StratRisk | May 28, 2012
U.S. Special Forces have been parachuting into North Korea to spy on Pyongyang’s extensive network of underground military facilities. That surprising disclosure, by a top U.S. commando officer, is a reminder of America’s continuing involvement in the “cold war” on the Korean peninsula – and of North Korea’s extensive preparations for the conflict turning hot.
In the decades since the end of the Korean War, Pyongyang has constructed thousands of tunnels, Army Brig. Gen. Neil Tolley, commander of U.S. Special Operations Forces in South Korea, said at a conference in Florida last week. Tolley said the tunnels include 20 partially subterranean airfields, thousands of underground artillery positions and at least four tunnels underneath the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas. “We don’t know how many we don’t know about,” Tolley said.
“The entire tunnel infrastructure is hidden from our satellites,” Tolley added. “So we send [Republic of Korea] soldiers and U.S. soldiers to the North to do special reconnaissance.” Tolley said the commandos parachute in with minimal supplies in order to watch the tunnels without being detected themselves.
Tolley outlined new equipment he said would boost the spies’ capabilities without giving them away to North Korean troops. For starters, he said his men could use a lightweight sensor able to “characterize what’s in a facility from standoff distance.” In addition, the commandos would benefit from a high frequency radio whose signal can’t be tracked back to its origin. Finally – and most dramatically – Tolley said a wireless power transmission system would allow his troops to jump into North Korea without heavy loads of batteries for their radios and other gear.