Alternative Futures: An Assessment of Ongoing North Korean Troop Rotations to Finland

Mr. Jason Hansa is a retired U.S. Army officer that served in Germany, Korea, and CONUS, with two deployments each to OIF and OEF. He currently works as a military contractor at CASCOM on Fort Lee, Virginia. His twitter address is @HauptmannHansa. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Alternative Futures: An Assessment of Ongoing North Korean Troop Rotations to Finland

Date Originally Written:  July 12, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  September 24, 2018.

Summary:  Finland is a fiercely independent country that has suffered the yoke of Russian occupation twice in its short history as a sovereign nation.  Unaligned with but reluctant to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Finland is very concerned of their vulnerability to a sudden Russian annexation attempt.  In this alternative future, Finland arrived at an out-of-the-box solution, to accept North Korean troops deploying to its border with Russia.

Text:  Mr. President, as we enter 2025 Finland stands ready to welcome the arrival of the fifth rotational North Korean infantry division since we formalized our mutual defense treaty in 2020.  As you recall, five years ago, we were in a very difficult situation.  Russian invaded the Ukraine to seize the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and was rotating units through Syria to both gain deployment experience and test new equipment or doctrine under combat conditions.  NATO saw the weaknesses of their Baltic flank and began stationing troops and conducting rotational operations to shore up the defense of their member states.

It is no secret Russia craves warm-water access ports, and our lack of membership in NATO put us at risk of a Russian annexation.  Our nation is still young but proud, achieving independence in the nineteenth century from Sweden that lead to almost immediate occupation by the Russians.  Independence in the twentieth century led to reoccupation in World War 2 and a failure to prepare may well have invited Moscow to occupy us again.

Five years ago, our military strength was approximately 32,000 military members on active duty, with 23,500 of them in the Army.  Our nation has compulsorily conscription and maintains a robust reservist infrastructure, with approximately 900,000 personnel available under full mobilization.  The danger to our nation—then and now—lies in a sudden Russian offensive.  If the Russians strike before we can fully mobilize, our nation is at risk of a quick overrun[1].

The mutual defense treaty of 2020 recognized we are one of the few nations with semi-open diplomatic channels to North Korea, a famously isolationist nation who, at that time, were looking to expand trade around the world.  North Korea had promised to make good on debts they owe us from the 1970s—ones we long ago wrote off—hoping proof of fiscal responsibility would lead to global investment and the lifting of sanctions[2].

In 2020 we moved carefully, knowing that others would react with surprise, anger, and possibly disgust if we struck a formal agreement with North Korea.  It took months of quiet diplomacy with our Nordic partners and NATO neighbors ahead of the announcement for them to understand our reasoning.  We understood that we would also receive “guilt by association,” and possibly even get blamed for “not doing more” during any North Korean-created diplomatic incident.

We knew that with the North Koreans being an isolationist regime, who treated their citizens with brutality, any treaty would result in our citizens demanding immediate and real humanitarian reform in the North Korean political re-education work camps.  We prepared for that reaction, working with the North Korean embassy on what to do once the agreement became public.

The gains were worth the risks.  Militarily, the size of our ground combat forces almost doubled with the deployment of a North Korean division to our border with Russia.  With over twenty-five divisions in the North Korea People’s Army and over 5 million reservists, North Korea assumes very little risk to the defense of their nation, and can maintain rotations in Finland for decades without repeating units[3].  The presence of our North Korean friends forces the Russian Army to increase the size of any potential invasion force, an action that would not go unnoticed by intelligence agencies and give us time to mobilize.  There’s an expression gaining in popularity that Finland and North Korea are two nations only separated by one country, and it’s accurate.  In the event of a Russian invasion of North Korea, our mutual defense treaty ensures Russia must worry about war on a second front – the border they share with North Korea.

The most dangerous phase of the treaty negotiations were the months between announcing it and receiving the final North Korean reinforcements: we were concerned that tensions with Russia could spark the very invasion we were hoping to avoid.  However, our gambit took the world so completely by surprise that Russia didn’t have time to do more than issue a sputtering, angry speech at the United Nations.  Since then, the North Korean deployments have gone off smoothly, leaving their equipment in-place and simply rotating the 10,000 personnel annually.

As we expected, our people demanded humanitarian changes, and the North Koreans opened their borders to us.  It was at first a very grudging admission by North Korea, the nation leery of putting their past on display to the world.  But our persistence enabled access to their now-shuttered political prisons and we provided blankets and food by the container-full during that first, harsh winter.  The North Koreans eventually agreed to our offers of asylum to their prisoners, and we moved the last of them to our nation eighteen months ago.  This mutually benefited both nations, as they showed progress to the world in shutting down their gulags, while we received an infusion of fresh blood into our nation.  We gained thousands of refugees willing to work hard for their new home and—on a side note—helping arrest our declining birth-rate[4].

Accepting the North Korean prisoners was the catalyst for the significant changes we are now seeing in that nation.  It was inevitable, the rotation of divisions through our lands showing the North Korean troops a world outside their borders and sparking the desire for a better life back home.  But our cultural influences have been wildly successful, the North Koreans laying down the initial plans to slowly convert their monolithic realm into something akin to the British model, a democracy with the Kim family as symbolic royalty.  Their introversion is turning into a fierce independence that matches ours in a kinship they’ve never had before; they are asking for our help in economic and legal domains, assistance our populace has eagerly given back.

I must point out that our economic sector isn’t completely reaching out to the North Koreans for altruistic reasons.  While our tourism industry and globally renowned businesses did lose sales in the first couple years because of our political decision, they worked overtime to show investors that our nation did not lose our values in reaching such an accord.  Now, our businesses and banks are eagerly investing in North Korea, taking advantage of an untapped labor market next-door to over one-billion Chinese consumers.

In closing, I assess that our mutual-defense agreement with North Korea has succeeded.  Not only has it helped prevent an invasion by Russia, it has let our people help the needy of another nation, let our businesses expand into a new market, and has allowed our nation to maintain and display our values while guiding another onto the path of recovery.


Endnotes:

[1] European Defense Information, Finnish Defense Forces. Retrieved 14 June 2018.  http://www.armedforces.co.uk/Europeandefence/edcountries/countryfinland.htm

[2] Yle, (2017, April 30). North Korea owes Finland millions in decades-old debt. Retrieved 14 June 2018. https://yle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/north_korea_owes_finland_millions_in_decades-old_debt/9588973

[3] Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, (May 1997). North Korea Country Handbook, page 122.

[4] Smith, L. (2017, September 20). Finland’s birth rate plummets to its lowest level in nearly 150 years. Retrieved 12 July 2018. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/finland-birth-rate-drop-lowest-level-150-years-children-welfare-state-annika-saarikko-a7957166.html

Assessment Papers Finland Jason Hansa North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Russia

Alternative Futures: U.S. Options for a Chinese Invasion of North Korea (Part 3 of 3)

(Editor’s Note:  This Options Paper is part of our Alternatives Future Call for Papers and examines an invasion of North Korea by the People’s Republic of China from the point of view of North Korea, South Korea, and the United States.  We hope you have enjoyed all three articles and many thanks to Jason Hansa for choosing to write for Divergent Options!) 

Mr. Jason Hansa is a retired U.S. Army officer that served in Germany, Korea, and CONUS, with two deployments each to OIF and OEF. He currently works as a military contractor at CASCOM on Fort Lee, Virginia. His twitter address is @HauptmannHansa. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

National Security Situation:  In an alternative future the People’s Republic of China invades North Korea.

Date Originally Written:  June 14, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  September 10, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the U.S. Secretary of Defense personally briefing the President of the United States regarding a potential Chinese invasion into North Korea, circa 2020.

Background:  The U.S. has a complicated relationship with China.  This complicated relationship spans the nineteenth century to now, including the turn of the twentieth century when the U.S. Army fought alongside allied nations inside Beijing proper to defeat the Boxer rebellion[1].

As the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has grown in power and strength, so have their ambitions.  They have worked to seal the South China Sea from the surrounding nations; they have conducted incursions into Bhutan and engaged with dangerous stand-offs with the Indian Army; they have repeatedly provoked incidents with the Japanese government off the Japanese Senkaku islands[2][3][4].

Against the U.S., the PRC has hacked our systems and stolen intelligence, intercepted our aircraft, and shadowed our fleets.  China is not a friend to the U.S. or to the world at large[5][6][7].

During the Korean War in 1950, as U.S. forces—with our South Korean and United Nations (UN) allies—neared victory, the Chinese attacked across the Yalu River, stretching out the war and quadrupling our casualties[8].

While the North Koreans in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) are also not a U.S. friend, relations with them have improved while our relations with the PRC simultaneously fell.  Our relationship with the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the south has never been stronger: we have stood shoulder to shoulder with them for seventy years, and their troops fought alongside ours in Vietnam and Afghanistan.  The South Koreans support territorial claims by the North Koreans, thus it’s a near certainty they will see an invasion of the North by the Chineseas as invasion against all of Korea.

Significance:  Our satellites confirm the movement of three Chinese Army Groups towards the North Korean border.  At best, the Chinese plan to invade the Northern provinces, seizing the majority of the North Korean nuclear launch sites and giving themselves a port on the Sea of Japan.  At worst, the Chinese will invade to where North Korea narrows near Kaechon, giving themselves the best possible defensive line upon which to absorb the almost guaranteed combined DPRK and ROK counterattack.  We estimate DPRK forces are currently outnumbered approximately three-to-one.

Option #1:  The U.S. remains neutral.

Risk:  This option maintains our currently relationship with China, and technically is in accordance with the original UN charter and our defense treaties.  If we are not asked to participate, we lose nothing; but if the ROK asks for our assistance and we remain neutral, our allies around the world will question our commitment to their defense.

Gain:  Staying neutral allows us the best possible positioning to advocate for a peaceful ending to hostilities.  Neutrality also allows our nation the opportunity to provide humanitarian aid and assistance, and as war depresses all belligerent economies, our economy will likely strengthen as international investors look for a safe haven for funds.

Option #2:  The U.S. ally with the ROK, but ground forces do not proceed north of the DMZ.

Risk:  For decades, our motto for troops stationed in Korea has been “Katchi Kapshida, ‘We go forward together’.”  If we are asked but decline to fight inside North Korea alongside our long-time South Korean allies, it may bring turmoil and resentment at the diplomatic and military levels.  The PRC may see it as a show of weakness, and push back against us in every domain using a global hybrid warfare approach.

Gain:  Option #2 would preserve our forces from the hard infantry fight that will certainly define this war, while also upholding our treaty obligations to the letter.  We could use our robust logistic commands to support the ROK from within their borders, and every air wing or brigade we send to defend their land is another unit they can free up to deploy north, hopefully bringing the war to a quicker conclusion.

Option #3:  The U.S. fights alongside the ROK across the entire peninsula.

Risk:  North Korea is a near-continuous mountainous range, and the fighting would be akin to a war among the Colorado Rockies.  This will be an infantry war, fought squad by squad, mountaintop to mountaintop.  This is the sort of war that, despite advancements in medical technology, evacuation procedures, and body armor, will chew units up at a rate not seen since at least the Vietnam War.  We will receive thousands of U.S. casualties, a wave of fallen that will initially overwhelm U.S. social media and traditional news outlets, and probably tens-of-thousands of injured who our Department of Veterans Affairs will treat for the rest of their lives.

Also worth noting is that North Korean propaganda for decades told stories of the barbaric, dangerous U.S. troops and prepared every town to defend themselves from our forces.  Even with the permission of the North Korean government, moving forward of the DMZ would bring with it risks the ROK solders are unlikely to face.  We would face a determined foe to our front and have uncertain lines of supply.

Gain:  Fighting alongside our ROK allies proves on the world stage that the U.S. will not sidestep treaty obligations because it may prove bloody.  We have put the credibility of the United States on-line since World War 2, and occasionally, we have to pay with coin and blood to remind the world that freedom is not free.  Fighting alongside the ROK in North Korea also ensures a U.S. voice in post-war negotiations.

Option #4:  The U.S. fights China worldwide.

Risk:  Thermonuclear war.  That is the risk of this option, there is no way to sugarcoat it.  The PRC has left themselves vulnerable at installations around the world, locations we could strike with impunity via carrier groups or U.S.-based bombers.  More than the previous options, this option risks throwing the Chinese on the defensive so overwhelmingly they will strike back with the biggest weapon in their arsenal.  U.S. casualties would be in the millions from the opening nuclear strikes, with millions more in the post-blast environment.  While we would also gain our measure of vengeance and eliminate millions of Chinese, the ensuing “nuclear autumn” or full-on “nuclear winter” would drop international crops by 10-20%, driving worldwide famines and economic collapse.  Short-term instant gains must be balanced with an equally intense diplomatic push by uninvolved nations to keep the war conventional.

Gain:  Quick and easy victories across the globe with a bloody stalemate in the North Korean mountains may push the Chinese to quickly accept a cease-fire and return to the pre-conflict borders.  A well-run media campaign focusing on the numbers of PRC casualties to one-child families across the world may help push the Chinese citizens to overthrow the government and sue for peace before nuclear weapons are used.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Encyclopedia Britannica. Boxer Rebellion. Retrieved 15 June 2018. https://www.britannica.com/event/Boxer-Rebellion 

[2] Guardian, (2018, May 19) China lands nuclear strike-capable bombers on South China Sea islands. Retrieved 15 June 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/19/china-says-air-force-lands-bombers-on-south-china-sea-islands

[3] Panda, A. (2017, October 22). The Doklam Standoff Between India and China is far from over. Retrieved 14 June 2018. https://thediplomat.com/2017/10/the-doklam-standoff-between-india-and-china-is-far-from-over/ 

[4] Graham-Harrison, E. (2017, February 4). Islands on the frontline of a new global flashpoint: China v japan. Retrieved 15 June 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/05/china-v-japan-new-global-flashpoint-senkaku-islands-ishigaki

[5] Nakashima, E. and Sonne, P. (2018, June 8). China hacked a Navy contractor and secured a trove of highly sensitive data on submarine warfare. Retrieved 15 June 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/china-hacked-a-navy-contractor-and-secured-a-trove-of-highly-sensitive-data-on-submarine-warfare/2018/06/08/6cc396fa-68e6-11e8-bea7-c8eb28bc52b1_story.html

[6] Ali., I. (2017, July 24) Chinese jets intercept U.S. surveillance plane: U.S. officials. Retrieved 15 June 2018. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-china-military-idUSKBN1A91QE 

[7] Kubo, N. (2016, June 14) China spy ship shadows U.S., Japanese, Indian naval drill in Western Pacific. Retrieved 15 June 2018. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-pacific-exercises-idUSKCN0Z10B8 

[8] Stewart, R. The Korean War: The Chinese Intervention. Archived 2011, Retrieved 14 June 2018. https://web.archive.org/web/20111203234437/http://www.history.army.mil/brochures/kw-chinter/chinter.htm

Jason Hansa North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Option Papers South Korea (Republic of Korea) United States

Alternative Futures: South Korea Options for a Chinese Invasion of North Korea (Part 2 of 3)

(Editor’s Note:  This Options Paper is part of our Alternatives Future Call for Papers and examines an invasion of North Korea by the People’s Republic of China from the point of view of North Korea, South Korea, and the United States.  We hope you enjoy all three articles over the coming weeks and many thanks to Jason Hansa for choosing to write for Divergent Options!) 

Mr. Jason Hansa is a retired U.S. Army officer that served in Germany, Korea, and CONUS, with two deployments each to OIF and OEF. He currently works as a military contractor at CASCOM on Fort Lee, Virginia. His twitter address is @HauptmannHansa. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

National Security Situation:  In an alternative future the People’s Republic of China invades North Korea.

Date Originally Written:  June 12, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  September 3, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the South Korean defense minister personally briefing the South Korean President regarding a potential Chinese invasion of North Korea, circa 2020.

Background:  Our nation has a complicated relationship with China, stretching back centuries.  Our geographic location has made the peninsula the battlefield of choice for Chinese and Japanese invaders, going as far back as the double Manchu invasions of the seventeenth century, the Japanese invasions of the sixteenth century, and even skirmishes against Chinese states during our three-kingdoms period in the seventh century[1].

More recently and in living memory, the Chinese Army swarmed across the Yalu River in 1950, extending the war and inflicting tens of thousands of additional casualties upon our forces.  Had the Chinese not intervened, the war would have ended with our nation forming a new unified democracy with the North, not a land with a Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and a never-ending war[2].

The Chinese have made no secret of their desire to expand at the cost of smaller nations.  Indeed, what the world calls the “South China Sea,” they internally refer to as the South Chinese Sea, a difference in terminology they point to as a misunderstanding.  But in politics and in war, words have meanings, and their meaning is clear.

Finally, while we have had periods of improved and degraded relationships with our wayward cousins in North Korea, we have always supported their territorial claims on the global stage, as they have supported ours.  Because we long for the day our nations reunite, on the international stage, both of our nations often speak with one voice.  Mount Baeku has, for centuries, been either wholly Korean or shared with our Chinese neighbors; the thought of it entirely under the rule of the Chinese due to a pending invasion is a disturbing one[3].

Significance:  Our intelligence agencies have confirmed the Chinese activation of three Army Groups on the North Korean border.  These groups have already begun preparatory movements and logistical staging, and have not issued the standard “only an exercise” proclamations.  It is clear their intent is to claim (at a minimum) the Paeku thumb, and most likely the entire ladle-handle of provinces stretching from Kimcheak north to the Russian Border.  North Korean forces are outnumbered approximately three-to-one.

Option #1:  We remain neutral as the Chinese invade North Korea.

Risk:  This option maintains our current relationship with China and North Korea.  This solution has several risks: if China wins and captures the northern provinces, they may be loath to ever return them; if the North Korean state survives the attack, they might feel betrayed by our lack of assistance, delaying peaceful integration.  If the North Korean regime collapses, we may see hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of refugees streaming across the DMZ that we will have to care for.  And, not least of all, a threatened North Korean regime may use nuclear weapons in a last-ditch effort to defend itself.  This use of nuclear weapons will no doubt bring about a vicious retaliation and devastate their land and risk effecting us as well.

Gain:  If the Chinese are able to topple North Korea, then it’s possible the remnants of the North Korean state would be equitable to peaceful reunification with our nation.  We could then, after absorbing the Northern provinces, pursue a peaceful diplomatic solution with the Chinese to return to an ante bellum border.  Our economy, untroubled by war, would be ready to integrate the provinces or care for refugees if necessary.  Finally, if the North Korea regime survived, our military would stand ready to defend against any vengeful tantrums.

Option #2:  We attack the North Koreans and knock them out of the war.

Risk:  This is an unpalatable solution, but as defense minister, I would be remiss in my duty if I didn’t mention it. 

Launching a strike into North Korea once they are fully engaged fighting the Chinese brings about several risks.  The first risk is that most of our planning and simulations are for defensive wars, or—at most—counterstriking into North Korea after degrading their artillery, air force, and supply lines.  Even engaged against the Chinese, it is unlikely the North Koreans will or can move their currently emplaced heavy artillery, which is aimed towards us.  In essence, we will be attacking into the teeth of a prepared enemy.

Our forces will also not be seen as liberators, avengers, or brothers by the North Koreans, but as vultures looking to finish off an opponent already weakened by the Chinese.  Our own people would not look kindly upon our nation launching a war of aggression, and the world at large will question if we’d made a secret treaty with the Chinese.

Finally, it is an open question if a desperate North Korea would launch nuclear warheads at us, the Chinese, or both.

Gain:  Striking the North Koreans while they are engaged fighting the Chinese means they will fight a two-front war and won’t have a depth of reserves to draw upon.  Their forces may be more inclined to surrender to us than to the foreign Chinese, and striking into the country will surely bring the Chinese pause as they will not want to engage us, and we can seek to liberate as much of the North as we could, as fast as possible, diplomatically leaving us in a better post-war situation.

Option #3:  We—alone—join the war alongside the north.

Risk:  Our Northern cousins have always agreed and supported our territorial claims on the global stage, as we have supported theirs.  No matter our differences, we are Korean and stand united against outsiders.  An invasion of their territory is an invasion of Korea.

A risk in using only our brave and proud forces to assist the North is we would lose one of our most vital military assets: our technologically advanced allies.  The defense of our nation has always been an integrated one, so to leave our allies behind the DMZ as we travel north to fight as we have never trained is a risky proposition.

Gain:  This option gains the diplomatic ability to claim this is a Korean-only situation, allowing our allies to work behind the scenes for diplomatic solutions.  This option would also not preclude our allies from enacting their defensive obligations to us: we can turn more forces to the offense if our skies are still protected by the United States Air Force.  On the ground, the terrain of North Korea is mountainous and unforgiving.  It will be an infantry war, one we are well equipped to fight, but also a quagmire our allies will be wary of participating in.  Finally, fighting side-by-side with only our cousins puts us in the best position to control the post-war reunification negotiations.

Option #4:  We, and our allies, join the war alongside the north.

Risk:  Accepting allied assistance north of the DMZ—outside of medical, humanitarian, and possibly logistical—brings with it a number of risks.  First, this option must meet with North Korean approval, or the people of North Korea themselves might rise up against the very troops hoping to save them from invasion.  Second, a wider war could bring the global economy into a crises and expand—possibly even into a nuclear conflagration—as the forces of the U.S. and China begin worldwide skirmishing.  It is no secret the Chinese strategic weaknesses are nowhere near the peninsula, so it’s a forgone conclusion the Americans would attack anywhere they found an opportunity.  A wider war could expand quickly and with grave consequence to the world.  Finally, a wider war brings with it more voices to the table; the post-war reunification discussion would not be wholly Korean one.

Gain:  The Americans, and others, would strike the Chinese around the globe and deep inside China itself, ensuring their populace felt the pinch of the war.  If managed properly, this might not only bring about a quicker end to the invasion, but maybe even spark a popular uprising that would overthrow the Chinese communist.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] New World Encyclopedia (2018, January 10). History of Korea, Retrieved 14 June 2018. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/History_of_Korea 

[2] Stewart, R. The Korean War: The Chinese Intervention. Archived 2011, Retrieved 14 June 2018. https://web.archive.org/web/20111203234437/http://www.history.army.mil/brochures/kw-chinter/chinter.htm 

[3] New York Times, (2016, September 27). For South Koreans, a long detour to their holy mountain. Retrieved 14 June 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/27/world/asia/korea-china-baekdu-changbaishan.html

China (People's Republic of China) Jason Hansa North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Option Papers South Korea (Republic of Korea)

Alternative Futures: North Korea Options for a Chinese Invasion (Part 1 of 3)

(Editor’s Note:  This Options Paper is part of our Alternatives Future Call for Papers and examines an invasion of North Korea by the People’s Republic of China from the point of view of North Korea, South Korea, and the United States.  We hope you enjoy all three articles over the coming weeks and many thanks to Jason Hansa for choosing to write for Divergent Options!) 

Mr. Jason Hansa is a retired U.S. Army officer that served in Germany, Korea, and CONUS, with two deployments each to OIF and OEF. He currently works as a military contractor at CASCOM on Fort Lee, Virginia. His twitter address is @HauptmannHansa. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

National Security Situation:  In an alternative future the People’s Republic of China invades North Korea.

Date Originally Written:  June 10, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  August 27, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the North Korean Defense Minister personally briefing his Supreme Leader regarding a potential Chinese invasion, circa 2020.

Background:  Our nation, in truth, owes our existence to our allies in China for their assistance in our most desperate hour in our war to liberate our Southern Comrades.  For this reason, many of our nuclear research and weapons storage facilities were placed within 160 kilometers of their border, to use the Chinese radar and anti-air umbrellas as additional deterrents to American adventurism.

However, our friendship with China has slowly deteriorated, often because they have not always agreed with our decisions when dealing with the U.S. and our Southern Comrades.

Moreover, since our efforts to begin improving relationships with our Southern Comrades, the U.S., and the outside world began during the 2018 Winter Olympics, our relationship with China has soured quickly.  It is also not a secret that the Chinese have welcomed and supported our existence as a buffer state between their borders and that of our ambitious Southern Comrades and their U.S. allies.

The Chinese have long desired a port on the Sea of Japan, and they have spent time and money improving the route between their mostly Korean population of Jillian province and our port-city of Rasan.  We have long-standing agreements allowing them to access our ports with little-to-no customs interference, and they fear that unification will sever their access[1].

Finally, the Chinese have been moving to consolidate territory they consider to be theirs, rightfully or not, as a means to push their dominance onto other nations.  The Chinese have entered into territorial disputes with the Japanese, our Southern Comrades, the Vietnamese, and the Indians[2].  The Chinese have long argued that Mount Baektu, the spiritual homeland of our nation, belongs to them; however, maps and treaties for centuries have either split the mountain down the middle, or made it wholly ours[3][4].  On this, our Southern Comrades agree: the mountain must not be wholly consumed in a Chinese land grab.

Significance:  Our intelligence agencies have determined the Chinese have activated the three Army Groups on our border and intend to invade within the next 48 to 72 hours.  Their goals are to seize our nuclear facilities and many of our northern provinces, most likely from Mount Paektu east to the Sea of Japan.  With most of our forces either aligned towards the south or beginning to stand down in conjunction with peace talks, we are outnumbered approximately three-to-one.

Option #1:  We fight alone.

Risk:  This is a high risk answer because we do not have enough forces in place at this time, and our transportation infrastructure will be the logical first targets in the opening moments of the war.  Our fighter jets, though we have many of them, are antiquated compared to the Chinese air forces.  We do have an advantage in geography: Beijing is close, within our missile range across the Yellow Sea.

Tactically, we would order our forces to hold as long as possible while we brought our southern army groups to bear.  We have the advantages of interior lines, more troops, a populace that is willing to bear any sacrifice against invaders, and incredibly defensible terrain.  We would have to gamble that our Southern comrades would not strike at the same time across the demilitarized zone.

However, if our nuclear launch facilities were in danger of getting overrun by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), there might be a very real choice in which we must “use-them-or-lose-them” concerning our nuclear weapons.  Millions of Chinese are in range of our weapons, including their capital, but the reprisals would be fierce, our nation as we know it would most likely not survive.

Gain:  We would show the world that our nation is strong and unconquerable, provided we won.  There is a significant chance we would not be able to move our forces in time and would have to concede our northern provinces, though our nation as a whole would survive.

Option #2:  We ask only our Southern Comrades and long-time allies for assistance.

Risk:  Our Southern Comrades have always agreed and supported our territorial claims on the global stage, as we have supported theirs.  No matter our differences, we are all Korean, and stand united against outsiders.  Asking for their support would add their technologically advanced forces to our order of battle, thousands of well-trained and motivated infantrymen plus their supporting forces, and a transportation network stretching from Busan to Rasan.  Asking our international allies—such as Sweden—for diplomatic support would put pressure on China both internationally and economically, and would be a way for our nation to gain global support for our cause and condemnation of China’s activities without their active military participation.

However, there would be no return to a pre-war status quo, no chance of our nation surviving independently.  Asking for assistance and allowing the military forces of the south into our nation and fighting side-by-side as one Korea means that, once the war is over, we would reunite as one Korea.  Finally, it can be safely assumed our Southern Comrades will not allow us to use our nuclear weapons against China, no matter what the cost.

Gain:  This option gains us the military of the South without allowing in the U.S. or other allies, maintaining the pretense of a Korea-only problem.  This allows nations that might not feel comfortable fully siding with us an option to save face by aligning with our allies and conducting diplomatic and economic battle with China while remaining out of the active conflict.  Finally, fighting side-by-side with only our Southern Comrades puts us in the best position to ensure both the survival of our regime leadership and bargain for our people as we reunite with the south after the war.

Option #3:  We ask assistance from any who offer.

Risk:  It is likely assured our Southern Comrades would immediately join with us to fend off an invasion.  It is trickier to know the actions of the Americans, among others.  The Americans would have the most to lose fighting a war with China, their biggest creditor and a major trading partner.  But it could also be offered the Americans have the most to gain, a war against China as a possible means of clearing their debt.

As problematic as accepting U.S. assistance may be, there could be other nations that bring with them a host of issues.  Our people would be loath to accept Japanese military assistance, though they have technological capabilities on par with the U.S. and China.  Accepting Russian help once again puts us in their debt, and they always demand repayments in some form or another.  We may be unwilling to pay the costs of Russian assistance down the road.

Finally, accepting outside assistance means our post-war reintegration will be shaped by nations outside of Korea.  These outside nations desire a unified Korea to meet their needs, which is not necessarily the nation we are meant to be.

Gain:  The Americans, and others, would bring with them the capability of expanding the war, striking the Chinese around the globe, and attacking their supply lines, ensuring that the Chinese populace felt the pinch of the war, not only the PLA.  This global striking would probably dramatically shorten the war and reduce casualties among our brave fighting divisions.  Additionally, the U.S. could rally the world to our cause, bringing with them military, diplomatic, humanitarian, and economic aid.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] AP (2012, August 22) NKorea’s economic zone remains under construction. Retrieved 14 June 2018. https://web.archive.org/web/20120823065244/http://www.thestate.com/2012/08/22/2408642/nkoreas-economic-zone-remains.html#.WyLBFWYUnxh

[2] Panda, A. (2017, October 22). The Doklam Standoff Between India and China is far from over. Retrieved 14 June 2018. https://thediplomat.com/2017/10/the-doklam-standoff-between-india-and-china-is-far-from-over/

[3] Lych, O. (2006, July 31) China seeks U.N. Title to Mt. Beakdu. Retrieved 14 June 2018. http://english.donga.com/List/3/all/26/248734/1

[4] New York Times, (2016, September 27). For South Koreans, a long detour to their holy mountain. Retrieved 14 June 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/27/world/asia/korea-china-baekdu-changbaishan.html

China (People's Republic of China) Jason Hansa North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Option Papers South Korea (Republic of Korea)

Alternative Futures: Options for the Deployment of Iraqi Peacekeepers

Mr. Jason Hansa is a retired U.S. Army officer that served in Germany, Korea, and CONUS, with two deployments each in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.  He currently works as a military contractor at the U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command on Fort Lee, Virginia.  He can be found on Twitter @HauptmannHansa.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  In an alternative future, the Government of Iraq in 2020 considers deploying its troops as United Nations (UN) Peacekeepers.

Date Originally Written:  June 1, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  August 6, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the Iraqi Defense Minister writing a personal options paper for the Iraqi Prime Minister, circa 2020.  This point of view assumes the Muslim Rohinga minority in Myanmar are still persecuted and an international coalition is forming to help them[1].

Background:  Our nation has been at war for nearly twenty years, thirty if our invasion of Kuwait is included.  Our military, thanks to training with the U.S. and a long war against the Islamic State (IS), is strong and has an experienced Noncommissioned Officer Corps.  Our population votes.  Our women can drive.  We are more moderate than many Islamic nations, and yet, when the people of the world look to the Middle East, they see our nation only for our troubles.  It is nearly impossible to entice foreign investment when the only image potential investors have of us is one of war.  Moreover, the international spotlight often overlooks our nation entirely.  The ongoing rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia continues to divide the world, the Palestinians continue their fights with Israel, and Egypt seems to implode every three years.  Our neighbors scare away as much investment as our own beleaguered history.

Significance:  If we are to bring our nation back into the spotlight, we must find a way to attract the world’s attention.  We must find a way to demonstrate our ability to peacefully step up and stand on the world stage.  Failure will keep our economy stagnant.

Option #1:  Iraq asks to participate in UN peacekeeping missions.

Risk:  This is a low-risk option demonstrating the strength of our military by helping others.  Dispatching troops to join UN Peacekeeping operations is a solution that will bring about some short-term media notice, but probably very little else.  Many small nations participate in UN Peacekeeping simply as a way to earn money and help bankroll their own militaries.  There is no formalized training system for Peacekeepers, nations are left to send what units they choose.  Our battle-tested battalions will serve alongside whatever troops the UN can scrounge up[2].

Gain:  Our military hadn’t conducted operations outside of Iraq since our war with Iran in the 1980’s and the 1973 October War against Israel.  Deployments with the UN will allow our forces to practice rotational deployment schedules.  It is not an easy thing, sending troops and equipment outside of our borders, and moving them in conjunction with the UN will allow us time to practice and learn without a heavy media glare.

Option #2:  Iraqi forces join other nations and conduct humanitarian operations in Myanmar.

Risk:  With no prior practice of deployments, we stand the chance of making major mistakes while in the world’s eye.  While we could swallow some pride and ask long-time allies for advice—especially our friends in Indonesia and India—neither country has a long history of overseas deployments.  We would be best served asking new friends with deployment experience, such as the South Koreans, for help, a solution that is both diplomatically palatable and socially acceptable.  Finally, we would have to assure our religious leaders and population that our military is not becoming mercenaries to serve, bleed, and die at the behest of western nations.

Gain:  Participating in a humanitarian effort, especially if we were seen working with the consultation of a friend such as India, would be recognized as a major step towards participation on the global stage.  For our population, assisting fellow brothers in Islam like the Rohinga would be a source of pride in our nation and our military.

Option #3:  Iraqi forces work alongside European nations and conduct rotational operations in the Baltics.

Risk:  This is a high-risk for high-gains solution.  First, we have always maintained a cautious friendship with Russia, as they are a major source of our military’s weapons and arms.  Aligning with Europe and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nations against them will probably close that door for decades.  Second, our people would question why we are sending our nation’s forces to faraway lands, and spending treasure (and possible lives) to fix a problem that does not concern us.  Finally, our deployment inexperience will most hurt us during this option: unlike peacekeeping operations, our forces must deploy fully ready for war.

Gain:  If we are to ask nations to invest in our country, we must stand ready to invest in the safety of theirs.  Putting our forces in the Baltics will present our nation in a favorable light to the people and businessmen of small but relatively wealthy nations.  While we lack deployment experience, we will have the entire logistical backbone and experience of NATO to draw upon to ensure our forces move in an organized fashion.  Finally, the forces NATO assembles and trains in the Baltics are among their very best.  Training alongside these forces is a cost-effective way to ensure our battle-hardened troops maintain their edge[3].

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Smith, N. and Krol, C. (2017, September 19). Who are the Rohingya Muslims? The stateless minority fleeing violence in Burma. Retrieved 14 June 2018 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/rohingya-muslims/

[2] Schafer, B. (2016, August 3). United Nations Peacekeeping Flaws and Abuses: The U.S. Must Demand Reform. Retrieved 14 June 2018 https://www.heritage.org/report/united-nations-peacekeeping-flaws-and-abuses-the-us-must-demand-reform [3] McNamara, E. (NATO Magazine, 2016). Securing the Nordic-Baltic region. Retrieved 14 June 2018. https://www.nato.int/docu/review/2016/also-in-2016/security-baltic-defense-nato/EN/index.htm 

[3] McNamara, E. (NATO Magazine, 2016). Securing the Nordic-Baltic region. Retrieved 14 June 2018. https://www.nato.int/docu/review/2016/also-in-2016/security-baltic-defense-nato/EN/index.htm

Alternative Futures Iraq Jason Hansa Option Papers Peace Missions