North Korea and Deterrence at Sea
This chapter examines how North Korea and its navy, the KPN, have influenced ROKN modernisation. It demonstrates that the long deterrent standoff on the Korean Peninsula has resulted in a dynamic where both sides are continuously adjusting to changes in each other’s capabilities and operations. South Korea’s current superiority in terms of resources make such adjustments easier, enabling them to react quicker and modernise faster than their North Korean opponents. However, this dynamic is not without cost, the sinking of the Cheonan highlights the dangerous nature of operations in the Korean littoral and the complexities of maintaining deterrence against an unpredictable opponent. This chapter first discusses the operational geography in the littoral waters of the Korean Peninsula. The chapter then turns to the nature of deterrence at sea and the lessons provided by three surface clashes that occurred between 1999 and 2009. Next, the chapter addresses how the ROKN has attempted to adjust to the various threats that the KPN poses including the challenge of submarine warfare. The chapter concludes by highlighting the operational advantages that the multi-functional platforms introduced under the blue-water modernisation program provide the ROKN in the littoral waters of the peninsula.