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North Korea's war strategy of massive retaliations against US attacks (Part I)
Han Ho Suk, Center for Korean Affairs
4/25/2003



[What follows is an excerpt from the abstract to a piece written by Han Ho Suk, Director for the Center for Korean Affairs. It is currently featured on Korea WebWeekly.]

1. North Korea Can Engage the US in Total War
North Korea is one of the few nations that can engage in a total war with the United States. The US war planners recognize this fact. For example, on March 7, 2000, Gen. Thomas A Schwartz, the US commander in Korea at the time, testified at a US congressional hearing that "North Korea is the country most likely to involve the United States in a large-scale war."

North Korea, which can and is willing to face up to the sole military superpower of the world, cannot be called a weak nation. Nevertheless, Western press and analysts distort the truth and depict North Korea as an "impoverished" nation, starving and on the brink of imminent collapse. An impoverished, starving nation cannot face down a military superpower. Today few nations have military assets strong enough to challenge the US military. Russia, though weakened by the collapse of the Soviet Union, has enough assets to face up to the US. China, somewhat weaker than Russia, too, has strong military that can challenge the US. However, both Russia and China lack the political will to face down the US.

In contrast, North Korea has not only the military power but also the political will to wage total war against the United States. North Korea has made it clear that it will strike all US targets with all means, if the US mounted military attacks on North Korea. That North Korea's threat is no bluff can be seen from the aggressive actions taken by North Korea since the Korean War armistice, most recent of which is North Korea's attempt to capture an American spy plane. In the morning of March 1, 2003, an American RC-132S spy plane, Cobra Ball, took off from a US airbase in Okinawa, and cruised along the East coast of North Korea collecting electronic signals. The US intelligence suspected that North Korea was about to test a long-range missile and the plane was there to monitor the suspected missile launch.

When the US plane reached a point about 193 km from the coast of North Korea, two MiG-29 and two MiG-21 fighter planes showed up unexpectedly. The North Korean planes approached within 16 m and signaled the US plane to follow them. The US pilot refused to follow the command and left the scene posthaste. The US plane was tailed by the hostiles for about 22 min but let the US spy plane go. There are two key points to be observed here.

First, the hostile planes waited for the US plane at the Uhrang airbase, located about 200 km from the point of air encounter. They knew that the US plane was coming. The North Korean planes flew 200 km to intercept the US plane. Did the US plane see them coming? If it did, why no evasive action? After intercepting the US plane, the hostile planes dogged it for 22 min. Why no American planes for the rescue? The US crew must have informed the base of the danger they were in, but no action was taken by the base. If Kim Jong Il had given the command, the MiGs would have shot down the US plane and returned to their base before the US could have scrambled war planes.

Second, North Korea intercepted an American spy plane flying 200 km from its coast. According to the international norm, a nation's territorial air space extends 19 km from its coast line. The US is the exception and claims air space of 370 km from its coast line; any foreign airplane violating this extended air space is challenged or shot down by the US military.

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