The test of the North Korean hydrogen bomb again sharply raised the question of a possible war on the peninsula. 13 January President of the Republic of Korea Park Geun Hyo called for the introduction of full-scale sanctions against North Korea by the world community. If her initiative is supported in the UN Security Council, Pyongyang will face the prospect of an economic catastrophe, to which he will have to respond, including, perhaps, by military means.
Contrary to popular belief, the conflict potential of the Far East is much higher than the analogous parameter, say, the Middle East. Discussing the recent confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, political observers spoke too boldly about a possible war, ignoring the fact that Iran’s military industry remains very backward, and the Saudis do not have it at all - respectively, the entire conflict was exhausted at the start.
In East Asia, the situation is different, despite the fact that the contradictions there are so irreconcilable, and the mutual claims are even more inveterate. Here, even medium-sized states wisely strive for maximum localization of military production in domestic capacities. Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and even Myanmar are actively developing naval shipbuilding and other promising areas. So, to create and maintain a major conflict, this region fits better than any other. The Korean Peninsula and its immediate environs are full of the military presence of various powers. It is possible that Northeast Asia is the most militarized region in the world.
In a heightened confrontation, the situation of all parties to the conflict resembles a frozen portrait of athletes before the start. Within six months, the situation will change as design offices, factories and shipyards will produce even more products that will be able to influence the outcome of the conflict. The advantage here is for those who have a stronger economy, more resources and more rational use of time, which in any war is much more expensive than gold.
The Republic of Korea is one of the few countries that may even be interested in escalating. Judging by the actions of Seoul, the country's political leadership is confident that if in the worst case scenario the enemy erases two or three South Korean cities from the face of the earth in nuclear fire (which, by the way, is very unlikely), the final victory will still be with the US-Korean forces. This confidence has its reasons. Today, South Korea may well claim the status of a regional great power. Compared to Japan, where restrictions on the size of the army and the quality of weapons still exist, the South Korean leadership limits its own military ambitions only to budget and imagination. The economic power of the South is dozens, and in some respects, hundreds of times higher than all that the North can scrape together, and the developed transport infrastructure allows mobilization to be carried out in the shortest possible time. Quite a lot has been written about Korea’s ground forces and their equipment in detail - in our case, it’s enough to recall that this is a huge army of 495 soldiers and officers, owning thousands of military vehicles and hundreds of units (not counting those that are part of the Air Force and the Marine aviation) helicopters.
Seoul also places great emphasis on the landing fleet. In addition to the 4 large tank landing ships of the Go Joon Bong class (4300 tons), built in the 1990s, and the Udok Doctorate (18 tons), an ambitious program for the construction of four tank landing craft Chon Wang Bong, with a displacement of 000 tons . In addition, we must not forget about the huge shopping navy South Korea, which can be mobilized. The general plan is clear - in addition to land breakthroughs across the border fortified areas, large landings will be planted away from the main theater of operations. The number of the Marine Corps of South Korea is 29 people according to 000. For comparison, the marine corps of the Russian Federation in the same year totaled 2014 according to some data, and 20 according to others.
In addition, the Republic of Korea has a group of unsinkable aircraft carriers, looming over the coast of the enemy. These are the islands of Pennon-do, Techon-do and Enphyon-do, whose strategic location makes it possible to threaten the entire west coast of North Korea.
In general, if a big war starts tomorrow, then Seoul is ready for it and the degree of this readiness grows from year to year. Outdated weapons are written off and replaced with new ones. The only area in which South Koreans have not yet achieved success is missile defense. In addition to ballistic missiles, the threat to the southerners is the backward, but numerous submarine fleet of the DPRK - almost all of South Korea’s foreign trade goes precisely by sea.
Awareness of the real lag behind South Korea in conventional weapons has led the DPRK to the need to develop its own nuclear program. However, the incredible efforts invested in the creation of nuclear weaponsmay go to dust. In addition, the use of such indiscriminate weapons will not save the North Korean regime, but only delay its fall.
Not much is known about the DPRK army. It is known that she is one of the largest in number, but she spends most of her time not in military training, but in work for the benefit of the national economy. The armament of this army comes mostly from the 1950-1970's, despite the fact that in a modern war even a difference of one generation can be considered critical in some cases.
Of course, the Korean People’s Army also has relatively modern weapons, but in a critically small quantity. For example, the domestic main battle tank M-2002 (aka, "Songun-915"), armed with an 125-mm cannon, 14,5 mm with a machine gun and anti-tank missile systems Bulsae-3. Or (according to information from network sources) a number of Russian BTR-80А that were purchased in the Russian Federation two decades ago.
In aviation, the situation is just as bleak. The Air Force can boast only three dozens of relatively new MiG-29 fighters and about the same number of Su-25 attack aircraft, the rest of the aircraft fleet is MiG-21, Su-7, Il-28 and similar rarities. With helicopters, the situation is not much better. The task of such an “aviation” is apparently, heroically dying on airfields or taking off in the first days of battles, diverting the attention of the Air Force of the Republic of Korea, after which the DPRK soldiers again, as in the last war, will have to dig underground tunnel systems to escape from enemy attacks from the air.
Essentially, all the hopes of the central government in Pyongyang can be focused only on the fact that in the event of war, the population and the army will show sufficient resilience and not scatter in the very first weeks when the superiority of the enemy in all areas becomes apparent. For the same reason, North Korea does not benefit from the escalation of border conflicts into a full-scale war, although the regime cannot completely abandon provocations - it receives a large portion of resources from outside due to blackmail. Yes, and the internal political situation requires maintaining a certain tone. In the event of war, the DPRK has a chance to hold out for some time only at the northernmost frontier in the high mountainous part of the country.
For Japan, conflict is desirable and undesirable at the same time. Yes, from the first Korean War, Tokyo made a considerable profit, becoming the largest foreign contractor of the US Army, which indirectly served as one of the reasons for the Japanese economic miracle. Yes, now such investments would not prevent the Japanese economy, if not for the obvious costs.
And the costs are considerable - participation in the war. Even if Kim Jong-un is not so inadequate to launch ballistic missiles in the cities of Japan, his submarines may well paralyze all maritime trade in the region for a while.
Participation in the ground campaign on the Korean Peninsula Tokyo is not interesting for three reasons. First, technically it will be extremely difficult. Japan has no marines and only three Osumi-class amphibious assault ships - the rest have been scrapped long ago. Secondly, South Korea is an ally of the United States and the new Korean War will be a struggle to advance Washington’s interests in Asia. There are no particular interests in Tokyo, but to send the Self-Defense Forces to die for the Americans - their own people simply will not understand this and for any prime minister this will be the end of a political career.
Thirdly, the ruling circles and the population in South Korea are categorically against any Japanese military intervention. This topic is regularly raised in the Korean political debate, despite the fact that Tokyo itself is not eager to intervene.
The 2016 year in Japan is scheduled to begin production of the Maneuver Combat Vehicle combat vehicles, as well as the purchase of the first batch of American amphibians AAVP-7A1s for the Ground Self-Defense Forces. This year the fleet intends to test the XASM-3 supersonic cruise missile, and next year 2017 will test the SM-3 Block 2A (4,5 km / s speed, 1500 km range) and complete the design of the new 27DD destroyer. The Japanese military budget for the 2016 year also included the purchase of X-NUMX fighters F-6A Lighting II, 35 converters V-4 Osprey, 22 Mitsubishi SH-17K helicopters, and the launch of three or more RQ-60 unmanned aerial systems, and the use of the RH-4 unmanned aerial communications rotor, the company’s unshared RQ-46, and their own unshipped RQ-XNUMX, and their own unlocked RQ-XNUMX RV-XNUMX RV-XNUMX RV-XNUMX RV-XNUMX fighter jets. air tanker tankers KC-XNUMXA. And this is only part of what they plan to purchase in Tokyo.
While all these programs are in the process of execution, Tokyo will try not to get involved in a conflict - this is at least two years.
China is another country totally not interested in a big war on the peninsula. Beijing is currently lacking other problems: economic recession, a grand anti-corruption campaign, large-scale military reform, elections and the consolidation of separatism in Taiwan. Of course, in Beijing they would agree to a small victorious war, but everyone understands that the war in Korea will not be neither small nor victorious. In addition, China has its own “South Korea” - talking about the Taiwanese island of Kinmen, which is located just 7 (!!!) km from mainland China, which is much more suitable for victorious wars.
Given Beijing’s prudent policy, as well as its generally cool relations with the DPRK, all that Pyongyang can count on is the supply of Chinese weapons, and the limited participation of China's military experts. Nobody in China will start a global war with an unknown outcome for the sake of the DPRK - the strategy to refrain from conflicts until the 2020 year will continue to work. At the same time, the border between China and North Korea, which is now practically (!) Open for free movement of citizens in both directions, can be easily locked by PLA forces from the Chinese side, if the situation starts to take a completely unpleasant turn.
Another country that does not benefit from aggravation, or, especially, the war on its very borders is Russia. Having a slightly frozen conflict in Ukraine and the overseas front in Syria, to which even the flagship of the Pacific Fleet, the cruiser Varyag, was urgently deployed, it would be madness to try to penetrate into the third conflict. The Russian Federation will not defend the DPRK in any event of development, since the North Korean regime is neither its client nor ally. At the same time, we must not forget that Seoul has never refused claims to the Noktundo region, which was once part of the Joseon state, and now is part of the Primorsky Territory of the Russian Federation.
However, it is not worthwhile to exaggerate the threat - at the very least, there will be only crazy shells from the adjacent territory. In general, the conflict of any size on the Korean Peninsula can be considered for Russia as a deep peripheral and not a threat. These threats may appear later, years later, but not during or immediately after the war.
Why not start?
Starting a war, even with a great desire, it is extremely difficult. Even with the victory for the Republic of Korea, the economy will squeeze very much - investors do not like war - and Asian competitors will throw it out of many markets. The degree of support that Washington is ready to provide is not clear. The Obama administration has already proven that it is ready to set fire to conflicts, but is not going to participate in them. This new feature of US foreign policy, which first appeared during the war against Libya, unpleasantly surprised American allies around the world. Of course, if desired, Seoul can cope on its own, but without the Americans it will be noticeably harder to do it. If, say, President Bush the Younger, without hesitation, would give the necessary order, easily getting Congress approval for the use of the army, then with the current leader everything is not so simple.
To date, 28 500 American troops are deployed in Korea, but if necessary, this contingent can be significantly strengthened by reinforcements from Japan and Guam. The armies of the two countries — the USA and South Korea — are maximally integrated and brought into uniform standards. A separate and very interesting structure is the KATUSA (Korean Augmentation To the United States Army), which, in essence, is the American Foreign Legion in Korea. These are the Korean Army servicemen who wear the American uniform, they know English, American regulations and equipment better. There is not a single publication about this program in Runet, although it has existed since 1950, and has achieved some success.
KATUSA military in American uniform
Results and prospects
That war is inevitable is an obvious fact. Another thing is that it most likely will not start in 2016 year. Although there is no guarantee that it will not start the other day, no one will give it with certainty. The parties have demonstrated uncompromising in the past, and now in both countries there are leaders burdened by the memory of the successes of their glorious ancestors. The personal factor is not the last one. Park Geun-hye, the current president of the Republic of Korea, is the daughter of the legendary Pak Jong-hee, from whom the Korean economic miracle began. You can also remember a lot about the father and grandfather of the current leader of the DPRK. So personal motives here play an important role.
Looking back into history, it is safe to say that in the 1950-s of the DPRK, it remained on the political map solely due to the massive Soviet-Chinese military intervention. Today Pyongyang cannot count on such “fraternal assistance”.
In general, we repeat, it is in the 2016 year that we should be skeptical about the prospects for war. In the more distant future, its probability increases. The “remote perspective” should be understood as the period in the next 3-5 years, the maximum is 10, that is, by the time of the final destabilization of the existing world order, which surprisingly coincides with the end dates of many programs of rearmament of the South Korean armed forces.
The main idea of uniting the two Koreas has not disappeared from the political agenda of Seoul, not from the public consciousness. In addition, a significant part of the natural resources of the Korean Peninsula is concentrated in the North. In addition, the unification of the country under the authority of the South will be the beginning of a new economic breakthrough for the united country, comparable to the Stalin five-year plans of the USSR, the economic take-off of post-war Germany and Japan, as well as the first "Korean miracle." The population of the North is experiencing a shortage of goods, and infrastructure, in general, must be created from scratch. So this is a battle for one of the last on the globe unoccupied markets.
1. The trump naval ace of Seoul - the destroyers of the URO class "King Sejon the Great" - are real monsters in the number of weapons second only to the Russian nuclear cruisers of the 1144 "Orlan" project. In addition to 8 anti-ship cruise missiles SSM-700K Haeseong and 32 Hyunmoo-3 cruise missiles for ground attack, destroyers of this class have in their arsenal SM-2 Block IIIB / IV anti-aircraft missiles.
2. Japan did not officially participate in the Korean War for the reason that prior to 1952, its main territory was under American occupation. But individual volunteers from the Land of the Rising Sun, mainly of Korean origin, were noted in the fighting.
3. The 90% surface part of the Pacific Fleet of the Russian Federation consists of 1980's combat ships (from strength - the beginning of 1990's) of construction. All these ships were very formidable, but again for the eighties, now they were not written off just because there is no replacement and there will not be.
4. For reference: the length of the Russian-North Korean border is only 39 km. The two countries are connected by a single railway bridge of Friendship. There are no other transitions.
5. The nearest Russian point to the possible combat zone is the railway station Hassan and the frontier post “Sandy”.