North Korea, for lack of a better term, is one hell of a hot mess. And its one that if South Korea and its ally the United States ever had to go to war with would create all sorts of problems.
From a leader who has more in common with the fictional Dr. Evil than any other normal head of state to rants about going to war against the United States and South Korea on an almost weekly basis to much more serious and deadly temper tantrums (like attacking a South Korean naval vessel and opening up its artillery to shell islands), one never knows what Pyongyang is capable of—just look how it treats it own people .
And that is what makes it one of the most dangerous regimes on the planet today.
But in a straight up war with Seoul and Washington, many military minds are of the opinion that Pyongyang would lose—and lose badly. Sure, North Korea could come out swinging, launching a massive strike across the DMZ, firing off a blistering artillery barrage at Seoul that would induce panic on par if not worse than 9/11 and maybe even have the guts to use those nukes the Kim regime has been threatening the world with for years. But in the end, most agree Kim Jung-un would be signing his own death certificate.
History tells us though that not all heads of state are rational actors. Our history books are riddled with the tails of dictators and rogue regimes who think they can overcome the impossible. What if Kim Jung-un one day felt he was backed into a corner—that his regime was in mortal danger—and decided to strike South Korea decisively and essentially?
While his military is not of a superpower pedigree, he could set the conditions to do an insane amount of damage quickly and create mass panic the likes we have not seen in decades—maybe just enough to give the North Korean military a slim chance at some measure of early success. And such early success could cost millions of people their lives.
This article will look at five specific weapons or capabilities that North Korea could use in a surprise attack as part of an invasion of the South. These five weapons could be used in various combinations— in one massive strike or used on their own— as the opening salvo of an invasion.
Such weapons would be used with the goal of creating fear and mass panic in South Korea— so much so that it would create adverse conditions making an effective multi-domain kinetic counterattack difficult to execute. This would help a North Korean invasion take as much early territory as possible and make the always important “fog of war” that much thicker. ROK and American forces would be fighting one of the toughest challenges ever devised— a nightmare scenario for certain.
Instead of trying to strap a nuclear weapon on a missile that might not hit its target, North Korea could decide to send multiple teams of commandos on a trip through secret tunnels under the DMZ and fan out across South Korea— all armed with nuclear materials. Their mission: to detonate deadly atomic packages in the five most populated cities of South Korea.
Their goal would not be to strike a military target, but to simply create havoc throughout the country. Pyongyang could even deliver such a blow though short or medium range missiles armed with nuclear material— no special teams or tunnels needed and no super accuracy would be necessary if all you were trying to do was hit a big target like a massive metropolis like Seoul.
Chemical Weapons :
We all know from the conflict in Syria the hell chemical weapons can rain down on a population. Unfortunately, North Korea seems to have invested considerable time and resources into developing its own stockpile of these weapons of mass destruction. According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), Pyongyang possesses the 3rd largest chemical weapons stockpile on the planet . NTIs analysis also notes that:
North Korea may possess between 2,500 tons and 5,000 tons of CW agents. The South Korean government assesses that North Korea is able to produce most types of chemical weapons indigenously, although it must import some precursors to produce nerve agents , which it has done in the past. At maximum capacity, North Korea is estimated to be capable of producing up to 12,000 tons of CW. Nerve agents such as sarin and VX are thought be to be the focus of North Korean production.
So how could Pyongyang strike South Korea with maximum impact using such deadly weapons? Well, for starters, a massive folly fired from artillery shells or missiles is always the most thought of approach. However, with a little ingenuity, North Korea could also spread small amounts of chemical weapons in some of the largest cities in the ROK using teams as I laid out above. With a little planning and ingenuity, Pyongyang could use such a plot to create panic and slow the response times of ROK and U.S. forces— a fog of war thickened by deadly chemical agents hanging in the air.