does the ROK Army. Global security has what is generally believed to be the OPLAN for combat operations in Korea.

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/oplan-5027.htm

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/rok/army.htm

Here is the current strength of 8th Army in Korea. If you look at the US Forces Korea site you will see assigned units from other services.

http://8tharmy.korea.army.mil/

The Units:
2nd Infantry Division

1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team
Task Force, 1-72 Armor Regiment
1st Battalion, 15th Field Artillery
2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry (M)
302nd Brigade Support Battalion
1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion

Combat Aviation Brigade
1st Battalion, 2nd Attack Battalion
602nd Aviation Support Battalion
2nd Battalion (Assault), 2nd Aviation Regiment
2-52nd Aviation Regiment (GSAB)
3rd Squadron, 6th U.S. Cavalry Regiment             
164th Air Traffic Services Group

2nd Fires Brigade
1st Battalion, 38th Field Artillery
6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery
702d Brigade Support Battalion

7th Air Force
8th Fighter Wing
51st Fighter Wing
 

zipperhead_cop

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As cool as this game of Risk is, does anyone have any idea as to WHY he did it?  What was he trying to prove?  How could pissing off China have ever been seen as a good thing?  This can't be as simple as a bored whack job conducting attention seeking behaviour?  ???
 

warspite

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I have to agree with the devastation an large scale artillery bombardment would wreak on S. Korea, both physically and to the nations moral.
I cite as evidence our bombardment of vimy ridge before we took it from the germans.
-it was at the time the worlds largest artillery bombardment
-could be heard as far away as London
-We bombarded the ridge constantly for a week straight
-The germans had a name for that week, I'm sorry I can't remember it but I'm 98% sure it contained their word for terror

  Doesn't matter even if it hits you. Imagine if all a sudden a shell landed in your neighborhood... right now as your reading this... what would go through your head? Probably WTF. But what if while your trying to figure out what the heck was that there's another explosion... and another... and another.... and so the night goes on and on and on.
  Morning comes. Your neighbors house is now a crater. Smoke from fires drifts by your window. The sound of sirens is in the air.....
AND THE EXPLOSIONS JUST KEEP ON COMING.......
    Don't know about you but if you haven't had artillery exploding at your door I imagine it would be pretty terrifying. I know it would scare the heck out of me. And that means it would scare the heck out of a lot of people.
  Sure it's easy to say... well North Korea isn't capable of flattening Seoul with artillery fire. If even there was 1 shell landing every minute or two I imagine theres going to be a lot of chaos and terror which really is just as good a result as flattening the city.

 

vonGarvin

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warspite said:
-The germans had a name for that week, I'm sorry I can't remember it but I'm 98% sure it contained their word for terror
Woche des Leidens
of "Week of suffering", which also has Christian overtones, as I believe that the German for the last week of Christ is also known as the "Woche des Leidens"
 

Brixxie

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zipperhead_cop said:
As cool as this game of Risk is, does anyone have any idea as to WHY he did it?  What was he trying to prove?  How could pissing off China have ever been seen as a good thing?  This can't be as simple as a bored whack job conducting attention seeking behaviour?   ???

I would sorta like to know what the point of the testing is , I am so uneducated with this part of warefare. But who has nuclear arms  ,  and who decides who can have them. And why would Kim be testing if not to show agresaggression
 

Edward Campbell

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zipperhead_cop said:
As cool as this game of Risk is, does anyone have any idea as to WHY he did it?  What was he trying to prove?  How could pissing off China have ever been seen as a good thing?  This can't be as simple as a bored whack job conducting attention seeking behaviour?   ???

I think Kim and his handlers, the NK generals – more than a dozen of them in the ‘top tier’ – are playing a huge game of blind man’s bluff in reverse.  They hope, with some reason, that they have everyone else shambling about in blindfolds while NK baits them with insults and threats.

Why do this?

The country is an economic basket case; it is bankrupt and starving.  It will, of its own accord, collapse, within a very few years, into cruelly violent chaos; starvation does that to people.  There is no sensible way that the leadership can prevent this except by prostrating themselves at the feet of SK (supported by Japan and the USA) or China.  In either case the leadership, and their families and friends are purged: quickly, quietly and fatally if the Chinese take over.  There is little incentive to negotiate with either of the only two players with any real power on the peninsula.  Better, in the eyes of the leadership, to threaten and cajole and hope against hope that China and/or the SK (with JP and USA) will blink and provide the massive aid which NK requires – for a generation – without tossing the leadership on to history’s dung heap.  They, caring nothing at all for the NK people, are willing to play this game to its end because the alternative is so stark.  Almost anything must seem preferable to execution in some remote, cold, dusty Chinese small-town barracks square.

The Chinese are hoping, I think, that they can, peacefully, finesse this issue so that SK, Japan and the USA pay the freight while China gets, at worst, a compliant neighbour in the new NK, perhaps NK united (in a free trade area or even a very loose federation) with SK.

I think the Chinese need regional stability: no wars, no violent revolutions, no refugees, no economic panic.  I am pretty sure NK needs an uninterrupted supply food and fuel if it is to avoid sudden, violent collapse and chaos.  Therefore, I suspect China will keep sending food and fuel to NK.  I believe, therefore, that Japan’s sanctions (cutting off NK exports to Japan), announced today, (http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aPb.FrO6h1XA&refer=home ) play into China’s hands.  Japan provided NK with much of its hard currency.  Cutting that money supply will, indeed, make it harder for NK to acquire technology but it will strengthen China’s grip on NK, too.

But in short, for the NK leadership, being firmly gripped by the Chinese is better than being executed by them, so the childrens' game of blind man's bluff goes on.
 
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