Can North Korea Defeat The Us

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Oct. 10, 2017 To Beijing’s benefit, the current standoff indirectly involves Taiwan, much like the Korean War did. By Jacob L. Shapiro Of all the parties involved in the Korean missile crisis, the most difficult to read is China. The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s almost daily platitudes about the need for a peaceful resolution do little to reveal what China’s real interests and objectives are – and what they are is multiple and conflicting.

At one level, China is concerned with the balance of power on the Korean Peninsula. China doesn’t want Pyongyang to have nuclear weapons, and it doesn’t want the peninsula to unify. But at the same time, what happens on the Korean Peninsula also affects China’s relationship with the U.S., and despite the deep economic ties between the two countries, from Beijing’s perspective that is a relationship defined ultimately by fear and mistrust.

(click to enlarge) Roots of Mistrust To understand where this mistrust comes from, we need to revisit some history. When North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, it did so without Chinese participation. What assistance China did offer before the invasion was rebuffed by Kim Il Sung’s young regime, confident as it was that it would not only succeed in its attack but that the invasion would provoke a popular uprising in South Korea as well.

North Korea’s invasion caught the U.S. flat-footed. In its panicked analysis of what had happened, the U.S. feared that the invasion might be part of a much larger attack by the communist bloc against U.S. interests. That is why two days later, then-U.S. President Harry Truman ordered the 7th Fleet into the Taiwan Strait. At the time of Truman’s order, the People’s Republic of China was less than a year old.

It was led by Mao Zedong, who was deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions toward his regime. Mao’s concerns were not unfounded. Mao remembered what happened after World War I, when, upon arrival at Versailles, Chinese delegates discovered that the U.S. had recognized a Japanese claim over Chinese territory that European powers had once held. Mao also lived through the United States’ breaking off support for the Chinese Communists – after the U.

S. had supported them in their fight against Japan in World War II – because of the Cold War. The U.S. instead poured its resources into rebuilding Japan, which had invaded and brutally occupied China during the war. In addition, the U.S. threw its support behind Chiang Kai-shek’s Chinese Nationalists in the hopes that they would defeat the upstart Communist forces. (The term “Chinese nationalists” has always been something of a misnomer – the Communists were just as nationalistic as Chiang’s forces, but that is what history has come to call them.

) Moving the 7th Fleet into the Taiwan Strait was the last straw for Mao. To him, the U.S. was the only thing standing between his Communist Party of China and the creation of a unified Chinese nation-state beholden to no one but the Chinese people themselves. But China could do nothing to avenge the slight directly. It didn’t have the military force necessary to conquer Taiwan with the 7th Fleet standing guard.

The only place China could hope to respond was in North Korea, where the rugged geography negated some of the advantages of the United States’ technological and military superiority. China entered the Korean War in October 1950, and because of China’s intervention, the Korean War ended in a stalemate that remains unresolved to this day. Cycles of History Fast forward to today, and it is plain to see that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Korea is still divided, and despite momentous growth in the economy and the military capabilities of the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan remains outside of its control. But it’s not just the strategic reality that is the same. It’s also true that for China, the North Korea and the Taiwan issue are inextricably linked. On Dec. 2, soon after the U.S. presidential election, President-elect Donald Trump did something that no U.

S. president had done for more than 37 years: He had direct contact with the president of Taiwan. It may seem a small thing, but for Beijing, this was not a trivial moment. It took Trump another two months to accept the “One China” policy – two months where Chinese strategic planners were left to wonder what the United States’ true intentions were with regard to Taiwan, and China’s territorial integrity in general.

Chinese vendors sell North Korean and Chinese flags on the boardwalk next to the Yalu River in the border city of Dandong, northern China, across from the city of Sinuiju, North Korea, on May 24, 2017. KEVIN FRAYER/Getty Images From the perspective of the Communist Party of China’s political legitimacy, Taiwan is the only part of China it has been unable to capture and integrate into its revolution.

From the perspective of China’s defense strategy, Taiwan is an island 100 miles (160 kilometers) away from the mainland that a powerful navy could use as a base from which to blockade China or even to attack the mainland. If Taiwan were to gain U.S. recognition and perhaps even host U.S. forces, what is already a Chinese handicap would become an existential threat. It would also make a mockery of China’s faux-aggressiveness in the South China Sea, and would make previous American freedom of navigation operations look friendly in comparison.

China also faced another potential threat from the Trump administration: the potential that the U.S. might block Chinese exports from the U.S. market. A trade conflict between the two sides would hurt both parties, but China was always going to be hurt more, and President Xi Jinping could not afford an economic crisis in the lead-up to this month’s Party Congress, where he will solidify his dictatorship over the country.

What China needed, then, was a bargaining chip, a way of turning its position of weakness into one of strength. Enter North Korea. China had to proceed carefully. On the one hand, China had to appear to have enough control over Pyongyang to divert the Trump administration from following through on some of its threats to redefine the U.S.-China economic relationship. On the other hand, China could not overstate its influence in North Korea such that the U.

S. could hold China directly accountable for failure to help denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. The July 2017 revelation by China’s Ministry of Defense that contact between the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and North Korea’s military forces has completely ceased in recent years was meant to underline the limits of what Trump’s bargain with Xi at Mar-a-Lago in April had bought. In reality, Xi has as little control over Kim Jong Un’s actions as Mao had over Kim Il Sung’s.

But Xi does not need total control over Kim’s regime to use Kim to China’s advantage; all he needs is for China and North Korea to share an interest in limiting U.S. power in Asia, and there is little to suggest that interest is going away anytime soon. North Korea is pursuing a nuclear weapons programs to establish a nuclear deterrent against the United States. China doesn’t have to make such moves.

It already has nuclear weapons and is far more powerful than Pyongyang. That allows China to be more pragmatic – that is, cooperative – in its dealings with the United States. But China’s pragmatism and willingness to work with the U.S. should not obscure the fact that, like North Korea, China is deeply suspicious of U.S. motives. This, in turn, is one of the major limiting factors on the U.

S. ability to attack North Korea. China has a mutual defense treaty with North Korea. And China, though it would prefer the status quo on the Korean Peninsula, does not necessarily lose if the U.S. were to try to solve the North Korea issue by force. This is because the attempt, absent some unknown technological devilry, wouldn’t work. The U.S. has tried and failed twice to win a war on the Asian mainland, and the situation in Korea hasn’t improved enough to think that the third time would be any different.

China can’t beat the U.S. at sea, and it can’t take back Taiwan, but it can beat the U.S. in North Korea. That allows China to remind the U.S. that, though Beijing may not yet be able to achieve One China, its memory is long, its patience is vast, and classes in Confucian humility are readily available to those who seek them out.

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A view of the test-fire of Pukguksong-2 guided by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on the spot, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang February 13, 2017.KCNA/Handout via Reuters Just after North Korea carried out a missile test and a high-profile assassination of Kim Jong Un's half-brother in Malyasia, the Wall Street Journal reported that the US was considering direct military action against the Kim regime.

  US President Donald Trump has apparently honed in on North Korea as his most serious external challenge, and has reportedly declared them the single greatest threat to the United States. In January, Trump tweeted that North Korean missile hitting the US, as they've often threatened, "won't happen!" But in reality, taking out North Korea's nuclear capabilities, or decapitating the Kim regime, would pose serious risks to even the US military's best platforms.

Business Insider spoke with Stratfor's Sim Tack, a senior analyst and an expert on North Korea, to determine exactly how the US could potentially carry out a crippling strike against the Hermit Kingdom.  View As: One Page Slides First, a decision would need to be made. President Donald Trump welcomes Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb.

10, 2017.AP Photo/Andrew Harnik Military action against North Korea wouldn't be pretty. Some number of civilians in South Korea, possibly Japan, and US forces stationed in the Pacific would be likely to die in the undertaking no matter how smoothly things went. In short, it's not a decision any US commander-in-chief would make lightly.  But the US would have to choose between a full-scale destruction of North Korea's nuclear facilities and ground forces or a quicker attack on only the most important nuclear facilities.

The second option would focus more on crippling North Korea's nuclear program and destroying key threats to the US and its allies.  Since a full-scale attack could lead to "mission creep that could pull the US into a longterm conflict in East Asia," according to Tack, we'll focus on a quick, surgical strike that would wipe out the bulk of North Korea's nuclear forces. Then, the opening salvo — a stealth air blitz and cruise missiles rock North Korea's nuclear facilities.

Aircraft mechanics prepare a B-2 Spirit bomber before a morning mission in Guam.US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Val Gempis The best tools the US could use against North Korea would be stealth aircraft like the F-22 and B-2 bomber, according to Tack. The US would slowly but surely position submarines, Navy ships, and stealth aircraft at bases near North Korea in ways that avoid provoking the Hermit Kingdom's suspicions.

Then, when the time was right, bombers would rip across the sky and ships would let loose with an awesome volley of firepower. The US already has considerable combat capability amassed in the region. "Suddenly you'd read on the news that the US has conducted these airstrikes," said Tack. While the F-22 and F-35 would certainly do work over North Korea missile production sites, it really a job for the B-2.

As a long-range stealth bomber with a huge ordnance capacity, the B-2 could drop massive, 30,000 pound bombs on deep underground bunkers in North Korea — and they could do it from as far away as Guam or the continental United States. The first targets... A US Air Force F-22 Raptor, 49th Fighter Wing, Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., flies over the Nevada Test and Training Range for a training mission.

Flickr/US Air Force The initial targets would include nuclear reactors, missile production facilities, and launching pads for ICBMs, according to Tack. Cruise missiles would pour in from the sea, F-22s would beat down North Korea's rudimentary air defenses, and B-2s would pound every known missile site into dust. Planes like the F-35 and F-22 would frantically hunt down mobile missile launchers, which can hide all over North Korea's mountainous terrain.

In the event that North Korea does get off a missile, the US and South Korea have layered missile defenses that would attempt to shoot it out of the sky.  Next, the US would try to limit North Korean retaliation. Thomson Reuters Once the US has committed the initial strike against North Korea, how does Kim Jong-un respond? Even with its nuclear facilities in ashes and the majority of their command and control destroyed "North Korea has a lot of options," said Tack.

"They have their massive, massive conventional artillery options that can start firing at South Korea in a split second." But as the graphic below shows, most North Korean artillery can't reach Seoul, South Korea's capital. Additionally, Seoul has significant underground bunkers and infrastructure to quickly protect its citizens, though some measure of damage to the city would be unavoidable.    According to Tack, much of this artillery would instead fire on the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, detonating mines so that North Korean ground forces can push through.

Also within range would be US forces near the DMZ. Some 25,000 American soldiers are stationed in South Korea, all of whom would face grave danger from North Korea's vast artillery installations. But the North Korean artillery isn't top of the line. They could focus on slamming US forces, or they could focus on hitting Seoul. Splitting fire between the two targets would limit the impact of their longer-range systems.

Additionally, as the artillery starts to fire, it becomes and exposed sitting duck for US jets overhead. The next phase of the battle would be underwater. KCNA/Reuters North Korea has a submarine that can launch nuclear ballistic missiles, which would represent a big risk to US forces as it can sail outside of the range of established missile defenses.  Fortunately, the best submarine hunters in the world sail with the US Navy.

Helicopters would drop special listening buoys, destroyers would use their advanced radars, and US subs would listen for anything unusual in the deep. North Korea's antique submarine would hardly be a match for the combined efforts of the US, South Korea, and Japan. While the submarine would greatly complicate the operation, it would most likely find itself at the bottom of the ocean before it could do any meaningful damage.

  What happens if Kim Jong Un is killed? North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets scientists and technicians in the field of researches into nuclear weapons in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang.Reuters/KCNA "Decapitation" or the removal of the Kim regime would be a huge blow to the fiercely autocratic Hermit Kingdom. Kim Jong-un has reportedly engaged in a vicious campaign to execute senior officials with packs of dogs, mortar fire, and anti-aircraft guns for a simple reason — they have ties to China, according to Tack.

  Jong-un's removal of anyone senior with ties to China means that he has consolidated power within his country to a degree that makes him necessary to the country's functioning. Without a leader, North Korean forces would face a severe blow to their morale as well as their command structure, but it wouldn't end the fight. "Technically North Korea is under the rule of their 'forever leader' Kim Il Sung," said Tack, adding that "a decapitation strike wouldn’t guarantee that the structures below him wouldn’t fall apart, but it would be a damn tricky problem for those that remain after him.

" Unfortunately, North Koreans aren't shy about putting their leader first, and at the first indication of an attack, Kim would likely be tucked away in a bunker deep underground while his countrymen bore the brunt of the attack.  Then the US defends. U.S. and South Korean marines participate in a U.S.-South Korea joint landing operation drill in Pohang March 30, 2015. The drill is part of the two countries' annual military training called Foal Eagle, which runs from March 2 to April 24.

REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji "If North Korea doesn’t retaliate, they’ve lost capability and look weak," said Tack. Indeed few would expect North Korea to go quietly after suffering even a crippling attack.  Through massive tunnels bored under the DMZ, North Korea would try to pour ground troops into the South. "The ground warfare element is a big part of this," said Tack. "I think that the most likely way that would play out would be the fight in the DMZ area," where the US would not try to invade North Korea, but rather defend its position in the South.

Though its air force is small and outdated, North Korean jets would need to be addressed and potentially eliminated.  Meanwhile... Wikimedia Commons US special operations forces, after stealthy jets destroy North Korea's air defenses, would parachute in and destroy or deactivate mobile launchers and other offensive equipment. The US faces a big challenge in trying to hunt down some 200 missile launchers throughout North Korea, some of which have treads to enter very difficult terrain where US recon planes would struggle to spot them.

  It would be the work of US special forces to establish themselves at key logistical junctures and observe North Koreans' movements, and then relay that to US air assets.  So how does this all end? US Department Of Energy North Korea is neither a house of cards or an impenetrable fortress. Additionally, the resolve of the North Koreans remains a mystery. North Korea has successfully estimated that the international community is unwilling to intervene as it quietly becomes a nuclear power, but that calculation could become their undoing.

North Korea would likely launch cyber attacks, possibly shutting down parts of the US or allies' power grids, but US Cyber Command would prepare for that. North Korea would likely destroy some US military installations, lay waste to some small portion of Seoul, and get a handful of missiles fired — but again, US and allied planners would stand ready for that. In the end, it would be a brutal, bloody conflict, but even the propaganda-saturated North Koreans must know just how disadvantaged they are, according to Tack.

Even after a devastating missile attack, some of North Korea's nuclear stockpile would likely remain hidden. Some element of the remainder of North Koreans could stage a retaliation, but what would be the point? "If they chose to go the route of conducting a large scale retaliation, they’re inviting a continuation of the conflict that eventually they cannot win ... Nobody in this whole game is going to believe that North Korea can win a war against the US, South Korea, and Japan," concluded Tack.

 

Wilma Lawrence

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