The image of a second Korean War suggests an apocalyptic scenario in which a fanatical North Korean Army rolls south behind a curtain of massive artillery barrages to overwhelm the American and South Korean defenses by weight of numbers and extreme will. However, some analysts are taking a second look and are discovering that North Korea has inherent weaknesses that may inhibit its ability to fight. Also, South Korea may decline to play the game of a war of attrition and take a page from General Douglas MacArthur’s playbook to rapidly win a second Korean War.

Is North Korea too hungry to fight?

The recent defection of a North Korean soldier under fire from his own comrades illustrates one of the weaknesses of that country’s armed forces. The man was found to be malnourished and riddled with parasites, hardly an excellent condition to be in to endure sustained combat, especially with supply lines under constant attack from the air.

North Korea has starved its people to maintain a massive military establishment and pay for its nuclear and missile weapons buildup. Now, thanks to sanctions and a drought, the country is even having trouble feeding its army. Troops are being instructed to steal corn from civilians. North Korean women soldiers have stopped menstruating due to malnutrition and stress.

The South Korean Marines preparing an end run

Meanwhile, the South Korean Marine Corps has developed the capability to land a combat battalion anywhere it chooses on the Korean Peninsula, more in fact if it has access to American amphibious ships. The idea that as soon as North Korea commits all of its resources to a drive south, South Korea lands a force at Wonsan on the North Korean coast, rapidly builds up a beachhead, and then rolls to Pyongyang to decapitate the North Korean leadership and thus bring the war to a rapid conclusion.

The model is General Douglas MacArthur’s landing at Inchon during the first Korean War that cut off the North Korean Army that had almost overrun South Korea, sending it reeling. The maneuver would have worked to end the war in 1950 had China not intervened.

To be sure, a second Korean War would still be a bloody affair. North Korean artillery could still reduce South Korea’s capital of Seoul to rubble if it is not quickly suppressed by American and allied air power.

However, a North Korean invasion of the south would have only one outcome, the utter and total defeat of the Pyongyang regime and a likely reunification of the peninsula with all of the geopolitical ramifications that implies.