Saturday, September 30, 2017

Rumors Of War: Why War With N Korea Is Inevitable, How S Korea Would Strike N Korea In A War

Why War with North Korea Is Inevitable

Why War with North Korea Is Inevitable
This July I outlined the case for war against North Korea, contingent on the failure of diplomacy and Kim Jong-Un’s continued march towards a long-range nuclear ICBM capability.
Six weeks on North Korea has tested an ICBM, fired two missiles over Japan, and detonated a hydrogen bomb.

Events are unfolding as predicted. The strategic arguments are exhaustively interrogated in the four-part debate between myself and Dr. David Santoro (part 1part 2part 3part 4). The analysis remains unchanged, except to say that diplomatic avenues look bleak, time is running out, and the cost of war mounts daily as North Korea prepares and fortifies.
This piece focuses on the reasons why deterrence is destined for failure and war on the peninsula is increasingly inevitable. A future piece will discuss the ethics of embarking on second Korean war (and those of advocating it).

Why deterrence cannot work and shouldn’t be attempted
Many believe that North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons, along with its conventional arsenal, rules out war.

A conflict would indeed prove more horrific than many apprehend, and being enthused by the prospect of another Korean war would truly be insane. However, what is even more insane is telling the President of the United States that the greatest nation in history, and all its 300 million+ citizens, must live in the shadow of annihilation at the whims of a sadistic cult. This is simply not going to happen, and observers insisting that there is no military option ignore reality and all senior members of this administration and the president himself. The United States will not live with a North Korea that can destroy American cities with a nuclear-tipped ICBM, end of story.

Those arguing against war insist that traditional nuclear deterrence with North Korea can work, just like with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Before proceeding everyone should re-read the last paragraph and understand fully that their argument is an academic exercise and not a realistic course of action. They are also totally wrong, for these reasons:

1. Deterrence has already failed
North Korea’s nuclear weapons are not merely about regime survival, for all would agree that its existing capabilities are more than sufficient for dissuading unprovoked regime change. Rather, it seeks mutual nuclear vulnerability with the United States to prevent military responses to North Korea’s current and future aggression towards U.S. allies in the region.  

This is already being demonstrated. On September 14, North Korea stated that:
“The four islands of the [Japanese] archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche. Japan is no longer needed to exist near us.”
Hardly a declaration that nuclear weapons are for deterrence! The very next day residents on Hokkaido island received a text – ‘a missile from North Korea has been detected, take cover.'
Any suggestion that there is a ‘lock step’ allied response to these provocations is absurd. Imagine it was Hawaii that North Korea proclaimed would be ‘sunk’ and American citizens receiving texts with missiles flying overhead. Washington’s response would be starkly different.
Maybe North Korea could be deterred from launching a nuclear weapon directly against the United States (and none can be certain of that). Once North Korea possesses dozens of nuclear-tipped ICBMs, however, it can attack U.S. allies and even embark on a second Korean war knowing there isn’t a thing the United States can do about it without inviting a massive and unacceptable nuclear retaliation. This fact is not lost on Japan, Korea, or even Australia. Consequently, U.S. alliances in Asia will fast unravel.

2. North Korea is not the Soviet Union or China
This seemed so obvious that when the comparison was first made I regrettably ignored it. Since then there has been an increasing number of deterrence advocates who use the Soviet Union or China as examples to support their case.
Starting with the basics, deterrence can only exist when an adversary would have undertaken the action if not for the deterrent. In the case of China, there was never a prospect of Mao launching a nuclear strike against the United States, regardless of America’s own nuclear arsenal. Nor did America’s nuclear weapons deter China in any way – China fought the Korean war decades before the taboo against nuclear use had been established, and at a time when China did not even possess nuclear weapons!

Moreover, the capabilities and doctrine between Mao’s China and North Korea could not be more different. China did not possess any means of delivering a nuclear weapon to the United States until long after bilateral relations had been normalized. China also instituted a minimum-deterrent and no-first-use policy (maintained to this day), targeted at no specific country. Meanwhile, North Korea pursues nuclear ICBMs with gusto and constantly threatens the United States with nuclear destruction. Certainly, those in the 1960s who insisted that America could not live with a nuclear-armed China were fools, but to draw that comparison with North Korea today is spurious.

The Soviet case is equally broken. For most of the Cold War, the United States believed itself the conventionally inferior party that had to compensate with nuclear weapons. America’s objective was not to deter a Soviet nuclear attack but rather an invasion of Western Europe. Soviet domination of Western Europe would have posed such an existential threat to the United States that it was credible for America to initiate a nuclear war to prevent it. This credibility was underscored by the fact that two European NATO allies possessed their own nuclear deterrents and could retaliate to an attack on behalf of themselves.

By contrast, it is not credible that the United States will incur large-scale nuclear attack from North Korea on behalf of South Korea or even Japan. Unification of the peninsula under Pyongyang would not threaten America’s existence. The North Koreans know this and will therefore not be deterred.
Others say that Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) is the answer. The reason being that deterrence by punishment (nuclear retaliation) can be combined with deterrence by denial (thwarting an attack) to effectively deter hostile aggression. After all, if North Korea believes that America can shoot down its ICBMs, it is less likely to engage in hostile acts in the first place.
The incentive for North Korea is exactly opposite. Far from avoiding threatening America’s core interests, doing so directly advances Pyongyang’s own strategic goals. This is because the costs to the United States of intervening will greatly outweigh those of acquiescing to what are, relative to major power competitors, modest North Korean objectives (even though the long-term consequences for the United States’ position in Asia is profound). Moreover, unlike with America’s major power rivals, any level of American military intervention taken against North Korea would necessarily be interpreted by Pyongyang as an existential threat to regime survival, meaning that dramatic escalation is assured and not merely a risk. In short, North Korea will increasingly engage in hostile aggression below the nuclear threshold, without fear of conflict. The bottom line is that the United States will be deterred, not North Korea, despite the wide gap between their respective nuclear capabilities.

In timeless wisdom, the Ancient Greek historian Thucydides outlined the three causes of war: fear, honor, and interest. All three are at play on the Korean peninsula. The United States fears a North Korean nuclear weapon could detonate over an American city. Its status as a major power in Asia and credibility as an ally is on the line. And it has profound interests in North Korea not becoming an established nuclear power.
At present, only two nations can credibly threaten the United States with nuclear destruction, Russia, and China. A North Korean nuclear ICBM is entry to a very exclusive club. If this picture seems wrong instinctively, it is. Some with impressive nuclear resumes believe traditional nuclear deterrence strategies are adaptable to North Korea. They are totally wrong about this, and no-one should be seduced by this fantasy.

Creative diplomatic solutions have been suggested, of which former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s ‘Grand Bargain’ is likely the best. But the probability of success is desperately remote and time is fast running out. War is the inevitable, and only, alternative.

The F-15K Slam Eagle: How South Korea Would Strike North Korea in a War

On September 13, 2017 the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) test-fired a Taurus cruise missile in response to a North Korean ballistic missile test. In this video, you can see as an F-15K launch the boxy weapon, which plunges straight through the roof of a practice target, penetrating into the ground below before its main warhead detonates.

For decades, the South Korean military has had to prepare for a conflict in which its cities, especially the capital of Seoul, would be on the receiving end of a North Korean artillery, chemical weapons and ballistic missiles. Now, such an onslaught might potentially include nuclear warheads. Though such a scenario must be avoided at all costs, should it occur, it would be vital for South Korean and U.S. forces to destroy these heavily fortified missile and artillery sites as swiftly as possible.

That’s the mission assigned to the sixty F-15K Slam Eagles in the Republic of Korea Air Force. Based on the F-15E Strike Eagle fighter bomber in U.S. Air Force, the Slam Eagles have souped-up sensors and electronic warfare systems, and now are loaded with bunker-busting cruise missiles to blast open North Korean missile silos.
Those weapons could also be employed in an attempt to decapitate North Korean leadership in a fortified bunker, a point the South Korean military surely hoped to illustrate when it released the video.

South Korea’s Slam Eagles
The Strike Eagle is a fighter-bomber variant of the F-15 Eagle, loaded with extra weapons pylons, fuel tanks and sensors at the cost of modestly decreased thrust-to-weight ratio and maneuverability. The two-seat jets can still sprint at two-and-a-half times the speed of sound, and can lug an extraordinary 23,000 pounds of weapons, nearly three times the bomb load of a strategic bomber in World War II. On the downside, the large, twin-engine F-15 is much more expensive to operate than, say, a single-engine F-16, though the additional turbofan does contribute to a lower accident rate.
South Korea chose to procure forty F-15Ks in 2002 for $4.2 billion as the first part of a three-phase F-X program to modernize its jet fighter force, beating out the Eurofighter Typhoon, the French Rafale and an earlier variant of the Su-35. Nearly 40 percent of the components were built by Korean firms, including fuselage, wings, and much of the avionics, then were assembled by Boeing in St. Louis, Missouri.

Because the new Slam Eagles came more than a decade after the F-15E entered service, they could be outfitted at the outset with then-new technologies including flat-screen displays in the cockpit that are compatible with night-vision goggles, and a Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System permitting a pilot to acquire aerial targets for short-range AIM-9X missiles merely by pointing his or her head at them.

On the other hand, North Korea has quite a few surface-to-air missiles, though again only a fraction of them are modern types. To counter that threat, the F-15K boasts a lighter but more powerful Tactical Electronic Warfare Suite than found on the F-15E, including an ALQ-135M countermeasure system with faster processors that can track and jam multiple incoming SAMs and an ALE-47 chaff and flare dispensers that times and aims the release of the decoys for maximum missile confusion.

Will Kim Jong Un Be Allowed To Kill Millions Of Americans On Behalf Of Political Correctness?

Contrary to the prevailing view in the press, academia, and among Democrats and establishment Republicans, President Trump and National Security Advisor, Lt. General McMaster are right that there are many realistic military options for disarming North Korea's nuclear threat. What might some of these options look like? 

Order of Battle 

Below is North Korea's Order of Battle-those assets that pose, or may pose, a nuclear threat to the United States and U.S. allies-arrayed in order of priority for destruction: 

1) Satellites (KMS-3, KMS-4)   -  2 
2) ICBMs (KN-08, KN-14, Other)  -  12 
3) Yongbyon Nuclear Complex  -  1 
4) SLBMs (Simpo-1, 12 building)  -  13 
5) Bombers (mostly non-nuclear)  -  60 
6) IRBMs (Musudan)   - 30-50 
7) MRBMs (mostly non-nuclear)   - 300-450 
8) SRBMs (mostly non-nuclear)   - 600-800 
The U.S. intelligence community reportedly now estimates North Korea has 60 nuclear weapons, including atomic (A-Bomb) and thermonuclear (H-Bomb) missile warheads. North Korea's ICBMs and IRBMs are probably mostly or all nuclear-armed, as these are their costliest, longest-range, and most strategically important missiles, which would be largely useless without nuclear warheads. The remainder of North Korea's nuclear weapons are probably scattered among their MRBMs, SRBMs, and bombers. 

Elsewhere I have argued the U.S. intelligence community is probably underestimating the number of North Korean nuclear weapons. North Korea probably has covert facilities hidden among its many underground tunnels for making nuclear weapons, not just the overt Yongbyon Nuclear Complex. (See "Underestimating the North Korean Nuclear Threat" Secure Freedom Quarterly, 2nd Quarter 2016.) 

The North Korean Order of Battle, with about 40-60 ICBMs and IRBMs, suggests North Korea would want more than 60 nuclear weapons to better arm its MRBMs, SRBMs, and bombers for tactical nuclear strikes. A conservative military planner would want a better balance between strategic and tactical nuclear capabilities. 

If only out of an abundance of caution, we should assume that North Korea probably has 100-120 nuclear weapons evenly divided between strategic and tactical delivery systems. 

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