North Korea War Predictions

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North Korea US believed it would 'undoubtedly win' war with North Korea in 1994 – but with huge casualties Declassified document predicted massive losses for US and South Pyongyang has since made dramatic strides in nuclear and missile technology US and South Korean warplanes fly over the Korean Peninsula during the Vigilant air combat exercise on Wednesday.

Photograph: Handout/Getty Images Declassified documents published on Friday show that the United States believed its military and South Korea’s forces would “undoubtedly win” a conflict on the divided Korean peninsula, during a 1994 standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. But long before North Korea had developed nuclear weapons, the Pentagon estimated that some 490,000 South Korean service members and 52,000 US personnel would be killed or wounded in the first three months of any conflict.

The assessment does not mention North Korean and civilian casualties, but analysts say losses would be enormous. Today, with North Korea almost able to directly threaten the US mainland with nuclear strikes, the possibility of conflict looms as it did in 1994. At that time, President Bill Clinton’s administration considered a cruise missile strike on a North Korean nuclear complex after it began defuelling a reactor that could provide fissile material for bombs for the first time.

Former president Jimmy Carter headed off a conflict, meeting with the founding North Korean leader, Kim Il-sung, and helping seal an aid-for-disarmament agreement. The pact endured for nearly a decade, despite frequent disputes and periodic flare-ups on the peninsula. “We had taken a very strong position that we would not permit North Korea to make a nuclear bomb,” William Perry, who was defense secretary during the crisis, said this week.

“We have said that many times since then, but then we really meant it.” A declassified transcript published by the National Security Archive at George Washington University records Perry’s discussion on the standoff with South Korea’s president in 1998. Perry was by then Clinton’s special envoy for North Korea. Q&A Why does the North Korean regime pursue a nuclear programme? Show Hide Much of the regime’s domestic legitimacy rests on portraying the country as under constant threat from the US and its regional allies, South Korea and Japan.

To support the claim that it is in Washington’s crosshairs, North Korea cites the tens of thousands of US troops lined up along the southern side of the demilitarised zone – the heavily fortified border dividing the Korean peninsula. Faced with what it says are US provocations, North Korea says it has as much right as any other state to develop a nuclear deterrent. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un is also aware of the fate of other dictators who lack nuclear weapons.

Was this helpful? Thank you for your feedback. Perry told the then president, Kim Dae-jung, that the US had planned for a military confrontation and that “with the combined forces of the ROK and US, we can undoubtedly win the war”. ROK refers to the abbreviation of the South’s official name, the Republic of Korea. Speaking to South Korea’s Kim, who pursued a “sunshine” policy of diplomatic outreach to North Korea, Perry said the “war involves many casualties in the process.

As a former defense secretary, I am well aware of the negative aspects of war, and will do my best to avoid war.” Since then, North Korea has made dramatic advances in its nuclear and missile development, particularly under its current young leader, Kim Jong-un. Last month, it tested an intercontinental ballistic missile with a likely range of more than 8,000 miles (13,000km), moving it closer to perfecting a nuclear-tipped projectile that can strike all corners of the US mainland.

Trump has not ruled out using force to stop the North from achieving that capability if diplomacy fails. The US has stepped up its military drills with allies, which Pyongyang condemns as preparations for invasion. This week, the US and South Korea held air force drills involving more than 200 aircraft, including six US F-22 and 18 F-35 stealth fighters. North Korea’s foreign ministry warned this week: “The remaining question now is: when will the war break out.

” Speaking at an Arms Control Association briefing in Washington, Perry urged a renewed effort at diplomacy, which he said would not get North Korea to give up its nukes in short order, but could lower the likelihood of war. He said that a nuclear-armed North Korea would not attack America but may be emboldened in military provocations against South Korea that could spiral into a wider conflict. The US could itself blunder into a nuclear war if it undertook a conventional military strike on North Korea that prompted the North to attack the South, he said.

“An all-out war with North Korea, nuclear war, even if China and Russia did not enter,” Perry said, “could still entail casualties approximating those of World War I or even World War II.”

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AdvertisementJohn Brennan, the former head of the C.I.A., estimates the chance of a war with North Korea at 20 to 25 percent.Joel S. Wit, a Korea expert at Johns Hopkins University, puts it at 40 percent.Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, says the odds may be somewhere around 50/50.Yet we’re complacent: Neither the public nor the financial markets appreciate how high the risk is of a war, and how devastating one could be.

The Congressional Research Service last month estimated that as many as 300,000 people could die in the first few days of war — and that’s if it remains nonnuclear. If there is a nuclear exchange, “there easily could be a million deaths on the first day,” says Scott Sagan, an international security expert at Stanford.Sagan says the odds of war “are certainly greater than is widely recognized by the American public.

”President Trump is traveling in Asia this week, rallying countries to strengthen sanctions against North Korea. His past efforts at this have been quite successful, and during my recent visit to Pyongyang I saw signs that sanctions were biting.President Trump at the United Nations General Assembly in September.CreditSpencer Platt/Getty ImagesBut the goal appears doomed: Almost no expert believes that sanctions will force Kim Jong-un to give up his nuclear weapons or halt his missile program.

That puts us on a collision course, for North Korea seems determined to develop a clear capacity to target the U.S. with nuclear weapons, while the White House hints that it would rather have a war than allow the North to become a nuclear threat.“Our president has been really clear about this,” H. R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, said on Fox News. “He is not going to permit this rogue regime, Kim Jong-un, to threaten the United States with a nuclear weapon.

And so he is willing to do anything necessary to prevent that from happening.”The whispers in Washington are that “anything necessary” includes airstrikes on North Korea, such as a strike on a missile as it is being prepared for launch. When I asked North Korean officials what would happen in those circumstances, they answered unambiguously: war.Tammy Duckworth, a former military pilot who is now a Democratic senator from Illinois, says that from what she hears, the chance is greater than 50/50 that the president will order a strike.

“I see a change in posture,” she told me. “I am extremely worried that we’ve moved beyond ‘Let’s prevent war’ to ‘It’s acceptable to do a first strike.’”Duckworth and other Senate Democrats have introduced legislation that would prevent the president from making a pre-emptive strike on North Korea without congressional approval, barring an imminent threat to the U.S. or its allies.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, has said that Trump told him he’d choose a war with North Korea over allowing it to continue on its course.“There is a military option: to destroy North Korea’s program and North Korea itself,” Graham told the “Today” show, relaying a conversation with Trump. “If thousands die, they’re going to die over there. They’re not going to die here — and he’s told me that to my face.

”Graham said that if North Korea continues to test intercontinental ballistic missiles, a war is “inevitable.”This may be a bluff, but, if not, war is coming, for almost every expert believes that North Korea will continue its testing.Trump didn’t create the problem, and it’s real: We should fear North Korea’s gaining the capacity to destroy U.S. cities. Eerily, on my last visit, North Koreans repeatedly said that a nuclear war with the U.

S. was not only survivable but winnable.The U.S. must now choose among three awful options: 1) A “freeze for a freeze” deal, which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seems to be pursuing; 2) Long-term deterrence, just as we have deterred North Korea for decades from using its chemical and biological weapons; 3) A conventional war that might escalate into a nuclear exchange.Security experts overwhelmingly say the least terrible choice is the deal for a freeze on North Korean testing in exchange for reductions in sanctions or U.

S.-South Korean military exercises, but at this point it’s not clear that either Washington or Pyongyang would agree to such an arrangement. Deterrence is next best, and war is the worst option. But that’s the option Trump seems headed toward.North Korea may also inflame the situation with provocations at any time, such as firing a long-range missile into the sea near Guam, or conducting an atmospheric nuclear test that would send radioactive fallout drifting toward the United States.

Trump may also shoot down a North Korean missile over international waters; that’s less provocative than a strike on North Korean territory, but I’d still expect a military response. And there’s a constant risk of miscalculations and incidents that spiral out of control.Fourteen years ago, America stumbled into a devastating war with Iraq without thinking through the consequences. This feels like déjà vu — only potentially far more devastating.

“I do believe there’s a greater risk than people appreciate,” Haass told me. “I don’t know if the odds are 50 percent, 40 percent, 60 percent, but it’s a hell of a lot more than negligible.”Advertisement

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