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North Korea is an isolated, impoverished but highly militarised state. Its leadership has one essential goal - survival. That is why they have placed huge resources in their nuclear and missile programmes as the ultimate insurance policy for the regime.
Any use of its nuclear capability would be catastrophic - especially so for North Korea itself. The regime would not survive the ensuing conflict.
But this awful prospect is not necessarily the immediate worry. It is the threat of the escalating war of words between Washington and Pyongyang moving from rhetoric to reality.
North Korea is a country that has episodically resorted to the use of force in the past and could do so again. In March 2010 it is believed to have sunk a small South Korean warship. In the same year its artillery shelled a South Korean island and if this current crisis does go hot, it is likely to be South Korea that is on the receiving end of the North's anger.
North Korea's military has the numerical advantage over the South and is deployed close to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) marking the boundary between the two Koreas. It is frequently suggested that North Korean artillery and rocket forces (its strongest card) could level the South Korean capital Seoul within hours of the outbreak of a conflict.
This is not actually so. Seoul is some 40km (24 miles) from the DMZ and can only be reached by the North's longest range artillery pieces. Their firing would betray their positions - many of them are not very mobile - and this would leave them vulnerable to attack by the South.
South Korea has by far the qualitative edge and it is of course backed up by the extensive strike power of the US military. Any reprise of the Korean War of the 1950s - the movement of the North's forces southwards - would create huge numbers of civilian casualties (indeed among them would be many Chinese students and businesspeople resident in Seoul) but would inevitably end in a catastrophe for the North Korean regime.
Such a Korean War Mark II is hopefully unlikely. But the danger is that the North might seek to use its military forces for provocations or other steps that might precipitate a more generalised conflict.
Quite apart from the reach of its artillery and rocket forces, the North has an extensive chemical arsenal. It may also have biological weapons. It has large numbers of highly trained special forces and other units designed to infiltrate the South. And it has developed a cyber attack capability as well.
So it has many means by which it might seek to take military action. But any attack against the US or its allies in the current context risks a more generalised war. And assuming that the Pyongyang regime is not suicidal - and despite many of the rhetorical claims to the contrary, this is not an irrational regime - then the North Korean leadership must be aware of the risks they run.
From the North Korean perspective, having a nuclear weapon and an intercontinental missile capability to hold at risk the territory of the continental United States is entirely rational. The demise of the dictatorships in Iraq and Libya, the North Koreans would argue, was in large part because they did not have recourse to the ultimate weapon.
Risking an all-out war with the United States though that could only end in the regime's demise makes no sense. Any war on the Korean peninsula would play to Washington's advantages. North Korean forces would be channelled southwards into limited avenues of advance due to the topography and the Pentagon could employ the classic concepts of its air-land battle to defeat them.
Such a war though is unthinkable. It is in neither side's interests. The risk now is entirely of mistake, miscalculation and actions taken on the basis of clumsy and confused rhetorical signals. The North Koreans usually broadcast at full volume. The US now needs to be cautious about the tone of its own messaging.
mikema63 wrote:No, there are no real scenarios that woul make us use an atomic weapon on NK unless they blew up San Fran or something. Even then a nuke would absolutely destroy our relationships in the region that we would like to maintain even after a conflict with NK.
I personally think the most likely thing to happen is China increasingly putting pressure on NK to back down since they aren't happy either. If I were in charge I'd probably hold back on any military options until the situation came to the point that China would also participate which would make it far less bloody and much quicker an operation. Beyond that there isn't really much need to do anything but set up stronger missle defense systems to try and stop any preemptive missiles.
Really the biggest threat is trump trying something stupid to prove his manhood or something like that.
mikema63 wrote:There are levels of unhinged and the kim's may be batty but they know how to hang on to power and suicide isn't how you do it.
One Degree wrote:The problem is, the US loses too much by allowing it to continue. Restraint is defeat in the entire area. North Korea must do a 180 or be destroyed, and it needs to happen soon.
B0ycey wrote:NK will never be a threat to the US, regardless how advanced their nuclear program becomes. The USA surveillance of NK today would be so high that by the time a missle was set up to be launched the US would know about its existence. Even then, once it was launched they would know where it was heading and the distance of travel across the Pacific would mean that it would be intercepted long before a land strike was even possible. This crisis is a pissing contest. Both sides wants the other to blink but neither side can do anything make them do it.
Nonetheless an pre-emptive attack by either side to the other is a losing strategy. If NK did it, not only would the missle they fired be intercepted, The US would have support to burn NK to the ground. If the US strikes first they would be internationally condemned. I expect this pissing contest to continue for many more years to come.
Will the US attack North Korea with an atomic bomb?
Stormsmith wrote:I am not sure if your first paragraph is wholly accurate, but I'd be willing to bet if the US put out an international call for a team of scientists to assemble to upgrade this aim, people would haul hiney to join it.
MB. wrote:The Americans are hoping to force DPRK to strike first thus justifying their war planning that is already underway. You guys should really study the invasion of Iraq and the Japanese Pearl Harbour decision to better understand what is happening here.
Most likely, assuming the DPRK doesn't do anything stupid tomorrow, the US will continue to refine its war plan for another six to 12 months, then likely invent a justification for a strike, anything will do, a missile launch, perceived "aggression". Note that Trump was retweeting reports about cruise missiles being loaded onto patrol craft in DPRK, which has historical precedence in the Gulf of Tonkin incident...
In his interview with H. R. McMaster, Hugh Hewitt straight up asks the national security advisor if this is all preparation for a first strike. Check it out.
Oxymoron wrote:why would we have to? We can annihilate them with conventional arms.
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Oh. And what you said. Because he is a dick.