Remembering the Forgotten War
Vol: 92 Issue: 30 Saturday, May 30, 2009
On August 6, 1945 and only days before the Japanese surrender, the Soviet Union formally declared war on the Japanese Empire. The reason for the declaration of war was to permit the Soviet Union to liberate the northern part of the Korean peninsula from the Japanese Empire.
As part of the agreement with the United States, the Soviet Union stopped at the 38th Parallel. In September, US forces arrived on the southern end of the Korean peninsula. The USSR agreed to receive the surrendering Japanese to the north while those in the south surrendered to the Americans.
The South eventually adopted a representative government led by Syngman Rhee. The Soviet-occupied North set up a Communist system under Kim il Sung. On June 25, 1950, North Korean forces crossed the 38th Parallel under a withering artillery barrage.
The UN Security Council met hours later. After two days of debate they passed UNSC Resolution 83 authorizing the use of force to drive North Korean troops back across the DMZ.
President Truman immediately ordered the US military to South Korea. On November 1, 1950 Mao Tse Tung decided to quietly enter the war on the side of the North Koreans. In 1951 both sides entered into peace talks although the battles continued to rage for another two years.
When the gunsmoke cleared from the battlefield, US deaths stood at 36,940. The North Koreans lost a half million, South Korean losses were about the same. The biggest loser was China, whose contribution to the Korean war was somewhere between a half-million and one and one-half million (1,500,000) dead.
The Korean War came closer than any war since WWII to ending in a nuclear mushroom cloud. President Harry Truman wanted to use it against North Korean troops, but the US couldn’t find a significant enough massing of NOKO troops to justify its use. General Douglas MacArthur wanted to use it against China.
We came this close.
Now the war is back on. Kim Jong il’s government announced it would no longer honor the armistice agreement it signed on July 27, 1953. Now what?
Most of the existing war scenarios don’t include the use of nuclear weapons by the North Koreans. Instead, they picture a massive artillery barrage followed by attacks by North Korean commandos along the DMZ together with sabotage attacks by NOKO infiltrators and sleepers in the South.
If it came to war, destruction civilian and military would be heavy, even if the North held back whatever nuclear weapons it may have. Seoul, which is home to ten million people, is only thirty-five miles from the DMZ. (Including suburbs, Seoul’s metropolitan population is more than twice that figure).
While the general consensus is that eventually, the South would win, the cost of such a war is almost unthinkable.
U.S. and South Korean forces have had almost sixty years to anticipate how a renewed attack might unfold and plan how they would respond.
The expectation is that the North would slip commandos, commonly called special operating forces, across the Demilitarized Zone that divides the North and South or into southern waters aboard small submarines to carry out sabotage and assassination.
In congressional testimony in March, the commander of U.S. forces in Korea, Gen. Walter L. Sharp, estimated that the North has more than 80,000 such commandos.
He described it is the largest special operating force in the world, with “tough, well-trained and profoundly loyal troops” who are capable of clandestine missions such as sabotaging critical civilian infrastructure as well as attacking military targets.
Sharp said the rest of North Korea’s army ranks as the world’s fourth largest with 1.2 million troops on active duty. They are backed by as many as 7 million reserves, with an estimated 1,700 military aircraft, 800 naval vessels and more than 13,000 artillery pieces.
In addition, NOKO is believed to have a chemical weapons capability that it may unleash along the DMZ (where America has some 28,000 troops) in the early stages of a land war to demoralize defending forces and deny the use of mobilization centers, storage areas and military bases.
On the other hand, America has fighters, bombers and other offensive aircraft stationed on bases in Japan, Guam and elsewhere in the region that could reach North Korean in under thirty minutes.
The North Koreans have a handful of old Soviet MiGs. Their pilots are poorly trained, since North Korea can’t afford to waste fuel for training purposes.
That is not to say that taking out North Korea would be easy — it wouldn’t. At least, not in a conventional war. But it wouldn’t be quite as tough as it was in the early 1950’s. It is unlikely that the Chinese would actively interfere and risk a conflict with the US over the likes of Kim Jong il. And the collapse of the Soviet Union ended any Russian lingering obligations to the hermit kingdom.
The question is, will it come to war? Kim Jong il has to know that if he attacks the South, he will lose the war and he will probably lose North Korea. But does he care?
Kim Jong il is now 68 years old. He is a hypochondriac who suffers from diabetes and heart disease and is believed to have recently suffered a stroke.
The guy is nuts. He is said to inject himself with the blood of virgins to stay young and healthy.
He is said to buy more top-of-the-line Hennessy cognac than anyone else in the world and annually imports huge quantities of lobster, caviar and the finest sushi into a country regularly plagued by famine.
A Russian diplomat, Konstantin Pulikovsky, once spent 24 days traveling with Kim across Russia by train. Every day, he said, Kim would have live lobsters airlifted the train along with cases of champagne.
A huge film buff, he owns more than 20,000 movies and his favorites are said to be Friday the 13th, Rambo, the James Bond films and anything with Elizabeth Taylor. In 1978, he ordered the kidnapping of a South Korean filmmaker and his wife and forced them to make movies for him.
Kim Jong il was once told by a fortune-teller that a triplet would topple his government. He immediately issued a decree that all triplets born in North Korea be raised in state-run orphanages.
Official biographies claim he is a literary genius who composed six operas in just two years. They claim that he got 11 holes-in-one — the first time he ever played golf.
One of his official biography describes him as “a theoretician and great master in every field,” who is also “a genius of literature, art and military affairs,” “a master of leadership” and a man who has performed “immortal exploits for mankind.”
Now, Kim may well be on the brink of death and his choices for a successor are pretty limited. His eldest son, nicknamed “Fat Bear” was once caught trying to sneak into Japan under a fake passport so he could go to Disneyland. Kim thinks his next son is too ‘effeminate’ (it is claimed he has a hormone deficiency) to rule.
His youngest, Kim Jong Un, is described as being “exactly like his father” and is therefore his father’s chosen successor. But there are some hints that might not be good enough.
Kim Jong Un is TOO much like his father, including having inherited his diabetes. Kim the Elder just might decide that when he dies, he’ll take North Korea with him.
And it just keeps getting scarier every day.
“What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee. In God I will praise His word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me. (Psalms 56:3-4)