Official: North Korean Conventional Forces are the Main Challenge in the Peninsula
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
WASHINGTON — The North Korean forces opposite the Korean armistice line are a more immediate, serious concern to U.S. forces than the country’s nuclear ballistic-missile developments, a senior official said.
Speaking on background July 27 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, the official, noting a “fixation of the ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] issue,” said that “we ought to step back and [note] that the real problem in North Korea is the world’s fourth largest army, including the long-range conventional artillery cannons and rocket launchers just across the line, which are the actual deterrent factors to me.”
The official said that taking out North Korea’s missile capability would leave its leader, Kim Jong-un, no option but to unleash his conventional army on South Korea, and “a very blunt object that we cannot defeat, which is the long-range artillery and rockets in the general vicinity north of Seoul.”
Recalling the destruction Seoul suffered in the 1950-53 Korean War, “It would be a significant challenge for us to fight and withdraw simultaneously in the northern portion of South Korea.” he said, “You can’t detach the ICBM problem from the conventional force problem, [which] really is a conundrum or us.
“[Conflict] is very imaginable and it’s something I would consider broadly unacceptable,” he said. “There are ways you can counter an adversary like that but that would require massive posture shifts that probably would stress the joint force beyond any reasonable measure today and would limit our ability deal with the four-plus-one [threats: Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and terrorism].
The official said that the speed of the cycle of North Korean provocations has increased under Kim Jong-un.
“I’m not accusing Kim Jong-un of being overly provocative,” he said. “I’m accusing him of being repetitively provocative. That could eventually drive a different response by us and you might be seeing that now.”