Monday, October 09, 2006

Stratfor: No "Satisfactory Military Solution" to North Korean Test

Via Counterterrorism Blog:
Stratfor: No "Satisfactory Military Solution" to North Korean Test

Stratfor has issued an important new analysis examining U.S. military options against North Korea. It concludes that "an overt military strike -- even one limited to cruise missiles -- is not in the cards. The consequences of even the most restrained attack could be devastating."

Stratfor points out that North Korea acquired a nuclear capability out of desire for regime preservation. This fact makes any military option perilous because "it is quite conceivable that Kim Jong-Il and his advisors -- or other factions -- might construe even the most limited military strikes against targets directly related to missile development or a nuclear program as an act threatening the regime, and therefore one that necessitates a fierce response." North Korea could retaliate using the 10,000 fortified artillery pieces currently trained on the South Korean capital of Seoul; it also has over 100 No-Dong missiles capable of hitting deep into South Korean territory or else targeting Japan. The artillery alone could be devastating for South Korea. As William C. Triplett II noted in his 2004 book Rogue State, North Korea is capable of firing "between 300,000 and 500,000 artillery shells per hour on the Seoul metropolitan area."

The options for countering this artillery fire, Stratfor notes, are not good. An air campaign aimed at dismantling the artillery would take a long time, and Seoul and the South Korean economy could be severely damaged in the interim. Moving troops into North Korea would be enormously costly: "Fifty years of concerted military fortification would make Hezbollah's preparations in southern Lebanon look like child's play. Moving U.S. and South Korean armor into this defensive belt could break it, but only with substantial casualties and without the certainty of success."

In war game scenarios, the defeat of North Korea requires its army to move into South Korea, where it "would be vulnerable to U.S. and South Korean airstrikes and superior ground maneuver and fire capabilities." But even in that best-case scenario, there are still substantial barriers. The war-gaming has assumed 30 days for the activation and mobilization of U.S. forces for a counterattack, with U.S. and South Korean forces maintaining an elastic defense in the interim. Stratfor notes three problems with this approach:

The first is that the elastic strategy would inevitably lead to the fall of Seoul and, if the 1950 model were a guide, a much deeper withdrawal along the Korean Peninsula. Second, the ability of the U.S. Army to deploy substantial forces to Korea within a 30-day window is highly dubious. Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom both required much longer periods of time. Finally, the U.S. Army is already fighting two major ground wars and is stretched to the breaking point. The rotation schedule is now so tight that units are already spending more time in Iraq than they are home between rotations. The idea that the U.S. Army has a multidivisional force available for deployment in South Korea would require a national mobilization not seen since the last Korean War.

The bottom line is that, in Stratfor's words, there doesn't appear to be "a satisfactory military solution."


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