Standoff Gives Glimpse of N.Korean Defense Plans

  • By Yu Yong-weon, Jun Hyun-suk

    August 27, 2015 10:00

    South Korea and the U.S. are assessing North Korea's military's strength and operational plans based on the deployment of troops and armaments during the latest cross-border tensions.

    "We recently had a chance to look into part of the North Korean military's operational plans and preparedness" after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un put troops on a war footing, a military source said Wednesday. "We're now reassessing how we'd overestimated or underestimated the North Korean military."

    During the latest tensions, some sections of the North Korean military showed a higher mobilization capability than expected, but its entire war capabilities are inadequate.

    This is why the North seemed to pay more attention to short-term blitz tactics than to long-term strategy for a full-scale war, South Korea believes.

    A comprehensive assessment of the North's war capabilities has not been possible, since there were no unusual movements of some 1.02 million-strong ground troops, 4,300 tanks, and 820 fighter jets.

    In the case of ground troops, only those in the frontline areas near the demilitarized zone were apparently put on high alert. 

    North Koreans pass a guard post near the demilitarized zone on Wednesday.

    The North has far greater artillery strength than South Korea, including about 8,600 guns and 5,500 multiple rocket launchers. But it did not mobilize long-range guns that threaten the Seoul metropolitan area, but only small-caliber artillery like 76.2 mm guns near the DMZ to threaten to shoot at South Korea's loudspeakers.

    Prof. Kim Yeol-su of Sungshin Women's University said, "We haven't really had a chance to completely grasp the North's military strength. What we saw was just a show of strength during the cross-border talks."

    In the process some 50 submarines, 70 percent of the North's fleet, vanished from the radar. If all of them left their bases rather than being hidden in underwater caves, that would have been a better sortie rate than advanced countries could manage, according to experts.

    The military here is not considering changing the current South Korea-U.S. operational plans based on the available evidence.

    "We confirmed that psychological warfare, including loudspeaker broadcasting, can be an asymmetric strategic weapon," the military source added. "We now can develop our own asymmetric strength without being cowed by the North's."

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