Wednesday, November 01, 2006

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.


Blogger Roger H. Werner said...

I can't speak to the qualifications of the person offering this PRK military assessment and I don't dispute this assessment. What I can do is note some facts that appears to have been ommited. The PRK army, navy, and air force is outclassed with respect to equipment by its ROK counterpart and both American and South Korean training is equal or better than what the north provides. Virtually all of North Korea's equipment is old, much is in need of repair, and their military doesn't have sufficient fuel to conduct a major operation south of the DMZ for any length of time or operate their air force (at least according to the latest Pentagon assessments). The American air force would establish absolute and total air control over all of PRK within 48 hours. If the north were to attack the south unprovoked, it is doubtful the Chinese or Russians would save the north as they did in 1950. PRK has become something of a pain in the side for everyone and I doubt any government would view its demise with anything but heartfelt glee.

For anyone to suggest the North Korean people would fight for their political regime flies in the face of reality. There's a reason why PRK shifted away from a totally armed population: The populace detests their leadership and the only reason it remains in power is through total control of all aspects PRK society. AN invading army, especially if it were largely made up of Koreans, who provide food, medical supplies, and a potentially better way of life, would likely be viewed as liberators.

The PRK military faces over 1,000,000 mines across th DMZ and while there is no doubt they could cause serious mischief, badly damage Soul (located 35 miles from the DMZ and within long range artillery), and likely wreck the ROK economy for some time, they would have zero chance of achieving military unification or any sort of military victory as ROK could count of the full political, economic, and military support of the US and Japan. PRK has a large army and that's about all that can be said for it.

In short, North Korea would be capable of damaging ROK, and if they chose to use nuclear and chemical weapons the damage would be much greater. But irrespective of strategy or tactics, if the PRK attacks the south, it would mean the end of their regime, which is likely what the Chinese government is telling them.

8:53 PM  
Blogger Raymond said...

Both the Frontline piece and the Werner post have merit. Unfortunately the reality is somewhere in the middle. The North will break through the DMZ. The assault will cause a nightmare of fleeing civilians blocking allied troops retreat and reinforcement. We do not have enough air assets in the region to take out their vital targets -- especially their nuclear bombs of which they are suspected of having 9; their airbases; missile bases, anti-aircraft positions; etc. Most importantly we do not have enough air or sea assets to do damage to their troop concentrations.

As our air and sea power arrived it would not have time to work in stages. We could not blind them and take out their anti-aircraft missiles or AAA. As a result we would lose significant aircraft in going after their offensive targets mentioned above as well as their advancing troops.

We are overstretched and most importantly severely attrited because of the constant low level nonsense wars we are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Troop morale is low. Combat fatigue and IED brain syndrome is high. No one discusses the fact that are equipment has become worn and useless and in need of repair.

We are broke. Are we supposed to borrow from the Chinese to defeat their ally Korea.

And what will be the Chinese intentions. Do they see our weakness and distraction; will they use this a means to drive us from the region permanently.

There need not be much conjecture on this point. The attack will be swift and awesome. It will Peter out as it rolls south. But we will be too slow to get there fast enough to prevent a deep penetration.

Our troop committment would have to be tremendous. There is a good chance we'd need a draft. And contrary to the Great Depresssion where we could borrow money to stimulate the economy we cannot aford to borrow a dime more.

Look for a repeat of the first go round with potential nasty variables. Look for us to become a Second World economy afterward. And if it is done a second time it must be finished so look for armed conflict with China.

1:22 AM  
Blogger zakariaka said...

thank you

10:19 PM  

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