July 05, 2006
As long as they suck ...
... why the big-time concern? North Korea's Taepodong-2 missile, which worried so many US officials, proved a bust a mere 30-some seconds after lift-off. Considering the NKs threatened "nuclear war" with the US if we pre-emptively took out the missile, Newt Gingrich's, Ashton B. Carter's and William J. Perry's advocation of just that seems to have been the result of a premature concern.
I'm curious -- and maybe better military-minded folk can help me out here -- if we did blast that missile to bits on the NK launch pad and the NKs launched an all-out attack on their southern neighbors and, say, Japan, would we be able to assist adequately considering our ongoing presence in Iraq?
Posted by Hube at July 5, 2006 09:57 AM
US involvement isn't necessarily critical to keeping the DPRK contained.
There's an old tale of the American General who met with his South Korean counterpart upon taking command of the US troops in the DMZ. The South Korean explained that the US was not there to keep the North from going south, but to keep the South from going north. That's likely apocrophyl but the South Koreans are more than capable of keeping the DPRK at bay. The biggest problem is the artillary. The NKPA is arrayed in defensive rings around Pyongyang and it's properly positioned for an invasion. Any realignment would be highly noticable. However, they have enough artillary to shell Seoul heavily even if their capacity is as degraded as some believe. They cannot win but they can hurt the South pretty bad.
They have chronic fuel shortages so their pilots don't train more than 3 days a month and their fighters are dated as well. The South would have air superiority covered very quickly. US forces also have joint exercises annually with the South as well.
The last problem is the tunnels the Norks have put under the DMZ. They can bypass the zone and create havoc by appearing behind it.
They can't win and they know it. They use brinkmanship tactics as a means of extorting concessions from everybody.
Test rockets blowing up on the pad or shortly after launch is the norm. Even modern western rockets (like the current Deltas we use or the Ariane the ESA uses) have done it. The first one or two either blow up or are blown up. It happens.
So just because a test rocket blows up does not mean the whole program is a bust. They'll fix whatever went wrong and build another one until it works. Rocketry is one of the only things that the NorKoms are good enough at to produce products for export. They'll make more.
I don't know if Duffy's analysis is right. The NorKom's probably can't win a major war, not unless China gets involved on their side. But they can make a war very expensive for everyone. They can shell Seoul with conventional artillery from the border. They can threaten Japan and the US with ballistic missiles. They can hurt a lot of people. More people than it is worth to get rid of their regime.
As for fighting them, yeah we can probably handle containment with just our Navy assets in the region. The Navy proper (i.e. not the Marines) aren't being utilized much in the current boots-on-ground Iraqi conflict.
I think blowing up their ballistic missiles on the ground would be stupid and overbearing. But using them for target practice for our anti-ballistic missile assets in the Pacific region is a great idea. Use their missile tests for our missile tests. If we do it right we even save money from the testing budget by not having to shoot our own target missiles.
The Norks can do missiles in theater well but those of the ICBM variety are notoriously more difficult esp. getting to stage three. They can, indeed, make trouble. China and Russia both have diplomatic black eyes as they have been shown to be less effective than they said in keeping Kim quiet.
The six party talks are now effectively dead.
The USN could blockade North Korea but that is an act of war and not to be taken lightly.