JIN-243 -- If It Comes to War in April ... What Might Happen in Korea and Japan

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:

T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R

Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News

Issue No. 243
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

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Amid the Communist North Korean government's 55th birthday cele-
brations, and on the eve of the second anniversary of September 11,
we asked FUJI TV Military Correspondent, photographer, J@pan Inc
contributor and longtime Japan resident, Michael E. Stanley, to weigh-
in on possible worst-case scenarios should the six-nation negotiations
over the Korean peninsula fail.

The Viewpoint that follows represents a highly opinionated, albeit
knowledgeable, account reflecting the insights of the author alone,
and not necessarily those of J@pan Inc or our editorial staff. We
do hope you find it informative.

-- The Editors]


++ Viewpoint: If It Comes to War in April
... What Might Happen in Korea and Japan

++ Noteworthy News
-Sports, Superstition and the IMF Bullish on Japan!

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++ Viewpoint: If It Comes to War ・What Might Happen in Korea and Japan


Over the last two decades, I have photographed and reported on various
aspects of the US military presence in the western Pacific region, and
have been fortunate in getting a fairly close look at the structure and
capabilities of those forces. During those years there was a sea change
in the posture of US forces ・ and those of Japan ・ as the threat of
the Soviet Union subsided. However, even with the emergence of a new
Russia and an effectively capitalist China, the last really "hot"
conflict of the Cold War era may be just around the corner.

The specter of a "Korean War II" has surfaced in the news in recent
months. Such a conflict is, without doubt, not only a danger to this
region -- but has a potential impact on world affairs that will far
outweigh those of recent and ongoing wars in such places as the
Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq.


North Korea has developed its own ballistic missile arsenal, and it is
obviously a bludgeon that can be used to intimidate South Korea and Japan.
However, the sea-launched Standard SM3 and land-based Patriot PAC3 --
both US-built anti-missile systems that will be supplied to Japan痴 forces
as well -- will be deployed "in theater" some time within the next year,
whether the bureaucrats admit that fact or not.

Moreover, the US Air Force痴 Airborne Laser (ABL), a Flash-Gordonish
system of computer-directed anti-missile lasers mounted in a 747 airframe,
will be entering a trial phase some time in 2004. While it is still
experimental, it is useful to keep in kind the two experimental ・
and impressively successful -- E-8 JSTARS command-and-control aircraft that
were rushed into Operation Desert Storm in 1991. A missile detection and
tracking system (JTAGS) has been in place in South Korea since the 90s;
coupling it with the appearance of these two new missiles and the ABL
results in a fundamental shredding of North Korea痴 "missile card."

Given the mounting pressures the Stalinist state must contend with,
along with possibility of miscalculation or overreaction on either
side of the 38th Parallel, Pyongyang may well see a case of "use it or
lose it."

During the winter, the North Korean army has traditionally followed
a prescribed training regimen that, in the words of one US general,
"brings them to the top step of the dugout" by early spring. At that time,
most of the peninsula痴 vegetation ・ markedly denser in the South, which
was aggressively reforested after being stripped of trees for charcoal
by the occupying Japanese during World War II -- is still in bare winter
mode and so offers less cover. At the same time the rice paddies ・the
critical level parts of the largely mountainous landscape ・are dry and
hard, providing a good surface for North Korean infantry, who routinely
use trucks rather than tracked fighting vehicles as motorized transport.

The foreseeable loss of the weight of North Korea痴 missile threat and
the combination of weather and combat readiness would seem to point at
March and April of next year as being a particularly dangerous time.


The most salient factor in any conflict on the Korean peninsula is the
position of South Korea痴 capital, Seoul. Almost 45 percent of South Korea痴
population -- about 22 million people -- live within a 60-kilometer
radius of Seoul. The capital itself and much of the area encompassed
inside that radius is within range of North Korean tactical rocket
launchers and conventional artillery; these are massed to such an extent
that a concentrated rate of fire of 500,000 rounds per hour could be
sustained for several hours at the very least.

Seoul is a hostage to this deeply dug-in, strongly fortified North Korean
firepower. If an all-out war were to begin, North Korea would unleash
this capability at the outset. Such action could either be intended to
intimidate South Korea, the US, Japan and other nations -- and could
conceivably be used for that end alone -- or it could be employed in
coordination with an all-out invasion of the South.

The "smart" weapons that have been so prominent in US air power would
need to be used in an intense and saturating campaign of air attack in
order to effect any meaningful reduction in the threat to Seoul.


At the outset, is unlikely that North Korea would initiate the use of
any nuclear weapons it might have against Seoul. However, if ("when"
may be more applicable here) the Pyongyang regime is faced with a final
Goetterdaemmerung scenario, it might unleash such weapons in a last-gasp
effort to stave off its own absolute destruction. The North Korean
leadership surely realizes that a nuclear response by the US will
leave few or none alive.

An invasion of the South by the North will consist of two major
elements: the more conventional one being a three-pronged attack with
most of the North Korean army痴 170 divisions across the DMZ. Two of
those prongs will be aimed at Seoul, with the third pushing south along
South Korea痴 east coast. In all of these, the use of tactical chemical
weapons is virtually a certainty.

The second element will be special operations and fifth-column activity
of a size and intensity never before seen in an attempt to bring down
the South Korean government and erode the people痴 will to resist ・
in short, a huge and well-coordinated campaign of terror that will
beggar the tragedy of September 11.


In response to the destruction, refugees will flee in huge numbers,
with many of them taking to the sea and heading for Japan. Their
arrival on the coasts of the Japan Sea-facing prefectures will likely
precipitate a civil law-and-order crisis on a scale Japan has never
imagined, let alone experienced. These arrivals are not going to
wait calmly while immigration officers decide whether to stamp their
passports. And not only will several hundred thousand hungry, panicked
civilians come ashore along hundreds of kilometers of coast; among them
are sure to be a significant number of North Korean special operations
personnel with orders to keep the refugees ・ and Japan ・ in a
constant state of chaos.

North Korea has always cast Japan as its bete-noire, and it is virtually
a certainty that any war on the peninsula will extend to these islands.
With North Korea痴 missile sites less than a 10-minute Nodong flight from
US bases in Japan and Japan痴 major cities, the chance that those missiles
will be launched at such targets is close to 100 percent. With even the
relatively limited damage that warheads of conventional explosive power
would cause, the effect on the Japanese populace would result in major
social disruption, including the fall of the sitting government, unless
harsh measures were enacted.

The economy would collapse, with effects felt globally as the world痴 #2
economic power took a plunge into chaos. With chemical or nuclear warheads,
a direct hit on an even a medium-sized city would be a monumental catastrophe.
If US military facilities were to be targeted, such warheads would be the
order of the day. Military bases are normally spread out to minimize the
destruction of a single warhead impact; there would be no militarily useful
reason for lofting conventionally-armed missiles of dubious accuracy
(such as Scuds or Nodongs) at such targets. It would be like David popping
at Goliath with a pea shooter.

If the Nodongs fly toward Yokota or Yokosuka, you can be sure they will pack
a WMD wallop. But if the North Koreans elect to target Japan, yet opt not
to use chemical or nuclear warheads, the densely-packed Japanese cities offer
the best targets, with maximum 澱ang for the buck.・

The above scenario fragments are of course parts of a much greater and more
frightening whole. The mystery about it all is not so much what may
happen, but rather what combination of ignorance, arrogance and willful
stupidity on all sides has forced the situation to come to this.

-- Michael E. Stanley

Related Link: "North Korea Renews Nuclear Threat on 55th Birthday"

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++ Noteworthy News
-Sports, Superstition and the IMF Bullish on Japan!

In Brief: Last Friday, the International Monetary Fund more than doubled
Japan's economic growth forecast for this year to 2 percent from 0.8
percent, while also raising next year's forecast to 1.5 percent from 1
percent. With Japan's potential annualized growth rate estimated around
2.5 percent, the IMF's new forecast reinforces a growing view in the
market that the country's near-term recovery momentum is fairly solid.

This week, the 溺agic number・of wins needed by the Hanshin Tigers to
clinch the pennant fell to just 4, meaning that the team could by the
end of the week shake off the slough of a 17-year losing streak and
once more rule the world of baseball from Kansai.

Comment: Are these two seemingly unrelated news items in fact integral
parts of an ancient Kansai prophesy? Well ... it isn稚 all that ancient,
but a widely-believed local superstition holds that when the Tigers win
the league, the Japanese economy starts to thrive again.

The last time the team was on top was back in 85 ・ at the outset of
the country痴 greatest ever bull market. The time before that also
coincided with the start of a record period of growth. Even the most
po-faced pundits are admitting that a pennant win for the Tigers this
week would give an almighty boost to the Kansai economy, and the
knock-on effect could help the whole country in its quest for recovery.
Between the sports pages, superstition and the IMF -- who are we to
argue with fate?

-- The Editors

*FOR MORE: "Tigers, Tigers Burning Bright," from J@pan Inc magazine,
August, 2003:

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