April 6, 2013

The intensifying war of words between North Korea, the United States and ally South Korea could ignite a major conflict. The likely trigger would be a small clash at sea, in the air, or along the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas.

What would a war in Korea look like?

First, nuclear conflict is unlikely. North Korea is not believed to have any long or medium-ranged nuclear weapons, certainly none that could hit North America. North Korea might be able to strike South Korea with a nuclear device. But then US nuclear weapons would wipe North Korea off the map.

North Korea’s military strategy would be to launch a surprise attack on the south to occupy Seoul and Inchon. The vital US Air Force bases at Osan and Kunsan, and eight South Korean air bases, would be primary targets.

North Korea’s elite 88,000 special forces units are tasked to attack and neutralize these air bases as well as headquarters, communication nodes, and munitions depots of the US and Republic of Korea (ROK) forces.

Barrages of North Korean conventional missiles would hit these bases and command hubs, possibly with chemical warheads.

Special North Korean amphibious units would land and strike these targets from the sea. North Korea has 300 old Soviet-era AN-2 biplanes that carry ten commandos each. Invisible to radar because they are made of fabric and hug the earth, the AN-2’s would air assault suicide squads into US and ROK airbases.

Other North Korean special forces are tasked with attacking US bases in Okinawa, Japan and as far off as Guam, where the US is installing its new THAAD anti-missile system.

North Korea has developed potent electronic warfare capability that would degrade US/South Korean communications and online targets.

Meanwhile, 14,000 North Korean heavy guns and rocket batteries dug into caves behind the DMZ could pour storms of shells or rockets per hour onto US/ROK positions south of the DMZ. North Korea’s 170mm guns and 240mm rockets have a range of 50 and 45 km respectively. Large parts of Seoul would be heavily damaged.

North Korea has about 700,000 soldiers within 150km of the DMZ, with another 400,000 in backup echelons further north. These divisions would fight their way south through South Korea’s ‘Maginot Line,’ seven parallel lines of anti-tank ditches, minefields, and high earth walls surmounted by tanks (South Korea denies it exists, but I have seen it).

In spite of intense air attacks by the US and ROK, the North Korean offensive could likely reach at least as far south of Seoul, only an hour’s drive from the DMZ.

US retaliation would be ferocious. US and ROK warplanes would quickly attain air superiority over the entire peninsula. North Korea’s 70 airbases would be obliterated and its obsolescent air force quickly neutralized. The North Korean surface fleets would share a similar fate. US warplanes would pound North Korea’s command and control, communications, rail lines, bridges and factories not buried underground.

During the 1950-53 Korean War, US B-29 heavy bombers literally flattened North Korea. That’s why North Korea reacted so furiously when US B-52 heavy bombers and B-2 Stealth bombers skirted its borders late last month, triggering off this latest crisis. The B-2 can deliver the fearsome ‘MOAB’ 30,000 lb. bomb called “the Mother of All Bombs” designed to destroy deep underground command hq’s (read Kim Jon-un’s bunker) and underground nuclear facilities.

Since the 1950’s, the North Koreans have buried much of their military-industrial complex and continue to train their ground forces in small unit, off-the-road tactics. The North also has a militia of 1.6 million to defend key targets and factories.

Unless the US uses tactical nuclear weapons, it will be difficult to defeat North Korea. Doing so means invading North Korea, a risky operation that might invite Chinese intervention, as it did in 1950. Moreover, US ground and air forces are bogged down in Afghanistan and the Mideast, their equipment is run down, and the US Treasury out of money.

The Pentagon estimated a full-scale invasion of North Korea could cost 250,000 American casualties. In short, a real war, not the jolly little police actions launched by the US in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.
Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2013

April 9, 2013 – CBC interview with Eric Margolis –
For this and other interviews please click on YouTube below

This post is in: China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, USA


  1. solum temptare possumus says:

    The more I think on this, the more I am convinced that Male world leaders have to much belicosity, beligerence and ego. After taking “DukeNukem’s” advice and watching the TVO Agenda episode video of Mr. Eric’s conversation with Steve Paikin, I am convinced he is correct; in that the United States must begin some formal negotiations with North Korea.
    Maybe it is time for a Female to become President of the United States. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was not the best choice for Britain, but she had her good points. She was a tough negotiator, but Never, never, carried a grudge after heated debate. Women seem to possess this trait. Who else will begin formal relations with the errant child; ostracised and wanting attention?
    Congratulations to Mr. Margolis for twenty years of advice on world relations, as an advisor on TVO’s the Agenda!
    Live Long and Prosper.
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    • solum temptare possumus says:

      Would that ex Secretary of State and ex Senator from New York Hillary Clinton became the 45th President of the United States, instead of Republican Donald J. Trump.
      This woman could be hard as nails yet have that same womanly trait of being a tough negotiator but not holding a grudge. Alas we would never have seen her counterpart from North Korea being anything but a patriarchal male ‘Great Leader’.
      ad iudicium

  2. Do the Americans can create the same awe it once did with their ridiculous swagger? Too bad, that the ordinary average American citizen has to pay the highest price for the folly of their 1%, that is totally deranged because of their insatiable greed. And to think, that that country is based on Christian principles, as they like to be seen. One little mistake and this might well escalate into WW3. China has no degraded and worn out weapons from overuse. In fact their materiel is still in mint condition. On top of that, the American people are beginning to get fed up with all those grandiose pipe dreams of the upper-crust, which benefits from all this war-making, while the sons and daughters of the working class are being used as cannon-fodder.
    The reason I trust the views of Mr. Margolis to be true is, that he has a clean track record and has yet to be proven wrong, as far as I can ascertain.

  3. A very interesting read Mr. Margolis.I have learned a lot from your columns.But I still maintain that a war will never break out, as you had mentioned NKorea was flattened during the 1950-53 war.

    One would think or at least hope that a lesson was learned here after being bombed by US B-29 bombers.The only difference between then and now is that Nuclear weapons are in the equation…not only by NKorea and the US,but China as well…and Russia…and?These insane weapons are likely going to prevent any war from breaking out in the Korean Peninsula.The worst thing that could happen now is the advancement of Global Warming with all the hot air rhetoric being spewed by both sides here.

  4. There is a simple solution to stop this idiocy. Bring back the draft in America and EVERY (including congressmen and Fox News people) American who is in favour of invading, hell, anywhere is immediately a member of the army and sent into battle.

    It is a proven fact that most war supporters will do anything to support a war and the military, as long as anything does not include actually joining the military and going to war.

    • They likely cannot afford to…

    • solum temptare possumus says:

      An unlikely scenario, albeit possible if the House of Representatives passes a spending bill to tell the Treasury Board to ‘Print, print, print’.
      Usually they wait for a report from the private Federal Reserve, order the printing, and lend the money back to the Federal Reserve at a prearranged interest rate to be disseminated through the branches of the Federal Reserve around the country.
      In times of war or prewar the Representatives can act unilaterally.
      ad iudicium

  5. DukeNukem says:

    Ahh no.
    The MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Blast) GBU-43B is not a penetrator weapon.
    Commonly known as the Mother of All Bombs, it is a large-yield thermobaric (non-nuclear) bomb, developed for the United States military by Albert L. Weimorts, Jr.
    It’s value is more psychological than tactical.
    Since it falls well within the capacity of the MC-130E I would suggest it’s deployment via Spirit aircraft highly unlikely.

    Did anyone take in Mr Eric & Mr Paikin yesterday?
    Your thoughts?

    Das Nukenstein

    • Eric Margolis says:

      original version of MOAB is a thermobaric weapon to terrorize enemy forces. But a deep penetrator version appears to have been developed for the B-2 bomber. EM

  6. Mike Smith says:

    This article shows a completely different view of reality than that of the US main stream media which seems to want to escalate this conflict.
    Even NBC …
    ” The U.S. response — a restrained show of force by fighter jets and warships, along with comments that simultaneously decry and downplay the threat — has not stopped the threats. ”
    Any show of Force is provocative and a escalation… no matter what these ” media experts ” seem to think.
    But failing any common sense , and a war does occur…
    North Koreas nuclear devises are likely large and cumbersome. Not really suited for delivery by missile or even aircraft. If I were Kim, I would have said devises deployed on ships, preferably third party flagged by some other country ships. Sail into New York, or Baltimore and Boom. A much more realistic threat with his capability, and one that the US will have a hard time to counter without effecting their economy.
    As for US airpower … two considerations. How hard and fast could the North hit the Souths airbases. Could the airwings based in Korea be reinforced before attrition, logistical problems and having their bases overran decide the issue ? Also Japan… would they stick fast to being involved and having their territory used by the US to fight this war, ( they were not is a position to object last time )
    Could the Nuclear threat against Japan cause them to rethink the risks of being an American vassal ?
    If these scenarios played out, limited airbase availability in South Korea and denial of bases and overflight / use of bases in Japan, the US would be down to 15 or 16 B2s at $800 million a plane. 60 or so B1s at $300 million a plane and 70 B52s. All of these are great for strategic targets, but they will not stop the tanks heading south. Other aircraft could be used as they were in Afghanistan, with heavy refueling support, and the wear and tear on both pilots and equipment, but the effectiveness of such an effort I believe is overstated.

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