May 15, 2015

South Korean "Kill Chain" Preemptive Strike on North Korea - Problems

A South Korean preemptive ("Kill Chain") strike on North Korea would be even more complicated and dangerous than described below. To what extent would the US, Russia, China and Japan become embroiled? Note that the map may be dated 2008 as many of the orbat and budget figures are dated 2005-6 and US carrier Kitty Hawk is listed (even though decommissioned 2009). Still the locations in North Korea appear still accurate. (Click National Post to then expand image)

In relation to North Korea’s developing nuclear ballistic missile and submarine launch capabilities South Korean preemptive strike (“Kill Chain”) doctrine is under pressure. Kill Chain may be obsolete with the possibility that eventual South Korean nuclear deterrence will be needed to replace it. Over the next three days I will write three articles on this issue. This is the first.

South Korea has been pushing for an indigenous nuclear deterrence capability since the early 1970s however US pressure and promises have been sufficient for South Korea to accept US extended nuclear deterrence. Nevertheless South Korea is more advanced in ballistic missile development than is generally known. 

The pressure on South Korea’s leadership of North Korea's action over the last week is reflected in Korea Joongang Daily’s, May 13, 2015 article "Park calls for a response to North’s launch" President Park is seeking an expansion of preemptive strike sensor infrastructure to handle the emerging North Korean SLBM threat.

The process and requirements of Kill Chain premptive strike were summarised by Professor Choi Jong-kun of Yonsei University, Seoul in 2013. Under this doctrine the South Korean (with presumably US assistance) intelligence and military establishment would need to react to North Korea in order to:

“1. Within one minute, South Korean intelligence must pick up signals that North Korea intends to attack preemptively; and

2. Within one minute, South Korea must establish what and where North Korea intends to attack preemptively; and

3. Within three minutes, the supreme commander of the South Korean military must be able to hand down an order to strike preemptively against North Korean targets; and

4. South Korea must attack the relevant sites in North Korea before North Korea has time to launch its own attack; and

5. South Korea must be able to establish whether its initial strikes were sufficient to eliminate the source of the intended North Korean strike; and

6. South Korea must be capable of responding to immediate North Korean counterstrikes from elsewhere."

Problems with South Korean Kill Chain preemptive strike include:

-  The role of civilian South Korean authority particularly President Park in the chain of command and decision making?

-  The role of the US military and civilian authorities? South Korea needs complete confidence that US compliance and involvement in the Kill Chain will be nearly instant.

-  South Korea and the US need complete confidence that China would allow a preemptive strike on its client-buffer state North Korea.

-  Kill Chain requires perfect knowledge that North Korea wishes to launch a major strike against South Korea. By major this means that at least one nuclear (not conventional high explosive or chemical?) missile is about to be launched at South Korea (not Japan).

-  the problem of only one nuclear missile but (say) 100+ decoy high explosive missiles?

-  All the North Korea missiles must be destroyed on their launch platforms or shot down and all NK submarines, warships, air force aircraft and disguised North Korea “civilian” ships or "civilian" aircraft capable of firing nuclear tipped ballistic OR cruise missiles or bombs must be destroyed.

-  These shoot downs and sinkings must be as close to instant and simultaneous as possible. In that regard South Korean cruise missiles might be far too slow for the job.

Without perfect knowledge South Korea could make a situation where North Korea is merely debating the notion of a strike OR only wishes a conventional missile/bomb strike a nationally fatal act be South Korea

Where South Korea commits what might be considered an unnecessary preemptive "Pearl Harbor" attack will that make South Korea an international outcast? 

An unfounded South Korea preemptive strike would almost guarantee a massive nuclear response to South Korea (and perhaps Japan) or total North Korea desire to build a nuclear response in future.

Unless regime change to North Korea took place a South Korean preemptive strike would just be the beginning of further hostilities.

The second article will be on South Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear history and future intentions. The third article will be on the extention of the Kill Chain to SLBM capable submarines. 

Connect with North Korea's alleged new SINPO class submarine and missile test, May 13, 2015 (below).



Turtle said...

I think, SK is strongly influenced by Israel's Six Day War.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Turtle

Certainly there are some parallels but a major nuclear difference. In 1967 Israel launched a devastating preemptive strike against a non-nuclear Egypt.

So a critical difference regarding South Korea is that North Korea could respond to a preemptive strike with nuclear weapons straight away or in years to come.

If Egypt had had nuclear weapons Israel may have never risked launching its preemptive stike.