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I just recently watched the film Murder at 1600 on TV. Part of the side-plot involves a USAF E-3 plane being shotdow over North Korea and the airmen being held prisoner. The hawkish U.S. military generals want to wage war with North Korea unless they handover the prisoners peacefully. However, the current U.S. President refuses to wage war, instead choosing to negotiate with DPRK for the handover. Of course, this would set the stage for a silent coup (if you watch the film, you'd know).

Now if this was in real life and this occurred under the Clinton Administration, how would Clinton react to North Korea keeping the airmen as POWs? If Clinton chooses to go to war, how would this Second Korean War playout.

For one, the Clinton White House did plan a unilateral attack on the Yongbyon Nuclear Reactor in 1994 but backed out. Keep in mind this is 1997 wherein the U.S. is currently enjoying sole superpower status after the dissolution of the USSR, China still recovering from the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests, recently backed out from the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis , and definitely not in the position to fight for North Korea. More importantly, North Korea still does not have nukes.
 
This could possibly go pretty badly for North Korea. China and the US, two nuclear powers, fighting would be dangerous; China directly intervening, especially after what you said, would probably not happen. It is possible that China might send aid (food, weapons, resources, etc.) to North Korea, though. A lot of this factors into how much of a threat China sees the US being ITTL. An interesting scenario nonetheless.
 
This could possibly go pretty badly for North Korea. China and the US, two nuclear powers, fighting would be dangerous; China directly intervening, especially after what you said, would probably not happen. It is possible that China might send aid (food, weapons, resources, etc.) to North Korea, though. A lot of this factors into how much of a threat China sees the US being ITTL. An interesting scenario nonetheless.

Weren't US forces in South Korea down to about 50,000 at this point? With the ROK army having ten times that on the DMZ and the North Koreans about the same as South Korea but facing south?

That is, wouldn't attacking North Korea with only the US forces available be suicidal? The fortifications along the DMZ had been being improved for 45 years or so at this point, and they had been no joke in 1953. Short of expending a major percentage of the US tactical nuclear arsenal that is just too tough a nut to crack without spending a lot of very public time trouble and effort to send a bigger army than the USA could spare. That is assuming they didn't have to restart the draft and raise the army from scratch.

Yes, Clinton could try to order the South Korean Army to join in, but what if the political leadership in Seoul says no? Certainly, the whole thing would be a political nightmare, with the public and political leadership in the ROK protesting/refusing to co-operate in starting a war without their interests even being considered. All this over one plane's crew? The north capturing the USS Pueblo - https://www.npr.org/2018/01/23/580076540/looking-at-the-saga-of-the-uss-pueblo-50-years-later - and holding the 83 man crew didn't justify war, why this?
 
Weren't US forces in South Korea down to about 50,000 at this point? With the ROK army having ten times that on the DMZ and the North Koreans about the same as South Korea but facing south?

That is, wouldn't attacking North Korea with only the US forces available be suicidal? The fortifications along the DMZ had been being improved for 45 years or so at this point, and they had been no joke in 1953. Short of expending a major percentage of the US tactical nuclear arsenal that is just too tough a nut to crack without spending a lot of very public time trouble and effort to send a bigger army than the USA could spare. That is assuming they didn't have to restart the draft and raise the army from scratch.

Yes, Clinton could try to order the South Korean Army to join in, but what if the political leadership in Seoul says no? Certainly, the whole thing would be a political nightmare, with the public and political leadership in the ROK protesting/refusing to co-operate in starting a war without their interests even being considered. All this over one plane's crew? The north capturing the USS Pueblo - https://www.npr.org/2018/01/23/580076540/looking-at-the-saga-of-the-uss-pueblo-50-years-later - and holding the 83 man crew didn't justify war, why this?
The U.S. had 35,663 troops in South Korea as of 1997 according to Heritage Report. This was used as the source for Wikipedia article on the USFK.

Clinton would probably convince the South Koreans about North Korea's nuclear program, which did not have nuclear weapon as of 1997. In 1994, the Clinton Administration did consider attacking the Yongbyon nuclear reactor but ultimately backed out knowing the North Korean artillery and chemical weapons would be fired at Seoul after the F-117 precision strike. It would take an insane amount of pressure to let the ROK join the war just for a few airmen.

Here's an archive from the U.S. State Department on the ROK:
https://1997-2001.state.gov/regions/eap/fs_us_so_korea_relations.html
 
Weren't US forces in South Korea down to about 50,000 at this point? With the ROK army having ten times that on the DMZ and the North Koreans about the same as South Korea but facing south?

That is, wouldn't attacking North Korea with only the US forces available be suicidal?
Why would the USA keep the forces in Korea at 50,000 rather than deploying more if war broke out?
The fortifications along the DMZ had been being improved for 45 years or so at this point, and they had been no joke in 1953. Short of expending a major percentage of the US tactical nuclear arsenal that is just too tough a nut to crack without spending a lot of very public time trouble and effort to send a bigger army than the USA could spare. That is assuming they didn't have to restart the draft and raise the army from scratch.
If the Chinese got involved (beyond their usual propping up the regime) that would be the case. Otherwise the US military was more than capable of utterly destroying the North Korean one, although casualties on both sides would make it a very bloody affair.

Yes, Clinton could try to order the South Korean Army to join in, but what if the political leadership in Seoul says no? Certainly, the whole thing would be a political nightmare, with the public and political leadership in the ROK protesting/refusing to co-operate in starting a war without their interests even being considered. All this over one plane's crew? The north capturing the USS Pueblo - https://www.npr.org/2018/01/23/580076540/looking-at-the-saga-of-the-uss-pueblo-50-years-later - and holding the 83 man crew didn't justify war, why this?
Clinton isn't stupid enough to try to order a sovereign nation to do anything. The USS Pueblo incident happened when the USA was bogged down in Vietnam and facing anti-war protests. In 1997, the USA was high on the victory in the Cold War, and did not have the war weariness that resulted from the wars in the Middle East. With that being said, even though South Korea has usually been more hawkish than the USA on the North Korea issue, 1997 was an exception and at this point South Korea was pursuing the Sunshine Policy. It would take more than that to get their support. I can't see the USA doing anything without South Korean support, because anything bad enough to make the country willing to go to war over South Korea's objections would also probably make South Korea not object, and that something would have to be more than taking a few aviators hostage.
 
Clinton isn't stupid enough to try to order a sovereign nation to do anything. The USS Pueblo incident happened when the USA was bogged down in Vietnam and facing anti-war protests. In 1997, the USA was high on the victory in the Cold War, and did not have the war weariness that resulted from the wars in the Middle East. With that being said, even though South Korea has usually been more hawkish than the USA on the North Korea issue, 1997 was an exception and at this point South Korea was pursuing the Sunshine Policy. It would take more than that to get their support. I can't see the USA doing anything without South Korean support, because anything bad enough to make the country willing to go to war over South Korea's objections would also probably make South Korea not object, and that something would have to be more than taking a few aviators hostage.
The U.S. is definitely undisputed global power in 1997. Fresh-off from Desert Storm, it avenged the Vietnam War syndrome. An interesting question here would be how would the crisis in the Balkans and the NATO intervention there be affected over this.
 
'SIR! US servicemen have been captured over north Korea!'
'well shoot. How many?'
'Three, sir.'
'I guess there's only one thing to do.'
'play your saxophone sir?'
'nope.'
'publicly demand their return, privately arrange a prisoner exchange?'
'no sirree.'
'negotiate their return in exchange for sanctions relief?'
'nuh-nuh.'
'what then sir?'
'Re start the draft, deploy all available forces, declare war and bring democracy overnight.'
'sir?'
'yup?'
'how do you spell impeachment?'
'not again...'
 
This would need buy in from South Korea and Japan and logistically any such action would have to involve them - even if only Logistically and Geographically
 
'SIR! US servicemen have been captured over north Korea!'
'well shoot. How many?'
'Three, sir.'
'I guess there's only one thing to do.'
'play your saxophone sir?'
'nope.'
'publicly demand their return, privately arrange a prisoner exchange?'
'no sirree.'
'negotiate their return in exchange for sanctions relief?'
'nuh-nuh.'
'what then sir?'
'Re start the draft, deploy all available forces, declare war and bring democracy overnight.'
'sir?'
'yup?'
'how do you spell impeachment?'
'not again...'
This would need buy in from South Korea and Japan and logistically any such action would have to involve them - even if only Logistically and Geographically
Just a reminder it was also under Clinton when the U.S. displayed the largest show of force in Asia since the Vietnam War in the defense of Taiwan. I wonder what he will do for those USAF airmen.
 
Just a reminder it was also under Clinton when the U.S. displayed the largest show of force in Asia since the Vietnam War in the defense of Taiwan. I wonder what he will do for those USAF airmen.
I mean, Clinton was not an idiot. Randy and economical with the truth, but no idiot. A war means thousands dead, first among them those airmen who will be tortured to death as soon as the first scud hits a bunker. Sacrifice thousands, risk war with China (they're weakened but would they tolerate is forces on their borders?) And still don't get the men back? Madness.
 
I mean, Clinton was not an idiot. Randy and economical with the truth, but no idiot. A war means thousands dead, first among them those airmen who will be tortured to death as soon as the first scud hits a bunker. Sacrifice thousands, risk war with China (they're weakened but would they tolerate is forces on their borders?) And still don't get the men back? Madness.
I see your point. I guess he'll let Jimmy Carter do the talking like what he did in 1994 regarding the Yongbon nuclear reactor.

Also, China in the 1990s was still recovering from Tiananmen Square and was not in the position to challenge the U.S. The Third Taiwan Strait Crisis proved the PLA could not take on the might of the U.S. alone.
 
If people were sensible when national pride was on the line, Japan would have been neutral or allied in WWII. Fighting a land war on your doorstep is different to a naval engagement, and China was a nuclear power, so Clinton would be wary. He talked tough when needed and was no isolationist or dove, but he was no senseless hawk either. A war to knock out the capabilities of a rogue soon to be nuclear power? Worth the risk, possibly. A war to save three guys who will die if you go to war? Not worth the risk. He'd be more hated than Nixon.

Yes, I imagine Carter is used as a front and centre guy. Behind the scenes the us gives limited concessions to Pyongyang, in return for their safe release, or swaps a prisoner. Alternatively, they get China to apply pressure in return for us investment.
 
I just recently watched the film Murder at 1600 on TV. Part of the side-plot involves a USAF E-3 plane being shotdow over North Korea and the airmen being held prisoner.
That the film is badly researched enough to have an E-3 that operates well away from enemy airspace shot down actually over North Korea should really give you pause for thought about the accuracy of the rest of premise.
 
Weren't US forces in South Korea down to about 50,000 at this point? With the ROK army having ten times that on the DMZ and the North Koreans about the same as South Korea but facing south?

That is, wouldn't attacking North Korea with only the US forces available be suicidal? The fortifications along the DMZ had been being improved for 45 years or so at this point, and they had been no joke in 1953. Short of expending a major percentage of the US tactical nuclear arsenal that is just too tough a nut to crack without spending a lot of very public time trouble and effort to send a bigger army than the USA could spare. That is assuming they didn't have to restart the draft and raise the army from scratch.

Yes, Clinton could try to order the South Korean Army to join in, but what if the political leadership in Seoul says no? Certainly, the whole thing would be a political nightmare, with the public and political leadership in the ROK protesting/refusing to co-operate in starting a war without their interests even being considered. All this over one plane's crew? The north capturing the USS Pueblo - https://www.npr.org/2018/01/23/580076540/looking-at-the-saga-of-the-uss-pueblo-50-years-later - and holding the 83 man crew didn't justify war, why this?
I was assuming that the US would bulk up its forces in South Korea prior to a war if there was a catalyst for one.
 
That the film is badly researched enough to have an E-3 that operates well away from enemy airspace shot down actually over North Korea should really give you pause for thought about the accuracy of the rest of premise.
Maybe the North Korea SAM systems just got lucky just how like the Serbian SAM was able to shoot down an F-117 Nighthawk on March 27, 1999.
 
Maybe the North Korea SAM systems just got lucky just how like the Serbian SAM was able to shoot down an F-117 Nighthawk on March 27, 1999.
That was during an active war in which the F-117 had to fly over enemy airspace to do its mission, all while following poor operational procedures that made it significantly more likely that it could be identified and shot down. By contrast, an E-3 would be nowhere near the front lines and so even if the North Koreans somehow manage to hit it the crew ought to be bailing out over friendly territory. The scenario would make much more sense if it was an EC-135 or something of that sort that accidentally intrudes into North Korean airspace and is then intercepted and forced down by North Korean air forces.
 
That the film is badly researched enough to have an E-3 that operates well away from enemy airspace shot down actually over North Korea should really give you pause for thought about the accuracy of the rest of premise.

Hello? How many films do ANY research for a simple plot-point? :)

Maybe the North Korea SAM systems just got lucky just how like the Serbian SAM was able to shoot down an F-117 Nighthawk on March 27, 1999.

The "F"-117 is a ground attack aircraft that has to fly within glide range of the target, so essentially less well protected (and armed) A-10. The E-3 is a Airborne Warning and Surveillance aircraft that has a radar range of several hundred miles and NEVER flies near contested airspace or without escort. (And don't get me started on something like "Independence Day" where you send one to visually ID a target...) It doesn't and won't fly within range of a SAM and a really simple and easy bit of research would have shown that. Now an ELINT or such aircraft MIGHT get close enough but normally they'd need to use a fighter and get out over international waters to have a 'shot' at such assets. (And have attack boats standing by to grab the survivors as well. Not that there WOULD be any from a shoot-down as the E-3 wasn't exactly 'escapable' from in a shoot-down. Hell they quit carrying parachutes in the early 90s anyway)

What would happen is most likely what tended to happen at the time anyway. Clinton would demand the return of the crew and authorize a major show of force to back it up. The Republican Congress would veto the show of force in closed session and then publicly complain that Clinton wasn't doing anything about it. They would then agree to launch some cruise missiles on selected targets while getting China and Russia to put pressure on NK to give up the survivors. NK would make a show of 'resistance' until they got some closed-door concessions and then make a big display of returning the survivors.

That was during an active war in which the F-117 had to fly over enemy airspace to do its mission, all while following poor operational procedures that made it significantly more likely that it could be identified and shot down. By contrast, an E-3 would be nowhere near the front lines and so even if the North Koreans somehow manage to hit it the crew ought to be bailing out over friendly territory. The scenario would make much more sense if it was an EC-135 or something of that sort that accidentally intrudes into North Korean airspace and is then intercepted and forced down by North Korean air forces.

What he said :)

Randy
 
What would happen is most likely what tended to happen at the time anyway. Clinton would demand the return of the crew and authorize a major show of force to back it up. The Republican Congress would veto the show of force in closed session and then publicly complain that Clinton wasn't doing anything about it. They would then agree to launch some cruise missiles on selected targets while getting China and Russia to put pressure on NK to give up the survivors. NK would make a show of 'resistance' until they got some closed-door concessions and then make a big display of returning the survivors.
As for the show of force, he basically did that in the Third Taiwan Strait crisis, sending the USS Independence and the USS Nimitz to deter the PLA-N. A similar deployment can be seen here. This would probably be enough to pressure Kim Jong-il for the release of the American airmen.
 
General Luck (commander of US forces in South Korea) told Clinton in 1994 that a conventional war would cost 52,000 American casualties, 490,000 South Korean casualties and countless North Korean military and civilian casualties within the first 90 days.

This isn’t factoring in any use of chemical or biological weapons North Korea had at the time.
 
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As for the show of force, he basically did that in the Third Taiwan Strait crisis, sending the USS Independence and the USS Nimitz to deter the PLA-N. A similar deployment can be seen here. This would probably be enough to pressure Kim Jong-il for the release of the American airmen.

Just so we're clear, Congress cared about China, they didn't about North Korea :) They ranked it as somewhere around the priority of the Middle East at the time which is what I was using as an example. A major possible issue with China was important enough to override politics, a few American's (especially military members) in North Korean hands, (much like Americans in the Middle East or military being killed) was not. Granted it's not 'just' a Republican thing but in general unless it's a high priority "enemy" American politics will try and avoid a major conflict until 'their' President is in the White House for maximum effect.

General Luck (commander of US forces in South Korea) told Clinton in 1994 that a conventional war would cost 52,000 American casualties, 490,000 South Korean casualties and countless North Korean military and civilian casualties within the first 90 days.

This isn’t factoring in any use of chemical or biological weapons North Korea had at the time.

Ya, it's that specific "conventional" tag that's the key. Nobody expected North Korea to stick to 'conventional' weapons and by policy that would mean the US wouldn't either. Nuclear weapons haven't really changed anything in the formula other than to make the average American more aware of and pay attention more to what goes on over there. The base assumption is still that it will be a death-ride no matter who starts it and both sides are going to assume and act on that fact from the get-go.

Randy
 
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