Tue | Aug 22, 2017

America, be warned: North Korea is no Syria

Published:Saturday | April 15, 2017 | 4:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

After America attacked that Syrian airbase with 59 cruise missiles recently, it moved a large naval force consisting of an aircraft carrier, support ships and, according to some reports, even submarines, to the Korean peninsula. If the US is planning to attack North Korea, it should realise that North Korea, unlike Syria, does have the means to hit back very hard.

While it is generally agreed that any war between North Korea on the one hand and the US, South Korea and Japan on the other will result in a North Korean defeat, that defeat will come at a very high price. North Korea may have a technological disadvantage compared to the allies, but it does have enough technological know-how and means to make any war very costly, indeed. What's more important is the fact that North Korea has the political will to fight a bloody war.

Seoul, the South Korean capital, is well within the range of North Korean artillery systems. Forget the nuclear weapons that the North can use against the South, a new Korean war would cause a rain of bombs, including conventional and chemical bombs, to rain down on the city. With a population of more than 25 million people, there is very little doubt that many tens of thousands, possibly well over a million people, will die.

The same is true of American military installations in South Korea. They would be at the mercy of North Korean weapons systems. I saw one estimate putting the number of American deaths in South Korea into the tens of thousands.

However, South Korea isn't the only country in the region that would effectively be flattened by a North Korean response.

Japan is well within range of North Korean missiles, and Japan is also home to important American military installations as well. A few years ago, North Korea demonstrated its ability to hit Japan by shooting a missile over the country. It seems likely that any war with North Korea will prompt North Korea to fire chemicals or even nuclear-tipped missiles at Japan.

North Korea may have an ageing naval fleet, but it is very capable, as proven when North Korea, a few years ago, used one of its submarines to sink a South Korean warship. North Korea even recently demonstrated its ability to fire missiles from submarines, which means that such launches will be much harder to detect than land-based launches.

 

NUCLEAR WAR CERTAIN

 

There is very little doubt that a war with North Korea will go nuclear, with casualty numbers for all sides reminiscent of the Second World War.

While the ability of North Korea's missiles are well known, it really doesn't only need those to deliver weapons of mass destruction to its enemies, as the attack in Malaysia, which included a dangerous nerve agent recently proved.

Also, while there is much doubt as to whether North Korea can hit the American mainland itself, it would not surprise me if she could.

Those who think that North Korea's isolation may mean she cannot communicate with her operatives abroad should think again. North Korea is even cleverly using its state broadcaster to send out coded messages to its operatives abroad, by using a series of numbers that no one is yet to break.

So my advice to the Americans is simply this: Don't start a war with North Korea. You can win, but the price that you and your allies in the region will pay will be very high, indeed.

MICHAEL A. DINGWALL

Kingston