Preparations for war in North Korea
I. North Korean preparations for war
A. ACTUAL PREPARATIONS
(1) Kim Jong-il's strategy and determination
[War according to Kim Jong-il]
¨ç Kim Jong-il has confidence in DPRK's decades of war preparations and the numerical superiority of his armed forces, and their victory over what he regards as inferior ROK armed forces.
¨è The junior Kim has vowed 'complete liberation of the peninsula', a task left 'half-done' by Kim Il-sung. He is apparently determined to become 'the president of a unified Korea' through armed force.
¨é North Korea has stockpiled war materiel for six months only, confident that any conflict it starts will not last longer than the said period.
- The North will commence its offensive after fabricating an 'invasion north' by its
commando units in ROK uniforms. Artillery bombardment will leave Seoul in
ruins in five or six minutes, and then armored forces will launch a general
offensive along the DMZ, occupying Pusan and the entire southern half of the
peninsula before reinforcement by US Pacific forces.
[Kim Jong-il's will to aggression]
¢¹ War preparation has become a priority for all government agencies since Kim Jong-il's rise to political power in the 1970's, and war set the tone for the general society after he was elected Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army in Dec. 1991.
¢¹ Kim Jong-il has touted the armed forces as the 'vanguard of unification and the only hope for the state'. He has issued directives to the effect that 'everyone must do their utmost in support of the armed forces' on frequent occasions.
¢¹ Kim Jong-il and the KPA brass have absolute confidence that North Korea will prevail over the ROK, and most North Koreans refer to the ROK armed forces as 'scarecrows' and 'pushovers'.
¢¹ Kim Jong-il once went so far as to declare 'the world does not deserve to exist without the DPRK', and should North Korea implode, "we will take the rest of the world with us".
¢¹ The upper echelons of the DPRK hierarchy admit to the ROK's economic superiority, but also regard it as a military pygmy, and unification by force is a forgone conclusion if not for US support for the ROK. A greater percentage of North Koreans believe war is preferable to a persisting food crisis and chronic starvation.
¢¹ The Cuban Missile Crisis became the impetus for Kim Il-sung's simultaneous development of the economy and the military. The elder Kim declared, "Money in one's own pocket is better than money in your brother's, and it is always best to keep one's wallet full', after hearing of the crisis.
¢¹ Kim Jong-il has personally supervised construction of military facilities since his graduation from Kim Il-sung University in 1964, and has participated in every area of military planning.
¢¹ North Korea's quasi-military organization of its society allows for its direct conversion to a war footing once war is declared, and all munitions are produced domestically, including production of helicopter gunships, missiles, and rocket launchers.
¢¹ Kim Il-sung once escorted the junior Kim on an inspection tour of the Fifth Corps headquarters in Pyonggang, built as an underground fortress with living quarters for all personnel, and movable portals for heavy guns.
¢¹ Electricity for underground military facilities cannot be diverted elsewhere, including factories on the verge of closure. Underground facilities in the vicinity of Pyongyang are replete with state-of-the-art lighting, water, and ventilation systems.
¢¹ All heavy equipment in North Korea's military inventory is self-propelled, as featured in the military's sixtieth anniversary parade in 1992. The military openly boasts enough weapons to turn South Korea to ruin 'three times over'.
¢¹ Each North Korean special forces unit has been assigned a specific target in South Korea, usually strategic objectives such as missile bases and airfields. The units will be delivered to their targets by parachute or hovercraft.
¢¹ All North Korean citizens are required to donate rice as rations to the military, ranking cadres and ordinary persons alike. The party maintains records of donations by individual cadres as a measure of personal loyalty to the state, and donations among the cadres tend to be quite competitive.
(3) BIDING TIME
¢¹ The North saw its best opportunity for a second strike south during the April 19th Uprising, though the offensive did not materialize due to Soviet and Chinese advice to the contrary, and the fact that they had only just completed their postwar rehabilitation. They are waiting for another opportunity to present itself during the current election season.
¢¹ The Korean peninsula was on the brink of war following the Pueblo Incident (Jan. 1968), the downing of a US EC-121 aircraft (April 1969), and the Panmunjom Axe Murders (Aug. 1976). North Koreans thought war was imminent in the wake of the above incidents, and removed the population to shelters and prepared for armed conflict.
¢¹ North Korea sees political chaos in South Korea as the best window of opportunity, though US and Chinese reactions to the attack remain important variables. The North will attempt to instigate turmoil in the south through its underground espionage network, and strike when turmoil combines with an international incident that necessitates large-scale dispatch of US troops elsewhere.
¢¹ The North Korean leadership will become ever more dependent on its military machine as the economy slides into a deeper recession and popular discontent rises. War will be the only option left if the situation becomes absolutely desperate.
(4) CHAIN OF COMMAND AND NORTH KOREAN STRATEGY
¢¹ North Korea formerly maintained a four-stage chain of command, where orders from the president first had to pass through the minister of defense, chief of the political bureau, and JCS chairman before troops could be mobilized. The junior Kim eliminated the defense minister and the political chief from the apparatus, and the JCS chairman takes his orders directly from Kim Jong-il himself, making mobilization for war possible at a moment's notice.
¢¹ Special mobilization of the society and population in the event of war is not necessary, as is the necessity for a war government, due to the militarized nature of North Korean government apparatus and society.
¢¹ North Korean strategy is a combination of the steamroller' and blitzkrieg, with special forces assault on strategic military facilities to be followed by a mobile armored offensive to occupy the entire southern half of the peninsula.
¢¹ Another strategy developed after the passing of the elder Kim involves leveling Seoul and destroying strategic facilities with overwhelming artillery bombardment, and subsequent political negotiation from a position of strength.
¢¹ The master plan for North Korea's invasion southward was completed by Kim Jong-il and the military's strategic planners two years before the death of Kim Il-sung. The top brass was impressed with the plan and called for its immediate implementation, only to be countermanded by the elder Kim, who called for recovery of deteriorating standards of living before any mobilization for war.
¢¹ Diplomatic isolation of South Korea from the US, Japan, China, and Russia and withdrawal of US forces in Korea are to be included in preparations for invasion. The emphasis is on getting the Americans to leave, and Kim Il-sung once declared that he could "do without Cheju island if the USFK withdraws."
¢¹ Prepared to initiate kamikaze and kaiten-style attack on US warships. North Korea is confident the sinking of major US warships, including carriers, by suicide attacks will ignite anti-war demonstrations in the United States. The US will face further challenges from North Korea against its involvement in the form of threats of attacks on Japanese cities with long-rage missiles.
¢¹ North Korea does not expect aid in any form from China or Russia in its invasion southward, its mutual security treaties with both countries notwithstanding. However, North Korea counts on China to come to its defense in case of an invasion north by combined ROK/US forces.
(5) KIM JONG-IL'S HOLD ON THE MILITARY AND THE TOP BRASS
¢¹ Kim Jong-il assumed total control over the military with his election to the post of Supreme Commander of the KPA (Feb. 1991) and as Chairman of the National Defense Commission (April 1993). This control is bolstered by his appointment of loyalists to top posts and apparati to scrutinize loyalty of the top brass (command center/ Political Bureau/ Defense Security Command).
¢¹ Kim Jong-il's absolute authority has reduced the JCS chairman to simply implementing his orders, and even trivial suggestions or advice contrary to the junior Kim's is not tolerated. Kim's closest military advisors are Cho Myung-rok (Political Bureau Chief), Kim Yung-choon (JCS chairman), and Won Eung-hee (Defense Security Commander).
[Hwang's assessment of the top brass]
- Cho was formerly commander of North Korea's air force and was promoted to be the military's political chief for his loyalty. Kim Yung-choon has no political skill, and is even less of a strategist. Former JCS chairman Oh Keuk-ryul was dismissed in favor of Kim Yung-choon, but he was soon appointed chief military strategist for the Worker's Party, owing to his ability as a brilliant military strategist and a heavy following within the defense establishment.
B. ADDITIONS TO THE WAR MACHINE
(1) ARMS PRODUCTION AND PROCUREMENT OF TECHNOLOGY
¢¹ North Korea has imported outer panels removed from Russian submarines to construct external hulls for its own submarine fleet, and sophisticated parts and equipment necessary for their operation are also imported, mostly from Japan.
¢¹ North Korea's view of Chinese military technology is not favorable, and has terminated import of weapons or technology from the PRC. Even state-of-the-art weaponry from Russia is ignored by North Koreans as antiquated, and weapons manuals for Russian weapons often go unread.
¢¹ Foreign personnel necessary for weapons projects are recruited in secret by the foreign ministry.
(2) PRIORITY TO THE MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX
¢¹ Priority was placed on military and munitions production ever since plans for
simultaneous development of the economy and the military were established at
the Fifteenth Plenary Session of the Fourth Worker's Party Assembly in 1967.
- The assembly concluded North Korea would be alone in its effort to unify the Korean peninsula by force, following analysis of the political situation in the region. All factories and state firms were required to donate a certain part of their output to the military.
¢¹ Kim Jong-il has resorted to some extreme measures to ensure an adequate
material stockpile for the military. For example, all plants and state firms must
produce their required supply quota for the military, even if it results in shortage
of supplies for the civilian sector. Military tribunals await managers of plants
who fail to do so.
- The cabinet was excluded from control of military industries, which are instead supervised by the Munitions Bureau of the Party Central Committee (Sec. Chun Byung-ho). Munition bureau offices were established in plants for civilian production as well, and all production activity is supervised by the military.
¢¹ Members of the Party Military Committee, standing members of the politburo, provincial party heads, and party secretaries and managers from individual plants and firms hold regular assessment sessions to verify proper implementation of party plans and directives. Those found to be responsible for inadequate production are severely reprimanded.
¢¹ Munitions and Mobilization Agency is responsible for all stockpiling of war materiel. The agency is headed by a three-star general, who is also a member of the party politburo. It operates as a individual administrative agency much in the manner of the Escort Bureau (Secret Service).
¢¹ Procurement of foreign exchange for weapons imports is the exclusive responsibility of the No. 2 Economic Committee, operating independently of the cabinet or other government agencies.
C. WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
(1) NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM
¢¹ Kim Il-sung compared the PRC's 1964 atomic weapons experiment to "a general trying to wear his sword before his trousers". It can be concluded that he had no intention of building a nuclear arsenal at the time.
¢¹ The Soviet ambassador to North Korea questioned then-secretary Hwang Jang-yop about the possibility of a nuclear weapons program in North Korea, and urged North Korea to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Hwang Jang-yop feigned ignorance and reported to the elder Kim afterwards. The elder and junior Kim ordered Hwang to withhold comments in response to Soviet suspicions.
¢¹ Foreign minister Kim Young-nam signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in Dec. 1985 and the Nuclear Safety Accords in April of 1992. The signing became fodder for criticism by munitions bureaucrats for allegedly making their work 'more difficult.'
¢¹ The possibility of possession of nuclear weapons by North Korea has been ambiguous, due to lack of direct confirmation of weapons or related sites. However, reasonable proof was provided by its withdrawal from the NPT regime (March 1993) after the IAEA insisted on inspections in 1992, and a majority of North Korean cadres believe a nuclear weapon has become part of their weapons cache.
(2) AGREEMENTS BETWEEN THE US AND NORTH KOREA
¢¹ North Korean bargaining strategy was micromanaged by direct orders from Kim Jong-il to Kang Suk-ju, North Korea's chief negotiator, and other agencies were denied any role in the talks.
¢¹ The main justification for North Korea's selection of the light-water over a thermoelectric units is the possibility of large deposits of uranium in North Korea, combined with their inability to secure supplies of petroleum necessary to operate a thermoelectric plant.
¢¹ North Korea has closed off Shinpo to the general population, preventing their contact with the team of South Korean workers dispatched to the location for the construction of the nuclear reactor.
(3) THE NUCLEAR AND RELATED QUESTIONS
¢¹ North Korea's agreement to the Declaration for Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a political ploy designed to portray North Korea in a peaceful light on the international stage, and to elicit division within South Korea over the nuclear issue. The agreement has no significance politically for policy-makers in North Korea.
¢¹ The Soviets provided North Korea with the necessary means to build a nuclear reactor in 1985, as part of the political deal surrounding North Korea's entry into the NPT regime (Agreement for delivery of four 440MW light-water reactors signed between North Korean and the USSR in Dec. 1985).
¢¹ The negotiation and signing of the Nuclear Safety Accord (April 1992) and the Geneva Agreement (Oct. 1994) were parts of a North Korean strategy to buy time for itself. The North believes it has profited from the two agreements, based on guarantees to deliver the light-water reactor and a half-million tons of diesel fuel without incurring any losses on the political front.
¢¹ A number of ranking cadres cite international tensions over North Korea's nuclear program as proof that the foreign ministry signed North Korea into a political trap of its own making following agreement to the Nuclear Safety Accord with the IAEA on April 1992.
(4) CHEMICAL/BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS AND MISSILE TECHNOLOGY
¢¹ There is reason to believe North Korea possesses large stockpiles of chemical weapons, and North Korea has repeatedly confirmed that it will never sign the Chemical/Biological Test Ban Treaty. Higher echelons of the North Korean leadership have also hinted at possession of biological weapons.
¢¹ North Korea has threatened to 'annihilate¡¯Japan with long-range ballistic missiles with chemical warheads as a countermeasure against US involvement in Korea when it launches an invasion against the ROK.
¢¹ Three are unconfirmed reports of bombs capable of depleting oxygen within a limited area upon explosion (most likely fuel-air explosives), in North Korea's weapons inventory.
D. ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE R.O.K
(1) VIEWS OF THE USFK AND THE ROK ARMED FORCES
¢¹ North Korea's political and military leadership views the KPA as the fourth
largest conventional force in the world both in terms of size and capability,
replete with one of the best chemical weapons inventories in the world. Another
entrenched assumption is that the ROK armed forces will not mount a serious
challenge, and North Korean victory is certain if not for the USFK.
- In addition, they claim ability to track movement by all South Korean combat aircraft and warships, and enough artillery to level Seoul completely within five or six minutes, regardless of the southern defense budget that far outstrips the North's.
¢¹ The North Korean population has been led to believe that its special forces can infiltrate the US just as easily as the South Korean coast, by their propaganda machine. It also claims the US mainland will not be safe from combat, unlike the wars in the past.
¢¹ North Korea has vowed to counter any US offensive with suicide attacks upon American aircraft and warships, which they conceive will be effective at keeping US forces at bay. The DPRK military belittles the military significance of the Gulf War, and claims that it has the technological capability to match the US military.
¢¹ Kim Jong-il and his planners analyzed potential weaknesses of US weaponry after the Gulf War, and produced a film concerning North Korean victory over US weapons systems. The film was made required viewing for the military commanders in strategy and other departments, for purposes of augmenting confidence in the possibility of triumph over the US forces.
¢¹ A successful suicide attack and sinking of even one US cruiser will ignite
anti-war protests that will take the US out of the war, and threats of
(2) VIEWS ON THE TEAM SPIRIT MILITARY EXERCISE
¢¹ The following are common assumptions held by the North Korean leadership
concerning the Team Spirit Military Exercise:
¨çUse the forces massed for the exercise to launch a surprise attack on North Korea ¨èCreate an atmosphere of war, and subsequent preparations in North Korea will halt production and paralyze the North Korean economy
¢¹ The KPA is placed on maximum alert during the exercise, necessitating full readiness of equipment that requires massive expenditure of petroleum in the face of adequate stores and supplies. The withdrawal of all military personnel from economic production places a severe burden on the North Korean economy.
¢¹ North Korea declared a virtual state of war during the exercise in March,
1993, due to added tensions surrounding inspection of its nuclear facilities.
- Kim Jong-il conducted his activities in the situation room in an
underground bunker beneath his office building.