North Korea Military Capabilities
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea or DPRK) is a formidable enemy in terms of land combat systems and highly trained special forces. The quality of all the non infantry forces of the country can be called into question but the shear volume of material and dedicated planning have made the DPRK an adversary that is fully capable of making good its intention of reunification with South Korea by force of arms. This post will analyze the intentions and the capabilities of the DPRK.
The intentions of North Korea are three fold: North and South Reunification, DPRK Leadership of Unified Korea, and Military Forced Reunification. Further it is important to note that previous military doctrine called for full mobilization of the population and full fortification of the population. In order to achieve their eventual goals the DPRK has provided fortified bunkers for a large portion of its populace. Most of the bunkers are immune to a general nuclear strike. Further there has been the emphasis on arming the whole population in the event of a military conflict. Though this emphasis on a general people's war was accepted public doctrine up till the 1990's there has been a significant shift over the past ten years. This new doctrine emphasizes the quality of the frontline troops, the depth of fire across the battlefield, command and control, and the flow of munitions and materials. In short they have made a launched into a full modernization of the tactics and strategies of their military. Chief among these strategies has been the new emphasis upon their special forces.
It is important to note that South Korea estimates that North Korea has stockpiled approx. 990,000 tons of ammunition most of which is already deployed to hardened munition dumps along the DMZ. Due to the current deployment of North Korean troops there would probably not be a significant increase in military traffic before the beginning of a full assualt. Estimates suggest that 70% of the North Korean forces are deployed within 100 Kilometers of the DMZ. Since the reunification assault is the primary purpose of the military the number of plans have been practiced repeatedly and are well understood by many of the oficers even down to the regimental levels. In short an assault on South Korea could begin at any moment.
Such an attack would be characterized by three stages. First stage: penetrate the DMZ, insert special forces to dissable command and control facilities as well as airfields, deep missile strikes, destruction of forces along the DMZ. Second Stage: isolate Seoul and consolidate conquered territory. Third stage: conquer the remaining territory and overwhelm remaining defenders. The whole general scenario relies heavily on strategic surprise and rapid achievement of objectives before South Korea can mobilize their reserves or heavy US reinforcements can land. Unfortunatly US land forces are limited by treaty to 37,500 servicemen in South Korea. Recently we have redeployed 10,000 of those soldiers to Iraq. Over the next year the proposal is to remove 2,500 more.
North Korea has approximatly 700,000 infantry, approximatly 8,000 artillery systems, and 2,000 tanks prepositioned within 90 kilometers of the DMZ. This number constantly is increasing as North Korea slowly redeploys their forces towards the DMZ. The active army in North Korea consists of 1,000,000 men perhaps as high as 1,200,000 men. The reserves are to the number of seven million. The active military is one of the highest trained in the world with special emphasis placed on large scale operations. North Korea's air force consists of approximatly 110,000 personnel but its emphasis is in operating the thousands of anti-aircraft batteries scattered across the country. North Korea's main strategy is to neutralize South Korea's airforce thus ensuring at least neither side gaining air supremacy.
To put all this in proper context it is important to note the current capabilities of South Korea. Active army is standing around 560,000. The Marine Corps has approximatly 25,000 men on active duty. South Korea's Air Force is naturally far superior than its northern neighbors in both quantity and quality.