April 9, 2013

North Korea’s Tipping Point of No Return

Virtually every intelligence analysis has been waiting for one key moment to unfold in North Korea, and it just happened. I am not talking about the military moves of key North Korean missiles which occurred last week, nor am I speaking about the recent decision to resume operations at its Yongbyon nuclear complex. The closure of the Kaesong industrial complex is what everyone has been waiting for.

The Kaesong industrial complex is the key economic revenue source for North Korea. It is a joint venture between the North and South allowing South Koreans to serve as mentors and managers in the industrial complex.

According to a March 29th NightWatch report, “South Korea’s Unification Ministry said that 160 South Koreans traveled to the Kaesong complex from the South. The total number of South Koreans at Kaesong on Thursday was more than 1,000.”

The same report claims that all phone and fax lines from the North complex connecting to the South were operable. However, as of today, South Korea’s Unification Ministry reported that North Korea is allowing South Korean workers to leave the Kaesong joint industrial zone but is blocking workers from traveling north.

The Kaesong issue is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, this could be a sign of good will by the North allowing safe passage for South Koreans working out of the industrial complex to seek safe refuge back into the South. It could also be a sign that the North expects some type of military action in the very near future. Who starts that military action remains unknown.

The United States has two US warships anchored within striking range of North Korea. We also sent some B2 Stealth Bombers to the region as well recently. This show of force is not part of any US led military exercise considering Foal Eagle just recently ended only a few short days (weeks) ago.

China, too, is maneuvering some of its military hardware toward the North Korean border (mostly a mechanized light infantry unit). They are obligated to protect the North from any foreign threat, similarly to how the United States is obligated to protect Japan.  The aforementioned military moves come from two nation states who, in all fairness, most likely want nothing to do with a military incursion on the Korean peninsula.

One undisclosed intelligence analyst said recently that his greatest concern about North Korea is the fact that economically, all the moves Kim Un has fulfilled as of late have taken a heavy toll on the nation, considering they don’t have a penny to piss right now. They used up a lot of their food storages during their recent military exercises, and even called upon their civil defense force to play in recent war games, which is uncommon. The civil defense force is mostly comprised of peasant farmers, and taking them away from their farming for just one day limits North Korea’s food supply.

Little Kim is in a unique predicament right now due to his recent activities. He reorganized his military commanders, which ticked off a lot of military personnel, and his military is now somewhat unstable, especially when it comes to allegiances. He is spending money he simply doesn’t have, all the while shutting many South Korean workers out of the only true economic venture he has through the Kaesong industrial complex. He is also barking very loud in a corner he most likely will eventually feel confined to unless he decides to actually bite. If he bites, things can get very ugly really quick.

Needless to say, at this current time, Kim Un needs to either act on his threats or come to the table and start making deals with the United States and our partner South Korea—both moves will show his true leadership, one way or another. Simultaneously, either decision he makes, he will lose considering he bit off more than he can chew on multiple fronts.

Weeks ago, I spoke on a nationally syndicated radio station stating that, at the moment, everything North Korea was doing was just smoke and mirrors. Regrettably, today I am reminded of the analysis of 1941 between the US and Japan. We thought they would be crazy to go to war against us, however, for Japan, they knew it was the only possible outcome for them.

Kerry Patton, a combat disabled veteran, is author of Contracted: America’s Secret Warriors.

About the Author

is an internationally recognized security, terrorism, and intelligence professional. He has taught domestic and international organizations in counter-terrorism, intelligence, and physical security related issues. He has briefed some of the highest government officials ranging from ambassadors to members of Congress and Pentagon staff. He is author of the book Contracted: America's Secret Warriors and Contracted II: America's Terror Trackers, and Going Rogue: The Compilation.

When Commenting BE RELEVANT, RESPECTFUL and HONEST

105 comments
CIGARsmoke
CIGARsmoke

At this point is it just a matter of when North Korea will have crossed the line of no return and other nations get involved?

SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)
SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)

What if China offered to reign in the NORKs in return for the US putting pressure on the PI and Japan to pull out of the Spratley Islands?  China wants them badly for oil and natural gas exploration and to extend their zone of maritime control over the Malaysian straights in the South China Sea.

AUNITEDPEOPLE
AUNITEDPEOPLE

Yeah, I have heard lots of analysis about the ways that this is different from all the other times we've played this game and they make me a little more on edge than in the past. So many dynamics, so little intel...

I think @Tango9has a good take on this, in the fact that Lil' Kim (as he will know be known to me) has painted himself into a nice fat juicy corner, one that even the Chinese might not be able to bail him out of. I think, as was pointed out in another thread, that the Chinese are moving troops into position to prevent an influx of refuges should the shooting start.

There is also a good deal of denial going on as well, in that, a fair amount of people don't believe that the Norks could even get off a nuclear shot. Example: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/04/08/rolling_the_iron_dice (comments on my posting). That is the worst posture to take, to underestimate your enemy, no matter of you think you can best him.

SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)
SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)

There are some good points here.  I too am thinking about 1941 and our discounting the likelihood of a Japanese attack because we judged it to not be in their best interests.  In that spirit I offer the following points for the consideration of SOFREP readers.  The NORKS have had more than half a century to learn our defensive measures in the South and our reactions to provocations.  They have had that much time to figure out how to counter them.  We fooled the Germans with dummy tanks and guns prior to the D-Day landings.  The NORKs could do it to us too....

aezino
aezino

@SEAN SPOONTS

China does not need to "extend their zone of maritime control over the Malaysian straights."

Their ships, economy and national reputation will be safer if they do not.

The only reason to do so would be to deny the Malaysian Straight Sea Line of Communication (SLOC) to other countries such as the U.S., Japan or the Phillipines.  They could attempt this or actually do it for a while but a coalition would form against them. If they lost the resulting  pi$$ng match, they would end up with less than they have now.  See Germany.

SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)
SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)

Yeah well, if the Chinese are willing to take this threat seriously, perhaps it would behoove us to do likewise. 

50run50gun
50run50gun

@SEAN SPOONTS Seems the Norks satellite will be passing over the US in the next several days.  Many passes, back and forth over the US.  Do we have any satellite experts out there? 

http://www.n2yo.com/passes/?s=39026

Click the "show all passes button," then check the boxes under the "map" column.  Not sure what to make of this. /50

SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)
SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)

They've had 60 years to plan an invasion of the South.  They know what we are looking at from space and when we are looking at it.  Warfare is mostly about logistics.  Its about getting beans, bandages and bullets to your troops in the field.  What if the chronic food shortages in N. Korea was due to them laying up enormous stockpiles for their army to sustain a total war campaign of 12 months?  If N. Korea was to strike, now would not be a bad time.  We are in the sequester of our military.  The Air Force announced today that it was grounding 1/3 of our combat squadrons.  The dereliction of duty of this Administration has caused the Navy to cancel ship deployments as well.  To the NORKs we may appear weak and unable to defend our interests in S. Korea.  It may look that way to the S. Koreans too.  We can't know what assistance the Chinese are providing in material, food and money.  If I were the NORKS I'd appear weak and impoverished too since appearing strong and well armed would mean more US troops, planes and guns in South Korea. 

Tango9
Tango9

small data point:  the average Nork soldier is 6" shorter than his southern counterpart due to the famine in the 90's.  They can barely heft an AK.  Would last about 24 hours in the field.

It's just a data point, and not a game winner, but extrapolate it.

Tango9
Tango9

@SEAN SPOONTS But.  They have no money.  Their entire economy is based on (literally) slave labor from internment camps.  They could fight for about a week without help from China.  If that.

And this wouldn't be Iraq or Afgh.  This would be eliminate the threat and go home.  It'd take them 50 years to recover from 1 week's fighting.

SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)
SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)

@aezino @SEAN SPOONTS I don't where you got those idea. The Chinese have been trying to bully their way into control of those ilands for decades. The shot the hell out of vietnamese forces that tried to exert their own control over them. You need to do some more research on the subject. The zone of commercial maritime control around the Sprately islands would give China exclusive fishing, mining and commercial passage rights for something like 250 miles around those islands. They want the oil and natural gas believed to be present. They want to exclude Japan, the Phillipines and Vietnam from fishing there. They would also have the right to grant or refuse passage for any shipping thru those waters with a right to stop and inspect any ship in those waters. That means no US warships will pass anywhere near there. We aren't Canadians going to submit to something like that. The upside for China is so big in terms of strategic and economic gains theh could care less about a tsk-tskgood from the US. Only the US obsesses like a 14 year old girl about being liked and popular in the world. The Chinese killed and starved 60 of their own people, they drove tanks over college kids in Tianamen square. They couldnt give a rats ass what we or anybody else thinks when it comes to them getting something they judge to be in their national interests. Or they wouldnt be so cozy with the NORKs now would they?

SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)
SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)

That's assuming India would want to go to war with China unilaterally and be seen as the aggressor in that conflict.  I doubt it.

AUNITEDPEOPLE
AUNITEDPEOPLE

@SEAN SPOONTS Oh I totally agree! It's foolish to take anything for granted these days and I don't think the Chinese want any part of this these days. It's funny, the communist country of China has fallen prey to the tete of capitalism, so they have a lot to lose here if things go south, pun intended!

Minou_Demimonde
Minou_Demimonde

@SEAN SPOONTS A wise statement, Sean. It's not the NKs that I am so worried about, as it is their big brother. The question is, however, what are the Chinese taking seriously? Are they really ready to take on everything that would come along with NK? It's a good question, and one I don't have the answer for. I can see several different takes on it. On one hand, their economy isn't that stable, either. And rocking the boat could end up very badly for them. On the other hand, they might see it as an opportunity to get something that they've been wanting. This could be any number of things. I can think of several right off hand. The problem is that the Chinese aren't that easy to read. There are a lot of tags that we don't understand about Chinese culture. Chinese communism is unlike any other flavor out there. In the end, theyre more Chinese than anything else, and that is a very ancient, very convoluted culture.

SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)
SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)

Hmmm.  I can't imagine that the NORKs can't get weather data from China.  It's hardly classified information and the Chinese have plenty of iron flying around up there.  When N. Korea launches its next missile check the location of their Sat then.  If its over the launch area I guess we know what that Sat is really for.

Minou_Demimonde
Minou_Demimonde

@Tango9 @SEAN SPOONTS Unfortunately, my suspicion is that reality hasn't made much of an appearance in some of the NK governmental minds food decades.

Camo_Steve
Camo_Steve

@Tango9 @SEAN SPOONTS  I think it would be a major mistake to just leave after we eliminate the threat. The Chinese would just come in and create yet another influence hub.

aezino
aezino

@SEAN SPOONTS


I did not say the Chinese leadership were not bullies. I said they did not need to be.  I also said that they would pay a heavy price unless the U.S. folds like a cheap suit, which is a possibility.  


Russian might also push back, but that is iffier than the U.S. pushing back.

Minou_Demimonde
Minou_Demimonde

undefined undefined undefined undefined They have a really good Dal, and a wicked Masu.

AUNITEDPEOPLE
AUNITEDPEOPLE

@Minou_Demimonde  @SEAN SPOONTS THe silence from China has been deafening, so take that for what it's worth. But there is not a whole lot of talk coming out of Bejeng (sp) in this time of tension. It is very telling if you ask me.

Minou_Demimonde
Minou_Demimonde

@AUNITEDPEOPLE @SEAN SPOONTS You know, I talk to Zhen, and I can totally see that. He is awfully excited about his new iPhone, and his new laptop that he just ordered. And then there is the fact that China can't really afford this right now. They've got serious issues themselves. They're dealing with a population in flux, with a real economic and educational difference between the people in the cities, and people in the country. There are environmental issues that they can't fix, cultural issues that they can't fix, and serious economic issues with their banks. They can't afford to take on North Korea unless they got something pretty seriously worthwhile out of it.

SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)
SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)

 Please go look at the map of the Sino-Indian border.  They both have to cross the Himalayas to get at each other.  You of all people know how tough mountain fighting is.  They ain't gonna do it without really good reasons, like national survival.

"Indian Army chief General Bikram Singh on Sunday said "peace and tranquility" now prevails on the Sino-Indian border.

"There is peace and tranquility on the Line of Actual Control with China. There is no problem,"

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/1819879/report-sino-indian-border-is-calm-bikram-singh

They haven't set the date for the third joint training exercise between the Chinese and Indian armies yet.  India doesn't seem to be too interested in China as an enemy.

SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)
SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)

The Chinese have a ready made out with N. Korea.  They can just say; "They are fucking nuts.  We have very little control over them and never had.  For 60 years they've been talking about being self-reliant and they mean it.  They don't listen to us.  We give them food, money and other help and they screwed us over too in this.  We didn't want war between the Koreas, now we have millions of refugees flooding our borders.  It's all we can do right now just to handle that.  We will not be participating in this.  We will provide humanitarian aid the refugees and that's all."

Minou_Demimonde
Minou_Demimonde

@ArcticWarrior @Minou_Demimonde @SEAN SPOONTS Actually, I think India would like very much to deal with the Chinese as long as they had some backing. Unfortunately, we're looking at something that can't end well. (Well, for one thing, Pradeep and Zhen wouldn't be able to be besties any longer, and that would make work awkward.) But in all seriousness, while I agree with you that it would be a possibility, it's not one I think would be good for the planet as a whole.

SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)
SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)

I'm not selling them short, but we don't really know what will happen until the lead starts flying.   We trained the old South Korean Army in the 1950s and some of their best units defected en masse to the communists during the civil war.   The Chinese told us not to cross the 38th during.  Real simple, no fussy language.  We did it anyway and got clobbered by nearly half a million Chinese who we didn't even know were staging against us.  Half a million troops forming up in N. Korea and we missed it totally with complete control of the air.  We didn't win in Korea, we fought China to a stalemate.

Minou_Demimonde
Minou_Demimonde

@wannabearmyteen @Tango9 @SEAN SPOONTS Do you think we have the capability to actually do more rebuilding? After 12 years of war, we're kind of tapped out. I'm hoping for a quiet calm-down on all sides.

Camo_Steve
Camo_Steve

@Tango9 @wannabearmyteen @SEAN SPOONTS We did this kind of stuff in the past.  "After World War I, the cycle of money from U.S. loans to Germany, which made reparations to other European nations, who paid off their debts to the United States, locked the western world's economy into that of the U.S."

Camo_Steve
Camo_Steve

@ArcticWarrior @wannabearmyteen @Tango9 @SEAN SPOONTS I understand giving Rok the lead on reconstruction but to completely leave and let them do it all by themselves is a mistake IMO. They are going to have to be backed a little bit by the U.S. to stand against Chinese economic influence.

SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)
SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)

We've been adding troops for years;  "The 2005-2012 edition of the department’s annual “Base Structure Report,” which was published on Mar. 21, showed a total of 37,354 US troops stationed in South Korea as of Sept. 30, 2011. This was 8,854 more than the 28,500 agreed upon at a 2008 summit between the two countries’ heads of state. It was also 11,049 more than in 2009, when USFK troop levels were at their lowest."

http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_international/579051.html

Oh, and we also doubled the number of troops stationed in Japan during that same period as well.  I generally don't go in for conspiracies, but what if the government saw this moment coming years ago?

SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)
SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)

I'm glad REFORGER didn't happen.  They Navy war plan was to wipe out the Soviet Navy in 7 days.  It would have made the Battle of Leyte look like a game played in a bathtub with toys.  I'm certain that I would have been killed.

SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)
SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)

OK, and we have probably trained in South Korea on the assumptions that the NORKs don't have enough fuel for more than 72 hours, have limited food and ammunition and runty troops that can barely lift an AK.  We have approximately 40k troops in South Korea.  If any of those assumptions are wrong most of them will end up dead or captured in a few days.  We had people in this country wanting to pull out of A-Stan and Iraq every time more than four soldiers were killed in a single day.  Every week the media was announcing the new; "Deadliest Day" in the War on Terror ever.  Do you think the Democrats will want to fight if we take 5,000 casualties on the 1st day?    They'd sell the S. Koreans out in two minutes.  They don't give a fuck about them, just the mid-term elections.  Don't look at the weaknesses of the NORKs, look at OURS.  Casualty adverse, politically divided, in a economic recession, drastically cutting back our military, heavily in debt to China.  We may look ripe to be knocked over from Pyongyang.

Camo_Steve
Camo_Steve

@ArcticWarrior @Tango9 @SEAN SPOONTS I am more worried about after the initial assault. I wonder how mind fucked some of people are there. Have all that indoctrination and propaganda created a population (in general) that would heavily resist Rok/U.S. influence?

Tango9
Tango9

@SEAN SPOONTS Well, for sure it's a Sun Tzu moment.  But you have to temper it with intel and facts.

Sure:  a guy could kick my door down and I'd be in a home invasion scenario any second but that doesn't mean I'm going to sit in a rocking chair with a shotgun 24/7 in my lap.

SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)
SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)

All speculation about how much money, fuel and food they have is just that, speculation and educated guessing.  A small group of Islamists hijacked 4 airliners and crashed them into buildings killing over 3,000 people and causing billions in damage.  They slipped right thru security that was intended to stop hijackings.  If that can happen, the NORKs can attack us too.

  • AUNITEDPEOPLE

    SEAN SPOONTS  Now that will be an interesting occurrence, if that happens. Good observation there SS!

  • SEAN SPOONTS

    Hmmm.  I can't imagine that the NORKs can't get weather data from China.  It's hardly classified information and the Chinese have plenty of iron flying around up there.  When N. Korea launches its next missile check the location of their Sat then.  If its over the launch area I guess we know what that Sat is really for.

  • 50run50gun

    SEAN SPOONTS Seems the Norks satellite will be passing over the US in the next several days.  Many passes, back and forth over the US.  Do we have any satellite experts out there?  http://www.n2yo.com/passes/?s=39026 Click the "show all passes button," then check the boxes under the "map" column.  Not sure what to make of this. /50

  • 50run50gun

    SEAN SPOONTS Seems the Norks satellite will be passing over the US in the next several days.  Many passes, back and forth over the US.  Do we have any satellite experts out there?  http://www.n2yo.com/passes/?s=39026 Click the "show all passes button," then check the boxes under the "map" column.  Not sure what to make of this. /50

  • achowd

    Thought you guys might like this http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/04/north-korean-lady-soldiers-wear-4-inch-heels.html