sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

North Korean Threat to Guam (analysis)

The Norks

The fat little dictator, Kim Jong Un, playing his 'mouse that roared' scenario is over-playing his hand, but there's nobody close to him who can explain it in a way that he will understand. 

On 9 August, North Korean media published a statement by the Strategic Forces of the Korean People's Army (KPA). The key paragraph follows.
“The KPA Strategic Forces is now carefully examining the operational plan for making an enveloping fire at the areas around Guam...The plan is to be reported to the Supreme Command soon after going through full examination and completion and will be put into practice in a multi-concurrent and consecutive way any moment once Kim Jong Un...makes a decision.” 
This statement does not contain an explicit threat to Guam. It confirms that Guam is a North Korean ballistic missile target. It describes the higher-level approval process, which apparently has not been accomplished. It states a fact that execution of the plan requires a decision by Kim Jong Un. 

The Strategic Force is North Korea’s missile command. A statement by the Supreme Command would be more ominous.

Multiple ballistic missile launches in 2016 and the two launches last month establish that North Korean missiles have the range to reach Guam. They might lack the accuracy to hit the island, but a near miss (or even not so near of a miss) would be an act of war.

The Norks are full of bluster as always, but they're trying to make a point to the world, while they ramp up their plan to fight the US. I'll distill some of the key elements of a long rant for the sake of brevity on this blog.
“Under the prevailing grave situation, the General Staff of the KPA clarifies at home and abroad its resolute stand as follows to mercilessly smash all sorts of military provocation, being planned by the U.S. imperialist warmongers, with the inexhaustible military might of the powerful revolutionary Paektusan army which has so far been built.”
"The provocative ‘preventive war’ the U.S. has devised and plans to execute will be countered with a just all-out war of wiping out all the strongholds of the enemies including the US mainland."
“The US should remember, however, that once there is observed a sign of action for ‘preventive war’ from the US, the army of the DPRK will turn the US mainland into the theatre of a nuclear war before the inviolable land of the DPRK turns into the one.”
North Korea will preemptively attack before the US preemptively attacks.
"The attempt at ‘preemptive attack’ oft-repeated by the US military warmongers will be mercilessly foiled by the Korean style preemptive attack which will be mounted earlier.”
“The Korean-style earlier preemptive attack will burn up all the objects in the areas under the control of the first and third field armies of the puppet forces including Seoul the moment the U.S. reckless attempt at preemptive attack is spotted, and will lead to the all-out attack for neutralizing the launch bases of the U.S. imperialist aggression forces in the Pacific operational theatre together with the simultaneous strike at the depth of the whole of the southern half.”
North Korea is prepared to resist any secret operation that the US may mount.
“The anti-U.S. resistance of all the people including three million Children's Union members and five million youths will smash to pieces the "secret operation" which the U.S. dreams to conduct in the DPRK.” 
“The US has gone hysteric, being quite unaware of the army and people of the DPRK.” 
“The DPRK is an invincible ideological power in which all the service personnel and people are united around their leader in single mind and a country of an impregnable fortress in which all the people are armed and the whole country has been fortified.”
The statement by the General Staff spokesman asserts that North Korea will defeat all US war plans that have been mentioned in open sources. A decapitation attack will fail because North Korea will retaliate at the first sign of such an attack. Preventive attacks will fail because North Korea will escalate to all-out general war and attack the US mainland.

A preemptive attack will fail because North Korean will strike first, executing its pre-emptive attack before the US can. This means that North Korea will strike probably when its intelligence agencies conclude that the US has made the decision to attack North Korea. 

That judgment will be based on North Korea’s detection and interpretation of US military actions. The difficulty with that is that the US has lots of recent experience with different kinds of warfare. North Korean leaders have prepared for only one kind of warfare and have no experience fighting it. There is a grave danger that North Korea will misperceive or misinterpret US and Allied intentions.

Chinese Reaction

The quasi-official newspaper, Global Times, published another Op-ed piece on the North Korea situation, but this one is a tutorial for the US. It is entitled, “US needs correct logic in dealing with North Korea.”
“The UN Security Council on Saturday unanimously passed a resolution to impose ever tougher sanctions on North Korea. Many of these measures need to be paid by China, as China has been North Korea's biggest trading partner due to geographic reasons….”
“The US is the sole superpower, but its media and elites are the most narrow-minded. They unreasonably require the whole world to serve US interests, which they view as universal values.”
The paragraphs that follow provide insights into Chinese thinking about the crisis.
“North Korea sees the US-South Korea alliance as a threat. Given various reasons, it embarked on the wrong path of developing nuclear and missile technology. Washington and Seoul take security as their core interests, but so does Pyongyang which is vulnerable to the US-South Korea alliance. If the enmity between the US and North Korea cannot be resolved, the motives of North Korea to own nuclear weapons and develop intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach US soil will not cease.” 
“External sanctions will only delay North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and missiles, but cannot crush the determination of Pyongyang to stick to this path. Why does US society keep silent about such a simple and tested fact?” 
“The US wants China to play a leading role in sanctioning Pyongyang so it can reap the benefits. Meanwhile, the US and South Korea could just be bystanders as China and North Korea confront each other...”  
“Many Americans view the world through a superior lens. They believe only the US and the West are right in everything and the politics of non-Western countries are immature.”  
“US society may have to reshape a broader vision and a rational way of thinking. Only when mainstream opinion is clear-headed, can the US cope with all kinds of challenges more effectively.”
This article makes it explicit that the Chinese are aware of the price they must pay to enforce the UN sanctions. They have decided to pay that price, but resent that the US and South Korea might benefit from Chinese sacrifices.

The Chinese leaders are sensitive to North Korea’s sense of vulnerability to the US-led alliance. They judge that North Korea has not chosen a wise path for handling it, but they also judge that North Korea will not take a different path until North Korea no longer feels threatened.

China considers sanctions a delaying tactic. The Chinese purpose is to achieve a suspension, not to coerce North Korea into stopping its programs. The message is that no one should expect that they will.

China is acutely aware that US policy would have the effect of substituting China for the US and South Korea in a confrontation with North Korea. China refuses to cooperate with that scheme. 

Chinese leaders have fundamental differences with the US about the nature of the crisis, who must take the lead in a confrontation with North Korea and about the aims of sanctions. In short, the Chinese leaders do not trust the US leaders to behave in a way consistent with Chinese best interests.

US Policy

The Trump Administration is not the Obama Administration and SECDEF Mattis is not some jumped-up political appointee. I still anticipate a kinetic war that will likely go nuclear on the Korean Peninsula within the next 5-6 months. The Norks are increasing hysterical and emotional and as stated above, their naive world view would likely cause them to react to something that is not intended as 'preemptive action'. When missiles are flying back and forth, China, on the border with North Korea has far more to lose than they do by sanctioning North Korea and starving them into backing down -- but they're still very slow to do that.

My own personal judgment is that the Norks themselves are past the point of no-return.


36 comments:

  1. It seems like we are in a damned-if-you-do; damned-if-you-don't situation with the Norks... and China. I don't really see us using nukes but can see the fatfuck using them. We are too good at stealth attacks and could take out any any areas that could fire a nuclear weapon. And Un at the same time.

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    1. If Fat Un uses nuclear weapons, the US will use tactical nukes to take out the command and control bunkers that are dug in very deep. I don't see much of an alternative to that. If the Norks don't, the US will just pound them to dust. The the ROK will mop up on the ground.

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  2. Cheosuk falls on 3 October to 6 October this year. Millions of Koreans will travel to their home villages and the countryside to visit family. Seoul will have a somewhat smaller population over that period and it leads into the colder months. Just a thought.

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    1. I don't know. It depends if we're going to make something look like they started it (Gulf of Tonkin Incident) or if we're going to actually let them shoot first.

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  3. You obviously haven't heard, but Kim is taking a day off today- some say he's celebrating but I say he's gloating. Do you know why? I'll tell you. Kim doesn't have a key to the city and quite frankly, he's ripping his hair out ( no bad thing) in a fit of jealousy. Not everyone can be as cool, suave and awesome as the White Wolf. I've put my bikini on, cowboy boots and am making my way to the pool bar for an ice cream float. Happy Larry Lambert day! ;)

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    1. Yes, Today is LL Day in Las Vegas. I forgot. Thank you for reminding me. A root beer float is the very best possible way to celebrate.

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  4. There is a grave danger that North Korea will misperceive or misinterpret US and Allied intentions. Isn't that always the risk when everyone is expecting the other guy to shoot first, so they're intently looking at each other and waiting for the first move?

    A pragmatic lesson of the 20th century seems to be "once you have nukes, nobody fucks with you". I've been wondering how long that's going to last for around 30 years.

    I'm concerned that both sides are past the point of no return. While I understand your points about mid-Winter being "best", I'm not optimistic we'll make it that long.

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    1. This Guam targeting thing disturbs me, because it takes the situation to another level - where it didn't need to go. But it's what the Norks want to do, and they've been wanting it for a long time. The mouse will get one last roar off.

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  5. How many THAAD installations will it take to fend off the first response of FatUn?

    Once they are in place tell the Chicoms "it you or us big fella" and let her rip.

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    1. The big concern isn't Fat Un's nukes and rocket artillery. It's the loss of life due to chemical and conventional tube artillery on people living within the Seoul to-Inchon area.

      It's no secret that they have dug tunnels under the border and that the goal there is to send significant numbers of infantry up behind the DMZ.

      The Norks have a number of problems. One is that the US has been in a constant state of war since 2001, troops and weapons systems have operational experience at a very deep level. The Russian experience in Syria was in part to give their army some trigger time, but even that does not rise to the US experience level. The ROK military is capable and intense.

      I'm sure that the Norks who emerge from tunnels will be wearing ROK uniforms.

      The ROK will lose tens of millions and the Norks will be wiped out.

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    2. With the technology available to the ROK and the US, I would think that we would know where all of those tunnels are and have forces staged there to greet the NORKs when they emerge.

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    3. You hope so...but no battle plan survives the opening salvo. They can also place nuclear weapons in those tunnels and detonate them to wipe out troops waiting for them.

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    4. The tunnels must be a very 'interesting' game of cat and mouse. Who is fooling whom? I would hope our side has let them dig, convinced that they have not been detected, so we know where they are. As you point out, we have gained much operational experience, including how to hunt our enemies underground. Hopefully we have pre-targeted deep penetrating bunker busters that will collapse any known tunnels, entombing anyone and anything in them. As I recall, AP rounds from our battleships worked nicely for this in Vietnam.

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    5. Besides the tunnels, they also have those low altitude, troop carrying bi-planes!!!!!

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    6. RHT447 I wish that we still had Battleships in commission.

      Yes, Ed, they do have those biplanes where they cling to the wing.

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  6. I think you are probably right, but one can't help but wonder if there will be any last minute sanity?

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    1. The Norks would have to take out Dear Leader. Or China likely has agents close to the throne.

      I'm reminded of a story from the days of Saladin. An ambassador from the Assassins came to visit him soon after he declared intention to invade the lands of the Old Man in the Mountain. The ambassador said that if he did that, he wouldn't survive the hour. Saladin laughed and one of his closest bodyguards put a poisoned knife to his throat.

      Saladin decided not to invade.

      I expect that the Chinese have people that close to Fat Un.

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    2. Which is why they had is cousin in reserve, except he got stupid and left protection.

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    3. The heir and a spare philosophy works but as you suggest, the gene pool is shallow in the Fat Un family and the guy went out and about.

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  7. The only fat kid in Pyongyang is completely nuts and I see him as trying something. Perhaps he's hoping China will bail him out when it goes south on him.

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    1. Once the shooting starts there won't be much to bail out. The boy king may not understand that, but the Chinese do.

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  8. LL,
    Do you think Fat Un is crazy enough to use bio-weapons?

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    1. I don't know what their bio-weapons research looks like. There were rumors that they weaponized small pox. If he didn't use them as a first-strike weapon, deploying them may be challenging. But sure, why not if you're being pounded by nuclear weapons. I can guarantee that he will use chemical weapons as a first strike option.

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  9. Possibly a pipe dream. Someone needs to put the equivalent of a horse head in the fat turd's bed ala The Godfather. Might get his thinking changed.

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  10. It's starting to sound a lot like war. I'd like to think it wouldn't be worldwide...

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    1. I don't think that anyone including the US wants a war with the Norks. However, it's been building for a long time and the syphlitic fat boy king that runs the place feels that he will humble the US.

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  11. Thank you for the very sombre update, LL.

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    1. It doesn't have to be like that. They could decide to get along, be good neighbors, let family members reunite, etc. But they won't. It's not what they do and the power elite in North Korea have so deluded themselves with their own grandeur, that it may end badly. Hubris does that to people.

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  12. Thank you for a very well thought out post.

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  13. As long as it doesn't turn out to be the scenario in "One Second After".

    I wonder if those launching ships have to be within a certain zone to make it work? In other words, how do we determine if there are ships gathering at the correct locations to attempt this? Any other methods to forestall this, working back from the known data required for it to function with their current missile/warhead tech?

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    1. I just posted the North Korean clarification and intent to launch 4 IRBM's that will bracket Guam later in August. Their words, not mine. These are land based Intermediate Range weapons, not sea launched weapons. The North Koreans are working on reliable submarine launched ballistic missiles but they're not at the stage where they are likely to use submarine launched weapons (closer to Guam than North Korea).

      The present warning that the missiles will over-fly Japan is confirmation of this.

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  14. LL,

    Time to deliver the defense bill to South Korea with a C.O.D. stamp on it.

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    1. They, like the Japanese, pay for it. The Japanese paid to keep the USS Midway floating in addition to other costs. The ROK's have been good about paying their fair share of things. I have no criticism. Now if there's a war, and the Republic of Korea is devastated by the conflict, we will need to pitch in to help with a rebuilding effort. The same is true with the north.

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