South Korean perspective, while the overall security environment improved with the demise of the Soviet empire, there is now greater uncertainty and a growing number of threats with which to contend. Mismanagement and improper handling of emerging issues and lingering problems will be detrimental to South
Korean security as well as to stability and peace throughout Northeast Asia.
Within this environment, there are two compelling necessities: first, to maintain a strong security alliance between the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the United States, and second, to augment the ROK military on the peninsula and across Northeast Asia. This article examines the uncertainty and threats that face South Korea, the ROK-U.S. alliance, and South Korean defense requirements. four to be unattainable. The North is left with the military offensive in which it has an advantage over the South. In a word, North Korea’s aggressive intent can be backed only by military means.
Among South Korean security concerns, the foremost threat is presented by North Korea’s aggressive intentions and large military establishment. While it has signed important accords with Seoul—the Basic
Agreement, the Joint Declaration of Denuclearization, and the Provisions—North Korea has failed to implement the terms. Rather it is committed to communizing the entire Korean peninsula by use of force. For
Pyongyang unification calls for integrating the divided territory as well as consolidating juche ideology and its ways. The North cannot afford to give up this ultimate goal because it has legitimized the regime and persuaded its people to unite and to make sacrifices. Toward this goal North Korea has adopted a strategy of five besieging offensives:
political peace, ideological, external/ diplomatic, espionage, and, finally, military. But history has proven the first four to be unattainable. The North is left with the military offensive in which it has an advantage over the South. In a word, North Korea’s aggressive intent can be backed only by military means.
Even with a faltering economy, North Korea has made every effort to modernize its forces and to maintain a military edge over the South. Not only are the North’s forces highly mobile and mechanized; approximately 65 percent are near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and on a high state of readiness.
These strengths would permit the North to launch a blitzkrieg against the South without reinforcement, redeployment, or massive mobilization. It is believed that North Korea plans either to sweep the entire peninsula before American reinforcements arrive or to partly occupy the Seoul metropolitan area in the early stages of a war. In both cases South Korea, with its capital located only 40 kilometers from the DMZ, would suffer severely. Arms control may be the most suitable way to reduce military tension along the DMZ. But arms control talks are unlikely to yield success.
Though initiatives have been proposed some 280 times since the Korean War, most of them are unrealistic
and have served mainly as propaganda. In fact, in the Basic Agreement and the Provisions, the North
agreed to introduce some declaratory arms control measures and to negotiate further. But it has failed to do so. Moreover, it has been trying to weaken the ROK–U.S. combined defense posture by demanding the withdrawal of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) as a precondition for talks. Thus, North Korea is not committed to creating a stable military situation on the peninsula. Rather it tries to retain a militarily favorable condition for achieving forceful unification. One can therefore expect the military threat to continue.
The North’s conventional military threat has been heightened by its possible possession of weapons of mass destruction. While it is uncertain whether North Korea has nuclear weapons, it definitely has the capability to produce them. Strategically, a nuclear-armed North could prevent the United States from using nuclear weapons by holding South Korea and parts of Japan hostage.
Pyongyang could thus undermine extended deterrence and confound escalation control in a conflict between the two Koreas. In other words, by complicating strategic responses and weakening the credibility of deterrence vis-à-vis the South, a nuclear-armed North could gain an active deterrent against the United States while launching a conventional attack. Thus, under any circumstance, North Korea cannot be allowed to acquire such weapons or retain a clandestine nuclear capability.
|North Korea Tank|
It is believed that the North has stockpiled 1,000 tons of such weaponry and can produce 4,500 tons of chemicals annually. It has various chemical agents, including sarin, tabun, phosgene, adamsite, mustard gas, and blood agents (such as hydrogen cyanide). Furthermore, it has delivery means which include artillery pieces, multiple-launch rocket systems, mortars, and missiles. Rodong and Taepo Dong–2 missiles could threaten South Korea, Japan, and the United States by making most major East Asian cities vulnerable to attack.
|Korea Military Power|