Pakistan Observer

North Korea vs South Korea

Muhammad Daheem

Monday, January 03, 2011 - The Korean Peninsula extends about 1,100 kilometers to the south continental Asia to the Pacific Ocean. It is surrounded by the Sea of Japan. It had been ruled by Japan from 1910 –1945. In 1945, following the defeat of Japan, Korean peninsula along the 38th Parallel was divided into two parts. American forces occupied the southern part of peninsula, while the Soviet Union occupied its northern part. There was a military conflict between the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) in 1950. The United States and The United Nations came to rescue South Korea and repelled North Korean forces. These forces reached past the 38th Parallel and almost to the Yalu River. At this critical stage the Chinese launched a counter-attack and reached past the 38th Parallel. The Soviet Union materially aided both the North Korean and Chinese armies. In 1953, the war ceased and an armistice was signed on 27 July 1953. Nonetheless, technically both Korean states are still at war. A buffer zone, consisting of a strip of 2.5 miles, was created between the two Korean states. From time to time minor events of fighting and clashes occur between the two Korean forces and political statements are made against each other.

South Korea has a regular army of more than 500,000 persons. Its population is almost twice the population of the North Korea. South Korea developed, industrialized and modernized from the early 1960s to the late 1990s. Nowadays, it is considered a big economic power and its forces are considered well trained, equipped and motivated. North Korea faces certain financial and economic problems. But it is the will and resolute determination and spirit to fight that may decide the outcome of the war.

Recently Pyongyang, while accusing Seoul of deliberate provocation, has warned that it may wage a ‘sacred war’ against South Korea at any moment using its nuclear arsenal to destroy it and its major ally, the United States of America— via missile or by dropping them from an aircraft such as the AN-2 and IL-28. The AN-2, a propeller-driven biplane, is made mostly of cloth and wood. It has lethal potential as it gives off no signature on radar. The North Korea has round about 300 AN-2s. These crafts can carry 10 to 15 heavily armed soldiers across the inter- Korean border and need only 250-meter runway to land. The IL-28 is a Cold War-era Soviet ground attack aircraft. It is estimated that North Korea has more than a dozen nuclear weapons. It has developed missile technology that has capability to hit Hawaii, with a nuclear warhead, which is 3,600 kilometers away. Its BM-25 Musudan missile can carry a payload weighing 1 to 1.2 tons and has a range of 3000-4000 kilometers. It has several Scuds and other nuclear warheads to hit any of South Korea’s major cities.

The latest confrontation came about when a South Korean navy ship, on patrol in the Yellow Sea, was sunk by a torpedo on 26th March, killing 46 South Korean sailors. The investigators from five countries concluded that sinking of the warship was the result of a North Korean torpedo attack. Pyongyang denies it. Pyongyang has also accused South Korea of trespassing in its waters.

Tension continued to mount on the Korean peninsula. Seoul, in show of strength, staged a big anti-submarine drill. It launched major land and sea military exercises in the Pocheon region, between Seoul and demilitarized zone separating two Koreas. The North’s KCNA called the drills ‘madcap’ and ‘offensive’ referring to the South Korean military as ‘puppet warmongers’. It also threatened South Korea of nuclear attack.

The situation has deteriorated since then and appears to be at its lowest point in a decade. Japan, supporting South Korea’s stand, has called the attack ‘provocative’ and ‘unforgivable’. The United States is firmly favoring South Korea. China has shown its disappointment upon the United States and South Korea’s joint military exercises. It resisted American pressure to blame North Korea for sinking the South Korean warship and punish it. This has further infuriated to the South Koreans and The United States of America.

North Korea can destroy Seoul even without any movement of its forces. It maintains one of the largest standing armies in the world with steady increase of tanks, self-propelled artillery, armored personnel carriers and trucks. Its navy, however, is comparatively small and consists of light destroyers, patrol ships, guided missile boats, torpedo boats and fire support boats. The U.S. naval forces have superiority over North Korea. The U.S. navy stays close to its shore. Nonetheless, North Korea’s anti-warship missiles pose a large threat to American navy.

North Korea has more than one thousand missiles. A large number of these have a range more than 3,000 kilometers. These have already been tested. The main reason for North Korea’s nuclear program is that its conventional forces would not like to involve in a prolonged war. They lack fuel, spare parts, and industrial capacity to sustain a prolonged conflict. Presently, it is making preparation for the third nuclear test.

Though war would be catastrophic for both countries, South Korea would suffer the most at the initial stage. Its capital of Seoul lies just 50 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone. North Korea has accumulated about 13,000 artillery weapons, rockets, missiles and other ordnance that can wreak havoc on South Korea’s economy just within minutes.

The use of nuclear weapons can cause widespread devastation in Seoul, a city of 1 million people. The lives of about 30,000 American soldiers, stationed in the country, are already at high risk. North Korea can release its dams causing considerable damage to South Korea.

South Korea, on the other hand, has been making its navy bigger with more warships. Artillery attacks may also play a decisive role in any future conflict. The United States and South Korea have a major advantage here. American forces have Tomahawk cruise missiles. These can be launched from nuclear-powered submarines to strike North Korea’s nuclear bases in retaliation for any such attack on the South Korea. The U.S. military would probably use some of its tactical nuclear weapons, such as B-61 nuclear bombs carried by B-2/52 bombers and F-15E, F-16 and F/A-18 fighters.

The U.S. has about 300 fixed-wing combat aircraft based in the immediate vicinity of the Korean Peninsula. North Korea has a squadron of Russian fighters only. More significant than the number of aircraft is the quality of the pilots. The American and South Korean pilots have an upper hand in training and exercises. The U.S. has a nuclear umbrella for South Korea. It involves the possibility of a retaliatory nuclear strike against North Korean nuclear attack.

Everyone is mentally prepared for war in North Korea. It is a war against American imperialism. The fear of war is now part of Korean lifestyle. South Korea, in the initial round, would suffer massive damage even if the North Korean did not use nuclear weapons. The prolonged war may go in favor of South Korea.

The destruction caused by Korean War will be catastrophic. It will wreak havoc. It will be bloody and costly. The economy of South Korea, one of the major economies in the world, would really disrupt the global economy. South Korea has a thriving car and electronic industry including Hyundai, Samsung and LG.

Seoul is seeking further sanctions on North Korea, while analysts conclude that North Korea is already heavily sanctioned over its missile and nuclear weapon programs and any further measures would have little effect on it. Moreover, North Korea has warned that it would regard any punitive action as an act of war.

China plays significant role in North Korean affairs. China will not support North Korean nuclear aggression, though it’s unlikely to watch the game if American and South Korean forces take over the North. The war could create huge economic mess, and possibly flood of North Korean refugees into China. The question is: will China permit war and allow certain powers to destabilize the region?
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