Assessing The Military Options For North Korea; Spoiler Alert: They're All Bad

Tyler Durden's picture

Earlier this morning Vice President Pence offered up one of the Trump administration's most stern warnings yet to North Korea saying that the U.S. would "defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response."  Per The Hill:

"The United States of America will always seek peace but under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready."


"Those who would challenge our resolve or readiness should know, we will defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response."


"The policy that President Trump has articulated is to marshal the support of our allies in the region, here in Japan and South Korea, nations around the world, and China, who have taken the position now for decades of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula."


"Just in the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan.  North Korea would do well not to test his resolve — or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region."

The problem, however, is that while a military response may be inevitable, pending the actions of the "crazy, fat kid" (John McCain's label, not ours) running North Korea, none of the U.S. options under consideration are particularly good, specially for our allies in the region.

As Bloomberg points out today, U.S. military options in North Korea range from proactively taking out nuclear reactors to dropping bunker buster bombs on heavily fortified mountainous sites where previous underground nuclear tests have been conducted.  Alternatively, the U.S. could wait for signs of an imminent test of an intercontinental ballistic missile and prepare a strike against that specific launch and/or intercept the missile in flight.

Among the war-game scenarios at the Pentagon’s disposal are an airstrike using precision-guided munitions, launched from submarines or stealth aircraft, against the Yongbyon nuclear reactor facility, where North Korea has produced plutonium for its bombs. That was an option weighed as far back as the Clinton administration, according to two former Pentagon chiefs.


“We were highly confident that it could be destroyed without causing a meltdown that would release radioactivity into the air,” Ash Carter and William Perry wrote in a report for the Belfer Center back in 2002. That plan was seen as a worst-case scenario.


Another option would be an attack on facilities at Punggye-ri, the mountainous site in the northeastern part of the country where previous underground nuclear tests have been conducted. 38 North, a website that focuses on North Korea, said satellite images signal recent activity in preparation for another nuclear test. Evading radar, B-2 bombers built by Northrop Grumman Corp. could drop “bunker buster” bombs to try to do the most underground damage.



All that said, the key mitigating factor continues to be the inability to predict the potential reaction of, as John McCain would say, "the crazy, fat kid" who has repeatedly proven to be anything but 'predictable.'  And while launching an effective counterattack against U.S. forces or the U.S. homeland is fairly unlikely, U.S. allies in the region are far more vulnerable to potential responses from North Korea. 

Yet the overarching challenge in an attack on North Korea continues to be gauging the regime’s response. While the U.S. military might want to do something that sends a message but doesn’t start another Korean War, Pyongyang remains strategically unpredictable. Outside analysts have to scour satellite imagery, state-run media, official regime photos and interviews with defectors to glean the barest clues about life and politics in the “hermit kingdom.”


“Our ability to see into North Korea is so curtailed that we don’t have the ability to make well-reasoned judgments about what’s going on,” McKinney, the retired Army colonel, said in an interview. The U.S.’s ability to know what weaponry is even in North Korea and where it is located “is always a bit of a crapshoot,” he said.


North Korea’s unpredictability has only increased under Kim Jong Un, grandson of founder Kim Il Sung, who has had family members and top military aides killed for real or perceived slights. Even a smaller U.S. strike, like the volley of cruise missiles Trump fired at Syria this month, might generate a response that’s far from proportional.

Analysts estimate North Korea may now possess between 10 and 25 nuclear weapons, with launch vehicles, air force jets, troops and artillery scattered across the country, hidden in caves and massed along the border with South Korea. That’s on top of what the U.S. estimates to be one of the world’s largest chemical weapons stockpiles, a biological weapons research program and an active cyberwarfare capability.

And with Seoul and its 10 million residents just 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of the border -- well within North Korea’s artillery range -- any eruption of hostilities could have devastating human and economic costs.

All of which has led retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner to the following conclusion:  “In essence, there is no military option."  When pressed to confirm what plan of action he would present to Trump if forced to pick one, Gardiner simply responded: “I would resign first.”

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HowdyDoody's picture

Assessing the military options for Country X: Spoiler alert: They're all bad.

Apart from the opportunities for MIC profits.

Badsamm's picture

I've been to Camp Casey, about 10 miles from the DMZ if I remember correctly. My best friend, now a Lt. C in Army JAG, showed me his fall back position on a map if there was a NK attack- The map was blank. If your not dead in the first salvos, grab a rifle.

Say your prayers for our boys and girls.
No more wars

Haus-Targaryen's picture

I think we are going to do exactly dick.  

Our financial system cannot afford Seoul getting wiped off the map (think of all the debt that would go to zero and all the insurance companies that go bankrupt). 

We cannot afford another Korean war.  Period.  We just cannot afford it.  We lack the means of funding. This isn't 2003. 

The Chinese will not accept having Korea Unify under U.S. military protection. Unless the Chinese can put their military in a new united Korea to the same extent we can, they'll back the DPRK in any confrontation. 

The DPRK is financially unsustainable.  Its akin to Japan in the 30s after we cut off their oil.  We are trying to wait Kim Jong Un out, and he is trying to wait us out. 

At the end of the day - South Korea won't start anything because Seoul would get destroyed. North Korea won't start anything because its a death sentence.  The Chinese might start something, but they'd have to get a huge pay-day thereafter, and lets be honest -- they can afford it as much as we can. 

This is nothing but a pissing contest that allows each side to go to their own respective populations, tell them "I took care of that asshole" with some shred of credibility and things will continue as is. 

johngaltfla's picture

The problem is the fat nut job will probably get enough missiles in the air to nuke Seoul, Pusan, Tokyo (twice), Kyoto, and Yokohama. That will be the end of the Western economy, especially for the U.S. and Australia as they would be totally dependent on China for Asian trade after such an event.

Haus-Targaryen's picture

So your theory is he is suicidal? 

He isn't an idiot.  

fx's picture

My fear is that the crazy dumb psychopath, also known as John McCain, will indeed get an attack launched. I'm not sure Trump really has control over either the C!A or the Pentagon. The fat, degenerated kid in pyongyang certainly treats his people very bad. But he actually isn't really unpredictable. But McCain is. And so is, unfortunately, Trump.

Haus-Targaryen's picture

McCain is owned by the MIC and the MIC doesn't want a real fight.  They want a never-ending stream of shit-hole third-world nations we can bomb endlessly in order to justify the MIC to the idiot American sheeple without ever picking a fight we aren't guaranteed to dominate from a military perspective. 

The MIC only wants to continue to exist and leech of the tax-payers, not potentially wipe out the tax-payers or bring about the end of the world, as then they would also cease to exist. 


John Law Lives's picture

"They want a never-ending stream of shit-hole third-world nations we can bomb endlessly in order to justify the MIC to the idiot American sheeple..." - Haus-Targaryen

Considering that it doesn't seem to matter any longer who is elected POTUS these days re. the MIC, what do you propose the "idiot American sheeple" do about it?  Don't forget who actually controls the planes and tanks and ships and subs and missiles etc. in the event of large-scale civil unrest  It ain't Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public.  

Haus-Targaryen's picture

I saw a poll recently that 65% of the American population supported the bombing of Syria.  

Surely you can understand my frustration. 

Cloud9.5's picture

A poll means nothing.  Remember all the polls said Trump would never be president.  We the people do not want a war.

tmosley's picture

With China having cut off a huge amount of NoKo GDP, there is no need for invasion. They were starving before, now they are strangling.

A few months from now they will collapse unless they accede to Chinese demands.

Multi's picture

Hard to argue against nuclear proliferation when the only REAL safe card countries have for avoiding getting fucked by America is to have enough firepower to ensure mass annihilation.

Even some Libertarians of all people seem to rationalize the meddling in NK. "This is the regimen we should be changing", "These people are really suffering", "[The fat chink] said he will destroy US, and if someone is telling you he is going to punch you you don't wait to get punched before taking action", "Even if they cannot reach mainland America, they can reach US bases in the region and that's the same"...

Give me a fucking break. I hate to say it but this world policing stuff is not only a thing of the US GovernmentTM, an awful lot of American people have the same mentality.

My advise to any third world wannabe dictator: GET THE NUKES AS FAST AS YOU CAN.

rejected's picture

Polls are used as propaganda. People like to belong,,, even where wars are concerned.

That is until their loved ones return in a box.

how_this_stuff_works's picture

I can't believe nearly 7 of 10 Americans favored bombing Syria.

Certainly not of the people I know.

BarkingCat's picture

McCain is very predictable.  There has not been a war that he has not actively promoted.

EvilScientist's picture

From a military perspective trying to nuke Kyoto, Tokyo and Yokohama makes not that much sense. Except maybe Yokosuka (between Tokyo and Yokohama) if their aircraft carrier were moored. And there are anti ballistic missiles so one would have to saturate the defenses a little bit so that one of the nuclear warheads actually does hit its intended target.

But the whole discussion is moot. The nuclear weapons are there as a deterrent against an attack. Next to the conventional weapons that would destroy Seoul. Maybe it is time to short Samsung but most probably nothing will happen and buisness as usual will continue...

Hillarys Server's picture

Your logic sounds solid.

But Trump doesn't read.

He's a manager and man of action, not a reader.

Trump said he learned about the situation in China for the first time when he spoke for ten minutes with Xi.

Which means before those ten minutes those around him didn't help him to realize squat or to see the situation from the other side's standpoint.

Mad Dog didn't tell him about the truth of China, why would he tell him about North Korea.?

Haus-Targaryen's picture

He doesn't do anything and KJU knows it.  He fires off his nuke next week, and really should send D. Trump a picture of his balls. 

TxExPat's picture

I keep thinking the Chinese are key here.  If they actually did cut off oil/food imports, it wouldn't be so much a matter of IF North Korea collapsed, as WHEN.  (The other question being if Kim did something utterly insane with his military when the end became inevitable).  The forces China allegedly moved to the Korean Border sounded more "foot heavy" than mechanized.  (Much more a police force with a few motorized formations/armored brigades for mopping up localized resistance).  I can see China cutting a deal with some Korean generals, and setting up a North Korean Protectorate much more firmly under China's control.  (The South Koreans don't actually want to re-unite with North Korea, too expensive, although they would like better relations/a de-militerized border.  The Japanese mostly just don't want an insane Kim lobbing missles filled with god knows what at them, and while the US doesn't want a Kim with ICBM's, it really doesn't want a ground war in Korea either).  Pretty much all of his neighbors agree "Kim should go", question is "how can this be done at this point without trashing the entire area?...


tuetenueggel's picture

next war will not be faught with rifles. After nuked only with stones.

secretargentman's picture

I understand the sentiment but I must assume you're speaking metaphorically since rifles won't be affected by the EMP blast. 

Buck Johnson's picture

I can believe that, many US soldiers that are stationed in Korea know that it will be horrible.



Shitonya Serfs's picture

Or just take out Kim Jong Un. Don't wait to respond to something.

X- x3's picture

"....Apart from the opportunities for MIC profits."

Let me add to your analysis;

"Assessing the military options for Country X: Spoiler alert: They're all bad.

Apart from the opportunities for MIC profits for the (((Rothschilds))), (((Wall St))) & the (((MIC-Industries))).

Just take a look at the owners & directors of the american MIC.

Ain't any muslims or buhddists there.

Do your research folks!


iampreparedru's picture

Not all bad. Not our problem. Just tell China they can have SK and NK. SK problem not ours.

MFL5591's picture

Keep the sheep scraed so you can control them through the finacial collapse being orchastrated by the deep state.  

SoDamnMad's picture

Wear the NKs down. The initial arrivel (bogus one) of the 1st carrier force put them on high alert immediately. Now 2 other carrier groups are sailing.

Every day we are hammering them with signl technology and feints to see their response.  After staying in the trenches since Sun Day celebrations, these guys are going to get tired.  Tired people make mistakes. Big ones.

tuetenueggel's picture

If this comment of yours would be true :"Tired people make mistakes. Big ones." USA must be extremely tired. World calls it a bit different: stupid.

Rakshas's picture

Here's an option that hasn't been tried in a long long time...... stay the hell home and leave lil Kim alone to play in his sandbox...... he ain't really much of a threat to anyone ..... jus' sayin'

tuetenueggel's picture

sorry, but this is to sophisticated to be understood by your glorious politicians.

cstu7011's picture

"Analysts estimate North Korea may now possess between 10 and 25 nuclear weapons, with launch vehicles, air force jets, troops and artillery scattered across the country, hidden in caves and massed along the border with South Korea. That’s on top of what the U.S. estimates to be one of the world’s largest chemical weapons stockpiles, a biological weapons research program and an active cyberwarfare capability."



Name these "Analysts" please???

fx's picture

The analysts' names are meaningless. The name of their financier is what matters. You bet he will have links to soros- rockefeller- rothschild and the ultra-Zion!st scum won't be far apart as well.

BarkingCat's picture

Name these "Analysts" please???

Bill O'Reilly, Brian Williams, Anderson Cooper. .

ronaldwilsonreagan's picture

Not to worry folks Donald Jenious Trump is the only one that can save us. His expert team of negotiators will find the solution and we will all prevail as the greatest Americans that ever lived. Rest assured we have no worries here. As for non Americans you are all fucked get bent.

Hillarys Server's picture

Haha, yes. Like how he "negotiated" with Assad after the false flag attack.

I heard a recording of the negotiations. It was just "boom".

With a media comment "beautiful".

Fake Trump's picture

Carl Vinson not going anywhere. Trump's belly dancing and Pence is giving him a face-saving talk. Kim jong un will continue to test his missiles on weekly, monthly or yearly basis. I tend to believe him unlike Trump who has been flip flopping every other day changing his unstable mindset as if he is changing his underwear. His "very powerful " Amada is also not going nowhere. Trump can go ahead to cry wolfes but who cares. 

tuetenueggel's picture

Kim´s teeth are chattering of fear.

His belly is chaking with laughter . US military is very impressive.

To whome ? Don´t know. Guess to US citizens who have to pay for by taxes.

Hillarys Server's picture

“In essence, there is no military option."

He forgets our president is Trump.

And Trump's dictionary doesn't contain the word "lose" or "give up".

And his Secretary of Defense is someone named Mad Dog.

I place my chips on kinetic action by the US backed by mistaken hopeful thinking that North Korea will be so shocked and awed by American greatness that they won't fight back.

Rakshas's picture

"And Trump's dictionary doesn't contain the word "lose" or "give up"."


.... Trump Steaks, Trump University, Ivana Trump, Marla Maples Trump ............ Yeah I think he understands cutting losses and moving on quite well actually......

Kaeako's picture

If the "crazy, fat" kid is hard to predict, what are we supposed to think about El Trumpo? One moment he says one thing and then does another. When he says he has sent an armada to threaten the "crazy, fat kid" what he actually means is that the "armada" is headed in the opposite direction and taking part in some exercises with the Aussies. The guy seems completely clueless and out of it, but of course when it's El Trumpo it must be genius. The Korean fat kid supposedly does it and it's crazy.

tuetenueggel's picture

I wonder if Pentagon found it´s missing carrier Carl Vincon back ?

It´s fantastic how informed US navy is about the regions, in which their "invincible warships" are manoevering: West Australia is a little bit away from the korean peninsula I guess. Are they submitting their positions by pigeons to HQ ?

new game's picture

poof, radiation to take out east capacity. not that they were a threat, lol.

bullies carry clubs and use them...


not lol

Fireman's picture

USSA killed all the Koreans it is ever going to get the chance to kill again...with impunity. North Korea will fry Okinawa and its Pentacon Occupation, Seoul and as much of Japan as it can if Bilge Pump Don decides to pull another Ivanka BS "babies, beautiful babies" Syrian stunt. Apart from that does Chump think for an instant that China will tolerate pan handler USSA splashing about in its South China Sea, casting aspersions about China's "islands, beautiful resort islands", all bristling with the People's Army latest gear for protecting the realm against delusional interlopers living off Chinese goodwill and credit? Forget it. Bilge Pump Don and his unfortunately named "armada" will do a victory lap of the peninsula and then head home to park said armada in "mothballs, beautiful moth balls" and hope that his neocohen handlers will have enough spit dripping from their snouts to keep them snarling for the next 6 months as the USSAN economy finally crashes into depression.

X- x3's picture

You've got a wonderful way with words Fireman.



BarkingCat's picture

Those beautiful words, really beautiful. ...and the sentences were amazing,  truly amazing.

Mineshaft Gap's picture

You do know that Mike Whitney brings the credentials of a landscape gardener to his articles on geopolitics, don't you? It's nice of course that everyone, including sod layers, can make his voice heard in these matters. Next time, you might also wish to read the house painters, plumbers and roofers too, so as to get the fullest possible picture.

new game's picture

china credit. huh, try a balance stmnt and get back to us. 32T and counting. 1T treasuries, pffft, print that right up. order will ready in a moment...