North Korea has repeatedly sparked fears of World War 3 by continuing with nuclear weapons testing despite international condemnation.
US President Donald Trump used his recent five-country tour of Asia to address the North Korea crisis, continuing his war of words with despot dictator Kim Jong-un.
Three US carrier strike groups have moved into the waters between South Korea and Japan, in a move North Korea says bring nuclear war closer.
North Korean nuclear and missile programs have got massive attention in media and rightly so. But there is one North Korean weapon which has been a major concern for U.S military planners.
In this video Defense Updates, looks at KOKSAN ARTILLERY PIECE AND WHY IT IS STOPING U.S FROM TAKING ANY MILITARY ACTION AGAINST NORTH KOREA?
SOUTH KOREA’S VULNERABILITY
South & North Korea’s capitals are just 120 miles apart, with Seoul within 35 miles of the border.
Covering only about 12% of the country’s area, the Seoul Capital Area is home to more than 48.2% of the national population, and is the world’s third largest urban area. Seoul is populated with 25 million people.
Most of the North’s artillery pieces—numbering in the thousands—are already in place camouflaged and dug in, some being very close to the border.
KOKSAN ARTILLERY PIECE
The Koksan is a throwback to a class of enormous long-range guns that proliferated in the first half of the 20th century, with a mission of cracking open the heaviest fortifications and hitting high-value targets well behind the front lines, such as ammunition dumps, headquarters, logistical chokepoints and enemy artillery batteries.
In the 1950s, these heavy guns were increasingly deployed on lightly armored self-propelled carriages, and also acquired the role of firing tactical nuclear munitions.
However, systems such as the American 175-millimeter M107 and 203-millimeter M110 were phased out of service, because their mission was superseded by the use of air strikes, tactical missiles and even improved munitions used by smaller 155-millimeter artillery.
North Korea, in the absence of advanced options have continued to use Koksan.
North Korea’s artillery piece has a range of about 25 miles (40 km), using conventional projectiles.
However, the Seoul is well within range of the Korean People’s Army rocket-assisted shells—which have a range of around 40 miles (60 km), if the guns are stationed near the border region.
Being self-propelled, 170 mm Koksan can be easily moved close to the international border and can be used to target Seoul.
Placed into hard granite mountain faces and protected behind blast doors, these Koksans will be hard to detect as well as very complicated to neutralize.
Unlike the undefended Syrian airfield struck by U.S. tomahawk missiles or the Afghan caves destroyed this month by the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used by the U.S. military, U.S. air attacks can’t quickly or easily destroy North Korean gun.
The constrained, mountainous terrain on the Korean Peninsula and the heavily fortified nature of the demilitarized zone massively favor the use of artillery.
An artillery barrage from North Korea will result in catastrophic loss of life. Most casualties from artillery attacks come in the initial moments of the barrage before the victims have a chance to take cover; therefore, a short, unexpected barrage would still inflict a disproportionate number of casualties.
In a matter of minutes, these heavy, low-tech weapons could begin the destruction of the South Korean capital resulting in massive casualties that would decimate the vibrant U.S. ally and send shock waves through the global economy.
In 2012, the Nautilus Institute published a very detailed study arguing that the threat posed by Koksan. More recently the National Interest’s Kyle Mizokami has written an article on these. Both the reports have argued that the capability of the gun to inflict human toll is exaggerated by North Korea and it won’t be able to “flattened” the city as claimed by Pyongyang.
But even the Nautilus report estimates casualties as high as 29,000 — even though such a death toll would not correspond to the city being “flattened”,it’s a massive number.
Also, the effects of panic could lead to hundreds of thousands of refugees flooding limited road networks with calamitous consequences from both a humanitarian and military point of view, as proved to be the case during the Korean War.
North Korean guns might also increase lethality, and spread chaos by making use of chemical warheads, which are believed but not confirmed to be available for the Koksan. Finally, if South Korea and the United States were compelled to expend disproportionate resources to counter the strategic artillery threat, then arguably the guns may have served their intended purpose.
Audio by Scott Leffler — scottleffler.com