The River

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Is another Korean war around the corner?

Japan Inc magazine "asked FUJI TV Military Correspondent, photographer, J@pan Inc contributor and longtime Japan resident, Michael E. Stanley, to weigh-in on possible worst-case scenarios should the six-nation negotions over the Korean peninsula fail."

Here's some of what Stanley offered:

Over the last two decades, I have photographed and reported on various
aspects of the US military presence in the western Pacific region, and
have been fortunate in getting a fairly close look at the structure and
capabilities of those forces. During those years there was a sea change
in the posture of US forces –- and those of Japan –- as the threat of
the Soviet Union subsided. However, even with the emergence of a new
Russia and an effectively capitalist China, the last really "hot"
conflict of the Cold War era may be just around the corner.

The specter of a "Korean War II" has surfaced in the news in recent
months. Such a conflict is, without doubt, not only a danger to this
region -- but has a potential impact on world affairs that will far
outweigh those of recent and ongoing wars in such places as the
Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq.


North Korea has developed its own ballistic missile arsenal, and it is
obviously a bludgeon that can be used to intimidate South Korea and Japan.
However, the sea-launched Standard SM3 and land-based Patriot PAC3 --
both US-built anti-missile systems that will be supplied to Japan’s forces
as well -- will be deployed "in theater" some time within the next year,
whether the bureaucrats admit that fact or not.

Moreover, the US Air Force’s Airborne Laser (ABL), a Flash-Gordonish
system of computer-directed anti-missile lasers mounted in a 747 airframe,
will be entering a trial phase some time in 2004. While it is still
experimental, it is useful to keep in kind the two experimental –-
and impressively successful -- E-8 JSTARS command-and-control aircraft that
were rushed into Operation Desert Storm in 1991. A missile detection and
tracking system (JTAGS) has been in place in South Korea since the 90s;
coupling it with the appearance of these two new missiles and the ABL
results in a fundamental shredding of North Korea’s "missile card."

Given the mounting pressures the Stalinist state must contend with,
along with possibility of miscalculation or overreaction on either
side of the 38th Parallel, Pyongyang may well see a case of "use it or
lose it."


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