Korean War Scenarios

North Korea Threatens Armed Strike, End to Armistice

I imagine this is mostly saber-rattling and who knows what else (as currently being discussed elsewhere), but you never know.

What I’m wondering about is who are the likely players in any war, and how they stack up militarily against NK. SK is an obvious one, and they seem to be talking tough. What about Japan? Would the US get involved? China (& if so, on which side)?

What could or is likely to happen in the event of military action commencing?

Well, I was going to start a new thread, but I’ll just borrow this one. I’m trying to figure out what N. Korea’s “demands” are. That is, I understand there’s a conflict-a-brewin’, but it sorta feels like everyone else is making demands on them and they’re not really asking for much except to be left alone. I see in the article F-P linked to that they’re essentially demanding that people stay out of NK waters and stop inspecting NK ships. Is that it? Are there any other issues that would even be worthy of negotiation?

Start with 18,000 artillery pieces unloading everything they have in the general direction of Seoul.

Then move on to 4,000 tanks (well, probably a lot less being actually operational and having fuel) rolling across the border in the same general direction.

Several days of very large amounts of death and destruction. Bye bye Seoul.


Mopping up.

Depending on the real discipline of the NK army in the face of seeing for themselves that their countrymen are very well off and very well fed.

I don’t think Japan would get involved except as a staging or logistics point. I can’t see them committing military forces. The US would certainly be involved since the NK’s would be going right through our troops to get at the South (they would be going through South Korean army forces too of course), and that would bring us into it. That’s one of the reasons we have those troops along the DMZ after all.

As for other players…I seriously doubt China would get involved one way or the other, except as a mediator. It would depend on how the war kicked off, but I don’t think that China would jump into the war as they did during the first Korean War…I even doubt they would support NK under the table either economically or militarily in the event of war. My guess is that if NK invaded the South that there would be a UN resolution (I can’t see anyone on the UNSC voting against such a resolution if NK simply invades or starts trying to bomb the South) and that would bring in other nations as well, though I can’t guess who would have the military ability to move large numbers of troops to SK to fight. At a guess it would mainly be the Sk’s fighting with some US support and token forces and financial support from a bunch of other countries.

Assuming it doesn’t go nuclear then SK would kick NK’s ass, though the NK’s would probably shell the shit out of Seoul (it’s within range of the DMZ, always a draw back in the ongoing Korean soap opera). But while SK doesn’t have near the raw numbers of troops that NK does, the SK armed forces are MUCH better trained and equipped…and NK’s infrastructure is hanging by a thread. A couple of key strikes against NK and it’s possible the whole thing would come crashing down.

Not that I believe that NK would be stupid enough to actually go to war…but if they did it would be short, brutal and in the end there wouldn’t be an NK anymore. Korea would most likely finally be re-unified.


I was also planning on making a thread about this.

Given that the ROK army is outnumbered by the DPRK, the edge that “we” will have against North Korea will be tehchnological and the usages of air assets.

What air assets are already on station in S. Korea? How fast can we get additional assets in place? Depending on how fast that is, while Seoul is going to take a pounding, air power may quickly silence those guns, and start shredding the forward elements of the DPRK military.

The big question, I suppose, is how fast it will go down, IF it goes down.

For the record, I am fairly certain that N. Korea is just sabre rattling, but given the insular nature of the regime and the CLEARLY unstable leadership, anything is possible.

IIRC North Korea has an astounding amount of artillery within range of Seoul, South Korea. Something like 10,000 tubes or more (from memory). That many tubes firing can put the equivalent of a nuke’s worth of explosives into Seoul pretty much flattening it inside an hour. That is simply too many individual pieces for a first strike to even dent and save Seoul before they smash the city.

And of course the Chinese see that as their backyard and China is a superpower. Remember the Chinese came pouring across the border in the first Korean war.

I do not know why the Chinese tolerate North Korea like this. Partly they like they are a thorn in the US side but honestly they may find someday that tolerance biting them in the ass.

This is about as good a time to strike as any, the US has exactly one brigade in reserve globally; and its stationed across the DMZ.

That’s always been the problem. If NK decides to dance, Seoul is probably toast no matter how you slice it. It would probably take more than an hour, but the NK’s have a lot of artillery pointed at the SK capital.

But it would be a purely Pyrrhic victory for them. Even with surprise they would have to win almost immediately (i.e. force the Sk’s to surrender unconditionally) or it would be like the first Korean war…only worse. I doubt the NK army would get anywhere near the same level of penetration this time around…and they have even less logistics ability to support a modern army today than they did in the 50’s, so the implosion would be even faster and would probably effect more than just their military adventure. Heck, people periodically are starving in NK during the last few decades during peace time…can you imagine the strain of a war, especially one where the US and the SK’s are pounding the crap out of their logistics and infrastructure??

I can’t see any reason that China would get involved militarily, to be honest. Granted it’s in their backyard, and granted they are the regional power, and also granted that NK is at least nominally an ally…but they would have major world opinion against them and they would be basically at war with their biggest customers (especially the US). They would be cutting their own throat, even if they somehow managed to win militarily.


Why do you think that makes a big difference? The US would mainly be there to support the South Korean’s…THEY would be doing the majority of the fighting (and dying). SK has one of the finest armed forces on earth…they wouldn’t really need a massive amount of US ground forces to defend their country.

The only real wild card would be the NK nuclear arsenal. In a conventional fight, especially on the defensive, the SK’s would hand Kimmy and his merry band their heads.


I doubt Chinese soldiers would be pouring across into North Korea. Their main concern would be securing the border, having troops lined up along the Yalu and Tumen. Refugee camps may be set up on Chinese territory if Koreans are persistent enough in getting out of their country. Ideally, they would just open the border for Korean refugees, but that’s very unlikely.

On preview: what xtisme said.

Well…Pyrrhic or not I seriously doubt the South Koreans are willing to pay that price. Some 23 million people live in the metro area of Seoul. Hundreds of thousands or millions would die not to mention the loss of their most important city and the economic implications of that and the remaining millions of homeless people and smashed business.

It is a rather big deal.

What choice would they have? I understand what you are saying, but I don’t think anyone believes that SK would unilaterally attack NK…so, if anything happened it would be NK opening up. SK would HAVE to pay the price…or simply surrender, which I seriously doubt they are going to do. No?


Doesn’t have to involve full “surrender”. If NK says “do X or we attack”, with X being something less than full surrender but which a sovereign nation does not normally accede to, SK might have to swallow its pride if the alternative is having millions of people wiped out.

NK is telling the rest of the world hands off our ships, don’t mess with them else they’ll attack.

So, the rest of the world can call their bluff or back down. I am guessing the South Koreans, an ally of ours, really do not want the rest of the world calling the bluff of a batshit crazy nuclear armed regime with a zillion artillery pieces pointed at them.

So, does the US and Japan and whoever else abide by their ally’s wishes and let NK go about its nutty business or do they decide they are too dangerous and should be dealt with?

Personally I’d just tell China to go in and annex North Korea and the rest of the world let it go with a wink and a nod.

It would depend on what ‘X’ is exactly and in what context NK is putting forth it’s attempt to coerce the SK government. Thus far I haven’t exactly noticed the SK’s being exactly meek in their negotiations with NK, and my read at least, FWIW, is that the SK’s wouldn’t cave on anything really important. Even if it risks war. YMMV, but I’d be interested to see what you are basing your possible assessment of their response on if that were the case.


North Korea might make a swift and powerful advance but their logistical tail would be very vulnerable to airstrikes. So I picture a Korean War II to be a week or two of swift advances by the NK forces followed by the severing of their logistical tail followed by a couple weeks of pounding on the surrounded, starving, ammo-less NK troops.

North Korea isn’t going to be able to truck food in behind the troops. They’re going to have to loot as they go. So turning Seoul into matchsticks wouldn’t necessarily help the NK forces.

Not a whole lot (if I understand you correctly).

My recollection is that SK has been subsidizing NK financially for years, in an effort to keep the peace, and that they’ve actually been pretty meek, especially in comparison with NK.

But I was merely respoding to your apparent suggestion that the unwillingness of SK to “pay that price” was irrelevant because they had no choice. To which I responded that they’d have no choice after they were attacked, but they might be given a hard choice beforehand.

It’s frequently the case that wars break out because of this or that demand by Country A on Country B (e.g. WW1) or due to increasing pressure from and infringement by Country A on Country B (e.g. WW2 - Pacific). Whether war breaks out or not depends a lot on Country B’s assessment of their prospects in war versus in peace. If SK really thinks the death of many of their people and destruction of much of the country is a high price to pay - and I imagine they would - then it’s likely that they would be more accomodating than they would be otherwise.

Normally there’s a brinkmanship on both sides - the MAD scenario - in which Country B says “well we really can’t survive an attack, but neither can Country A, so we assume there’s a large element of bluff in their threats”. In this case, this may not be true to the same extent, so the threat might carry more weight.

Well, I cannot see them wanting to occupy Seoul at the outset. I don’t care how big their army is, sacking a city of 23 million would be near impossible all by itself. They practically need to pound it into matchsticks to not leave it in their rear as they advance.

The rest of the world (including the SK’s themselves, as well as China and Russia) seem to be fairly united that they have had enough out of NK, to be honest. From CNN:

I’d guess that the US wouldn’t unilaterally attack NK, if that’s what you are asking. But it seems that the NK’s are seeing absolutely any criticism or condemnation by any outside nation as hostile. At a guess, if there IS a war, it will be the NK’s who unilaterally kick it off…so, we are back to the question of what choice the SK’s would have in that case.

While this would probably be the best solution, I doubt that China would do so unless the NK’s go totally tits up and the country completely folds…and then they would do it more for their own self interest. I’m actually not certain how well China could project force into NK to be honest…unless they were going in as basically peace keepers or to mop up an NK that was in the throes of a complete melt down.


How about we add to the fun.

North Korea launches a nuke, in some manner ie bomber, missile, artillery shell, and takes out a south korean city, massive casualties, say 200k plus direct, with maybe a million indirect in the next three to six weeks.

South Korea is protected under the American nuclear shield, which means either the US is obligated upon request to nuke a similar size city in the North, or provide South Korea with their treaty nukes, and let them assume the strike.

Whats Obama gonna do.

Choice one is to direct American forces to deliver a comparable device to the north and deploy it

Choice two is to direct American agencies or armed forces to deliver weapon(s) to the South

Choice three, refuse the above options and put not one but two treaties at risk and cause a whole lot of grief around the world.

There may be a choice 4 , but I have not thought of it at the moment

The above Treaty would be SEATO, alough the treaty may have morphed into a new treaty with different parameters.