Due to the regime’s secrecy, the US military has a difficult time comprehending and planning for a future conflict with North Korea, but it must carefully assume the military’s competency and capabilities while being ready for the worst-case scenario.
The US military regularly develops contingency plans for various potential conflicts, including a surprise Chinese attack on Taiwan or a sudden conflict in the Middle East, Africa, or elsewhere. However, war-gaming a theoretical clash with North Korea presents challenges due to the regime’s isolation and limited knowledge about its capabilities and willingness to fight. Major General Michael E. Martin, the head of US Special Operations Command-Korea, admits that North Korea remains a “literal black hole” in terms of understanding its military. Despite this, preparations must be made assuming that North Korea’s military is competent, capable of communication, and empowered at lower levels. The North Korean military is ranked 34th globally, with 1.2 million personnel, a nuclear arsenal, and a robust ballistic missile program. The possibility of a collapse of the North Korean regime raises concerns about securing its nuclear stockpile, and tensions remain high between the US and North Korea, with little progress in denuclearization talks. The North Korean military’s actual fighting capabilities and reactions to threats remain uncertain, as the regime emphasizes loyalty to its leader Kim Jong-un above traditional command structures. It is crucial to approach North Korea’s military capabilities cautiously and be prepared for the worst-case scenario.