Thursday, January 06, 2005

That's my idea! Mine! MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, about a year and a half ago I was pondering what should be done about North Korea (I may have been leaning nonchalantly against the fireplace smoking a pipe, I don't recall) when I came up with what I initially believed to be a startlingly brilliant plan to rid the West of the policy nightmare that is North Korea.

Give North Korea to China. Send somebody over to Beijing and say to them, look here, we think something needs to be done about Mr Kim and his platform-shoe wearing cohorts. Now, we know you don't want us in there. Of course you don't. And, while we know - and you know - we can win there, we don't particularly want to have to be bothered with it either. So what we'd be prepared to do is to turn a blind eye if you wanted to go in there and just make the problem go away. What have you got to lose? Anyway, it's either that or you'll have to put up with us going in there. You get yourself a nice shiny new protectorate and we get to go home and have a nice hot cup of tea and a sit down. Whaddya say?

Cynical? Wildly. Immoral? Probably (though if I HAD to live in a communist shithole of death, I'd sooner live under the Red Chinese than Mr Kim and his Dad [who is technically still in charge, presumably via Ouija board]). But it seemed to me that if the status quo becomes unsustainable, it might be the best option available.

Now, if it gets to the stage where war between America (and South Korea) and North Korea becomes inevitable, it's going to be messy. The North Korean armed forces are in a bad state in many ways but almost certainly have enough in them to make a mess over a very short period of time - think of them as a 100m sprinter, not a marathon runner.

It is tempting - understandably - to focus on the nuclear aspect of any North Korean war effort. In reality however, the conventional aspect is disturbing enough. The USA could, no doubt, defeat the North Koreans in fairly short order in a toe-to-toe fight. The country is completely impoverished and it's likely that the North Korean C4I and logistics network would simply rupture apart within the first couple of days. Unfortunately, the North has geared its forces to create as much havoc as possible, very quickly.

Shrek and Donkey on another whirlwind adventure

The DMZ is guarded by four infantry Corps (I, II, IV, V), each of which consists of: HQ, 6 (mechanised) infantry divisions, 1 tank brigade, 3 light infantry brigades, 1 sniper brigade, 1 multiple rocket launcher (various calibres) brigade, 1 self-propelled artillery brigade and sundry support units. I Corps also features two 160mm mortar units.

These four Corps are backed by 620th Artillery Corps [HQ, 6-9 MRL brigades, 9 self propelled artillery brigades, 1 self propelled air defence artillery regiment, comms, sappers. NBC defence unit etc], which is deployed permenantly in fortifications and dug in positions. This represents one of the largest and potentially most formidable conventional artillery concentrations in the world. In the event of a North Korean assault on South Korea, the 620th is tasked with providing deep fire support for the advancing infantry corps, but its default posture is defensive and many of its guns are believed to be pre-registered on Seoul (South Korea could serve as a textbook case of a really crap geostrategic position) and on hair triggers. The entire force posture is designed to swing into action at a moments notice.

The quandry, therefore, is not whether or not America could beat North Korea, but whether America could beat North Korea before the North's first wave forces turn Seoul and other South Korean urban concentrations into flaming rubble. The consequences of this in human terms would be appalling, with follow-on effects including the collapse of the South Korean economy. I don't doubt that there are many among the US armed forces who believe that with the right application of airpower and aggressive assault it's doable and they may be right - but I personally wouldn't like to bet on it.

Scream he did, moan and gibber as they skewered his catflap for want of a farthing...

The interesting thing, however, is just how open North Korea's border with China is. The Korean People's Army is almost entirely orientated to dealing with a threat from the South. Very few of the nightmarish problems facing the South and the USA in the event of the Korean peninsula going hot apply to the Chinese.Over 70 per cent of the KPA is deployed in the south near the DMZ and all of the North's prepared artillery positions face south. Of the four regions bordering the PRC, three - Chagang-do, Yanggang-do and Hamgyong-bukto - are relatively free of substantial military deployment. The fourth - Pyongan-bukto - generally plays host to 425th Mechanised Corps.Beyond this, the nearest concentration of heavy guns is the Kangdong Artillery Corps that is deployed around Pyongyang. It would be an overstatement to claim that the whole country would be wide open if the Chinese moved in but the PLA would certainly face fewer inherent problems (with the exception of terrain, which is largely more favourable in the south) than the US or the South Koreans.

But why?

Of course, nobody in their right mind would want to see North Korea occupied indefinitely by the Red Chinese. I just thought that maybe it would be the least worst option if it got to the stage where something had to be done. Of course, after some further contemplation I decided it was probably complete and utter rubbish so I didn't think it through any further. Well, even if it is rubbish it seems that it's rubbish the Wall Street Journal is prepared to pay money to publish. Arrrrgh!


Blogger J. said...

Absolutely crazy. The only way it would work is if China agreed to help "transition" N. Korea into a stable society that could be merged with S. Korea within a defined timeframe. I don't think China would want the economic burden (similar to W. Germany assimulating E. Germany), and certainly S. Koreans would have an issue with the continued isolation from their northern families, etc.

Least worst option, maybe. But again, N. Korea represents perhaps one of the few reasons for the U.S. military to retain state-of-the-art weapon systems designed for a conventional military operation.

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