Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Been thinking about this post for a while.  Bill Quick asked me for my input on Daily Pundit, and I thought I'd expand on it here.  Understand that, while I spent my  Army career as a US Army SIGINT geek, I retired almost 13 years ago, so at this point what I am offering is based on current Open Source data as much as (or even more than) stuff I knew back then.

Some links:
North Korea’s Tipping Point of No Return | SOFREP
Author makes a convincing argument that Little Kim may have reached the point of no return: north Korea has closed the KaeSongDong Industrial Area, which is their only legitimate source of revenue.  (As opposed to dealing drugs and counterfeiting.  They used to make coin from the rake-off from pachinko parlors in Japan--lots of ex-pat norks in Japan, and one of the few areas of commerce the Japanese allowed them was running pachinko parlors--but the Yakuza moved in.)

From the same web site: The North Korean Threat
Concur with their assessment that north Korean missiles, with any warhead, are no real threat to the Continental US, and of scant threat to Alaska and Hawaii.  Japan, Guam, the Philippines, maybe -- not so sanguine about their ability to not have the thing go "ka-boom!" shortly after lift off, not to mention hit their target.

OTOH,who's to say that they will attempt an attack via conventional means?  Why not a nuke in a shipping container?  Or a weaponized "weather satellite"?  (h/t Bill Quick's board.)

Korean Special Forces: North vs South | SOFREP
This Is What Air War Over North Korea Would Look Like - Popular Mechanics (h/t Insty.)
Can North Korea Flatten Seoul? - North Korea’s Weapons Capabilties - Popular Mechanics

Pretty much every artillery piece that north Korea ever owned is still in service, ranging from direct-fire anti-tank pieces that Hitlers Panzers laughed at up to 170mm and beyond, plus Scuds and Katyuskas and I can't remember what else without a Wiki-wander that isn't really necessary at this point. (Still.) Leaving aside the much-vaunted Taepo Dongs, etc., they can easily bombard as far south as the Han River --  meaning Seoul -- although it may be true that, as the author of that last link points out, their ability to "flatten" Seoul is hyperbole.

On the other hand, the Seoul area of the Republic of Korea is, if anything, even more urbanized than Los Angeles and vicinity.  Miles and miles of multiple (12?  20? More?) story apartment blocks, row on row, as far north as Tongducheon. From the air -- why didn't I have a camera during my last tour? -- they look, aptly enough, like dominoes waiting to be tipped over.  (I was told that at least one ROK Army officer said they were sited and built deliberately as part of the Obstacle Plan.  Don't know.)

Now, one of the reasons that military doctrine tends to discourage operations in urban areas is that, the more destruction you cause in your attack, the easier it is for the defender. 

And I know for a certainty that every bridge, dam, and levee was designed and built with it's demolition in mind.

And every hilltop north of the Han River has at least an air defense observation post on it, unless it has a counter-battery radar site.  (Most of these sites are not fully occupied under ordinary circumstances, but revetments and bunkers are in place.  Great for training, until the owning ROK unit shows up for their training.  They were usually pretty cool about sharing, but I spent one years as Platoon Sergeant of a Heavy Radio Direction Finding Platoon trying to figure out where to put my teams during exercises.)

The same is not exactly true up north: north Koreans cannot dream of anything like the development the Republic of Korea has undergone, it does not have anything like the population, or infrastructure.  Only select families are allowed to live in any of the cities. There are few paved roads, let alone superhighways.

And the hilltop sites are fully occupied, all the time; each one has one or more heavy Anti-Aircraft Machine Guns, and often anti-aircraft artillery cannon, radar, missiles...

In a way the AAMGs are more worrisome than the heavier (and logically more deadly) cannon or missiles, because they rely on the Mark One Eyeball for guidance and an itchy-for-the-glory-of-the-Eternal Leader Kim Il Sung trigger finger.  Field telephones and radios suffice for communications and fire control (although by the time I retired we suspected that some form of cellular telephones were in use by commanders.)

So, while the Suppression of Enemy Air defenses (SEAD) mission will be critical, and hairy indeed.  ("Yes, Colonel, my EH60s can jam the enemy air defense nets.  No, they cannot keep up with your Apaches.  And we have no armament.  And G2 won't chop us to that mission.  No, Eighth Army G2 won't either.  No, Combined Field Army J2 won't, either.  Maybe you should call the White House.")


While attending the Advanced  Non-Commissioned Officer Course (ANCOC) at the US Army Military Intelligence Center and School at Ft Huachuca, we were assigned to write a ""staff study" on a hypothetical Low Intensity Conflict in our area of concern.  I posited a scenario in which, after a massive bombardment, the north launched an assault across the Demilitarized Zone with it's conventional forces, including mechanized brigades, with the primary intention of infiltrating it's special operations forces, who would the, allegedly, wreak havoc in the Republic of Korea's rear, possibly attempting to cross the Sea of Japan East Sea (originally known in Europe as the Korean Sea, BTW) to see what mischief they could get up to there.

No doubt the conventional forces would continue to die gloriously for the revolution, unaware that they were mere pawns in the great game of life.  Or thrones, if you like.

The intent, of course, would essentially be to blackmail the ROK and it's allies into acquiescing with whatever it is that the lunatics in Pyongyang thought it was they stood to gain. 

Thing is...  1996 Gangneung submarine infiltration incident.

The guy they captured?  Caught on a farm, he broke in to steal food, wasn't worried about being seen, since he was out in the boonies, never ever occurred to him by his own admission that a mere farmer would have a telephone.  Or that the police could arrive so quickly.

Two of the commandos were seen on a ROK Army base, playing video games in the exchange.  (Bit of an uproar about that in the Ministry of Defense...)

Commie infiltrators are routinely tripped up by their very obvious dialect and accent; in fact, defectors to the south have a hard time doing more than getting by, because they are so poorly prepared to live in a high-tech, industrial more-or-less democratic society.

So, I dunno.  Is north Korea a threat to the Continental US?  Again, I doubt it.  If their long-range missiles can make it off the launch pad, they might have the range to hit Alaska or Hawaii, but there's an awful lot of "nothing" in those areas; ditto for Guam or the Philippines.

OTOH, like I said above, they may try something in a shipping container or the like.

And, hell, simply disrupting the economies of the Republic of Korea, Japan, and both Chinas will be devastating to a sensitive world economy.

What do they have to gain?  Hell, I don't know, their people would be better off festooning lampposts with their bodies and surrendering.  The trouble with that theory is that the north Korean people have been so isolated for so long; Kim Il Sung (and Kim Jong Il and Kim Jang Un) is their religion and their reason for being.  As former Washington Post and NPR Tokyto correspondant T.R. Reid described in The Man Who Would Be God; North Korea's Kim Il Sung - The Washington Post | HighBeam Research, on a tour intended to bring in hard western cash in 1992, he interviewed a few north Koreans.
 "We learned in history that only by The Great Leader's Armed Struggle did we defeat the Japanese," says Chun Chang Yon, a 16-year-old junior at Pyongyang No. 1 Junior-Senior High. "America had no effect on the result."

Chun says he did learn in history class about the atomic bomb at Hiroshima, but he sees no connection between that and Japan's defeat in World War II. "We learned that America dropped the atomic bomb, killing so many thousands, because the Americans wanted to show their strength and might to the rest of the world."

This creative approach to history extends to more recent events as well. "Yes, we learned in science class that men had landed on the moon," said Li Chun Ran, a friendly 17-year-old senior at the same school. "The Russian people sent a man to the moon."
In an interview about the time this article was published, Reid described asking a north Korean farmer about "man walking on the moon" and the farmer asked the interpretor if the "Yangnom" was crazy.

Bottom line, war is nasty, and a war on the Korean Peninsula would be as bloody a civil war as has been fought in a century or more.  The leaders of north Korea are not sane, and may very well be insane enough to start WWIII just  to prove a point. As for the people, well, Reid again:
...But it appears that the people of North Korea genuinely do revere their Great Leader.

You see it in the awe-filled faces of the pilgrims lined up at Mangyongdae, a Mount Vernon-like expanse of grassy parkland surrounding an Abe Lincoln-style thatched hut purported to be Kim's birthplace. You see it in the painstaking care of a train porter as she polishes her Kim Il Sung lapel badge at the end of a long day. You hear it in the proud, reverent voice of the teacher chosen to read the daily scripture passage from The Great Leader's memoirs to the students in a public school.

It is almost as if the people of North Korea would rather believe the myth than face the reality of their brutally difficult daily life.

That must be why the markets have bright color paintings of lush fresh fruits and vegetables on the walls while the actual shelves offer only slim pickings of wormy potatoes and half-rotted onions. That must be why posters depicting happy children greeting the Great Leader in a bosky green park have been erected in the middle of playgrounds that are actually cracked asphalt pavement.

"We are finding that our biggest problem is not the top of the government but the people," says Aage Holm, an American with the United Nations Development Program who has been working here on a U.N. effort to build economic ties between North Korea and the non-socialist world.

"They are so wrapped up in this business about The Great Leader and their own self-reliance that they don't want anything to change.

"We say, 'You have to change. You have to plan for the future.' And they say, 'We like things the way they are, the way the Great Leader does it.' "
And, yes, The Great Leader is Kim Il Sung, dead lo! nearly 20 years.  His son, Kim Jong Il, the Dear Leader is also an ex-tyrant.  And Li'l Kim can't seem to get no respect. 

What better reason for a sawed-off runt of a hereditary dictator to start a conflagration?
Some other links:
  • War-Weary Americans Would Support War with North Korea | Via Meadia
  • “Green Détente” on the Korean Peninsula? | Via Meadia  In the midst of a famine that would have been of record proportions if the commies had had anything resembling an open society, they cut down just about every tree in the country, thinking they'd free up more farm land.  The ROPKs are looking at helping them to plant trees to deal with the subsequent erosion...
  • OK, Now We’re Worried | Via Meadia  Current ROK president Park, Geun-hye, has given the ROK armed forces permission to shoot without prior political clearance.  And without the commies shooting first.  (President Park, BTW, is the daughter of Park Chung Hee who ruled the Republic of Korea for 18 years.  Her mother was murdered in a north Korean assassination attempt on her father)
This has turned into something of an uber-post, something I never intended to do, so I'll some other anecdotes and tidbits separately.


Tam said...

Good post. Kicked me down the wikihole! :)

NotClauswitz said...

Excellent semi-Uberpost! :-) There's a lot of weirdness growing out there and the NORKs have a plantation of it all their own.

NotClauswitz said...

Quite frankly I see the designs of Narrative Control in action, and a Left that has near mind-control. And what California will be like after 70-years of One-Party rule...

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I like sanity.

If that satellite is such a wildcard, which I'm hearing everywhere, what's preventing us from surreptitiously knocking it out before waiting until it is a threat?

Anonymous said...

direct-fire anti-tank pieces that Hitlers Panzers laughed at

a) they don't use those anymore
b) 85mm and 100mm AT guns were deadly dangerous back in the day. Long-barreled 76's not so much to heavy tanks, but could easily take out medium tanks.

These days, not so much. I doubt they could take out a Bradley IFV.

The leaders of north Korea are not sane, and may very well be insane enough to start WWIII just to prove a point. As for the people, well, Reid again:

WWIII? You mean the whole world against North Korea? That could last a couple of months..

As to insane, I doubt that. Kim Jong Il was nasty and eccentric, but the consensus is rational, and this saber-rattling is just the last in a series of such over the years.

About Un.. who knows.

One can only hope the Norks piss off the Chinese seriously and then perhaps a coup-de-etat by some saner heads in the military would end the last Stalinist regime in the world..

Unknown said...

"WWIII? You mean the whole world against North Korea?"

No, he didn't mean that any more than WWI was Yugoslavia against the whole world after the assassination of the Arch-Duke. Think "trigger," not "primary combatant."

And a nuclear armed whackjob situated between China, SouK and Japan has the potential to be a hell of a trigger.

Drang said...

Anonymous @04/12/13, 1:17: As I said, it's been a few years since I saw the full catalog, but when I last looked, they still had anti-tank stuff in the 40 mm range. (45mm, IIRC.)
When you're a poor country with little too offer your sponsor except the opportunity to see his rivals troubles, you take, and keep, what you can get. I didn't say the popguns were front-line use, although the north Koreans do still use MiG 19s for interceptor duty.
OTOH, in another forum, and I forget which one or I'd comment there, someone was attempting to ridicule the north Koreans for using AN2 Colts as the aircraft of choice for delivering paratroops.
Yes, the An2 Colt is a single-engine, canvas and plywood biplane.
It also flies low and slow, and has a very low radar signature due to the construction. If you're primary mission for paratroops is infiltration and sabotage, it's an ideal platform, especially if the only thing keeping your enemy from complete control of the air is self-restraint.