North Korean nuclear threat ‘is real’

After the Iraq debacle the world should be very sceptical of claims that crappy regimes have weapons that demand urgent military action.

But nuclear risks are so large, potentially threatening the well being of the whole plant, that any nuclear threat is a major concern. As are the increasing rhetoric and tensions over North Korea.

Nuclear weapons can be used as a threat. They can also be used as a deterrence to being attacked.

So far that has more or less worked for those countries that have acquired them, but there is always a very real concern that a mad or irresponsible leader will use nuclear weapons pre-emptively, or just out of spite, or under pressure, or to play to a domestic audience, or for any number of reasons.

A nuclear attack is most likely when, not if. The timing, and the degree of escalation and destruction, are probably all that is in doubt, along with who pushes the button.

Vox: North Korea’s growing nuclear threat, in one statistic

Here is the most frightening thing you’ll read all day: Growing numbers of US intelligence officials believe North Korea can produce a new nuclear bomb every six or seven weeks.

That’s one of the most jarring takeaways in an exhaustive New York Times story about North Korea’s rapidly expanding nuclear program — and the decades of US efforts that have tried, and failed, to slow it. The Trump administration plans to detail its own approach Wednesday when it brings the entire US Senate to the White House for a highly unusual briefing on the North Korean threat.

The threat is real. Here are a few more details, courtesy of the Times’s David Sanger and William Broad. North Korea is on pace to have 50 nuclear weapons by 2020. It already knows how to miniaturize those weapons so they can fit into missiles capable of hitting Japan, South Korea, and the tens of thousands of US troops stationed in those two countries. And a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the US — while not yet in Pyongyang’s arsenal — is now seen as a genuine possibility.

The reclusive country’s steady efforts to develop that type of missile, the Times reports, “have resulted in North Korean warheads that in a few years could reach Seattle.”

That’s not all. As Alex Ward wrote for Vox, South Korea’s capital of Seoul is well within range of the thousands of conventional weapons in North Korea’s enormous arsenal. Pyongyang could devastate the city of 25 million people without needing to use a nuclear weapon.

The threat to South Korea from conventional attack has been well known for decades.

All of that means President Trump faces the same hard question that bedeviled George W. Bush and Barack Obama before him: whether to risk war to prevent one of the world’s most unstable governments from building more of the world’s most dangerous weapons — including some capable of one day hitting the US.

This is, without doubt, a genuinely scary moment, with Washington and Pyongyang both making increasingly explicit threats against each other.

The Trump administration has specifically talked about a preemptive strike against North Korea and has a large US Navy carrier strike group steaming toward the region (yes, the same one that Trump had falsely said was heading there last week). And a US submarine docked in South Korea Tuesday as part of an explicit show of force.

North Korea has responded with threats to sink a US aircraft carrier and destroy American military bases in Japan (it’s far from clear the country could pull off either one). On Tuesday, it test-fired huge numbers of its artillery pieces (which are basically large guns capable of hitting distant targets), including many of the ones capable of striking South Korea. Many observers expect North Korea to conduct a nuclear test — its sixth in the past 11 years — as soon as the end of this week.

Still, none of this means that war is inevitable — or likely.

I’m not so sure about the likely bit. North Korea is being put under increasing pressure, and Donald Trump hasn’t exactly earned the world’s trust yet by any means. Two bad options on North Korea: Acceptance or war

The Trump administration’s approach to the deadly serious problem of North Korea is the worst of all possible formulations. It is Teddy Roosevelt, turned upside down – “Speak loudly, and pretend to carry a big stick.”

What the administration wants is absolutely the ideal objective, to prevent North Korea from acquiring the capability to launch nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missiles at the United States.
But the means being discussed, such as putting North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism (“sticks and stones may break my bones…”), banning the North Korean airline from flying places it will never fly anyway, and banning the import of North Korean seafood (seriously?), are almost comically insufficient to the problem. Then there’s the “armada,” 3,500 miles away, but, maybe, on the way. These things, and other non-military options which might be considered, all pale by comparison to both the carrots and sticks that have already been used by prior presidents.

The hope that President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson can persuade China to exercise maximum leverage against North Korea — perhaps shutting off energy supplies, or stopping the regime  from reaching nuclear ICBM capability through sanctions-backed diplomacy, while also preventing it from “going out with a bang” if it thought it would be stopped — is almost certainly a mirage. Likewise, even the best offensive cyber-wafare operations can do little more than slow down the march toward nuclear capability against us.

Even limited preemptive military action won’t work. How could merely wounding and cornering a fierce animal not lead to a rageful last gasp of dreadful retaliation?

There is a good reason none of these are viable options. It’s because, from the North Korean point of view, only achieving that most fearsome military capability can provide reasonable assurance of this regime’s long-term existence.

So here is the truly horrible truth about North Korea. There are only two choices.

The first is that we acknowledge and accept, as we have done with Russian and Chinese ICBM capabilities for decades, and then try to deter and contain, and to defend against, a North Korea able to strike us with nuclear weapons.

…the alternative, the only alternative, is war. War waged to victory, not stalemate. War waged and won before the North Koreans achieve their weapons development goal. War waged with both sufficient force and tactical surprise, so as to not leave the opponent wounded, cornered, and still able to lash out.

This means the WWII notion of war, one aimed at toppling the enemy regime and destroying its capacity for harm, not limited “surgical strikes” aimed to send messages or merely degrade the other side. In the case of North Korea, limited war would almost certainly lead to total war, which would likely include the North’s use of nuclear weapons. So if any use of force will very probably lead to total war, it needs to be total war from the outset, on the most advantageous terms from our perspective.

Frightful though it surely is, there is a clock ticking on this decision, and sound judgments cannot be made on the basis of false premises. Our choices are both bad and difficult. Our choices are acceptance or war.

It’s hard to see any alternatives to those two options.


Leave a comment


  1. David

     /  26th April 2017

    North Korea is different to Russia, the place is run by an unstable lunatic with nobody to restrain him if he spits the dummy. He should have been stopped years ago but he has escalated over the last few years with seeming impunity thanks to Obama,s terrible weakness.
    If he gets the ability to put one of his nukes on the end of an ICBM then that is just unacceptable given his many threats. Shock and Awe him.

  2. Blazer

     /  26th April 2017

    the only country to deploy nuclear weapons is the U.S.When you talk about fear….how does any country that the U.S has issues with feel, faced with the knowledge that the U.S has the military means to annihilate them.Always ‘good guys vs bad guys’.Nth Korea has not attacked anyone for 60 years….FFS.The U.S has invaded 37 countries since WW2.

    • David

       /  26th April 2017

      “Nth Korea has not attacked anyone for 60 years”

      Completely untrue. There consistent and frequent attacks on South Korea.

      • Gezza

         /  26th April 2017

        How many countries has the US invaded since the Korean War & how many has North Korea invaded in that time, is probably the best question.

  3. Blazer seems to have forgotten the N.Korean sub sinking the S. Korean frigate with loss of life a while ago.
    Probably doesn’t fit his agenda

  4. lurcher1948

     /  26th April 2017

    Two wackos with stupid haircuts…im scared of both of them but the blond orange one is more ego driven scary REALLY scary

  5. Brown

     /  26th April 2017

    ”North Korea is being put under increasing pressure …”

    Are you mad? What the heck would the alternative be? Just allow idiots to do whatever they want and leave your door open so they don’t kick it in when they take your TV? I suspect the Nth Koreans are not so stupid as to directly push that hard themselves but I can see them selling things to third parties who are not so concerned about consequences and denying they did when it turns to custard. Iran fall into a similar camp for me. If there is a nuclear anything I don’t believe the US will fire the first shot.

  6. Ask yourself this, who of Trump and Kim is most constrained by his concern about the number of casualties a nuclear conflict inevitably will cause to the Home Base?
    Kim Yong Un is part of a controlling triumvirate together with Pak Pong-ju and Kim Yong Nam but in reality Un holds supreme power and what he says goes, he also is a Diety to North Koreans.
    Trump is constrained by the US Constitution, and does not have the power to wage war without the sanction of Congress.
    Now, next question! Who is more likely to initiate a War? Kim Yong-Un or Donald Trump?

    • Gezza

       /  26th April 2017

      Donald Trump.

      Let me aks you two questions.
      1. Did Congress approve the firing of 60 cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase?
      2. Does Mad Dog Maddox know where his carriers are & do you think he’s sounding a bit forgetful?

      • Brown

         /  26th April 2017

        So what? These are not quite the same as splitting atoms in someone’s back yard when far stricter rules apply.

        • Gezza

           /  26th April 2017

          My worry is more about some jingoistic tosspots in the US administration & military conning an egotistical dinglebunny into starting another disastrous spreading conflagration their endless hubris seems to qualify them for.

      • Gezza

         /  26th April 2017

        *Mad Dog Mantis, soz.

      • Gezza you have been watching to many RT broadcasts. Who is Mad Dog Maddox? The President acted within US Law, without the need of Congress approval in order to meet his obligation to protect US citizens and their Allies against the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction, i.e. chemical agents -Sarin, as allowed by the UN.
        Wrong questions the day after ANZAC day.

        • Gezza

           /  26th April 2017

          1. I don’t watch RT, unless Pete Kane posts a clip, & then I usually just laugh.
          2. Pull your head out of your butt & smell the US white phosphorus & civilian corpses in Yemen, Iraq & Syria.
          3. Mad Dog Mattis didn’t know the USS Carl Vinson wasn’t charging up to NK to monster Kim Jong Un when he said it was, & he’s in charge. He looks old & doddery every time I see him blithering on tv. Pithy booyah sayings like always carry a knife in case there’s cheesecake or you need to stab somebody in the throat & not knowing where your carriers are aren’t great advertisements for the US’s top Military Strategic Commander.
          4.Who’s Kim Yong Un?

  7. On a lighter note: About Politics.

    ” A little boy goes to his dad and asks, “What are Politics?” Dad says, “Well son, let me try to explain it this way:
    #1. I’m the head of the family, so call me The President.
    #2. Your mother is the administrator of the money, so we call her the Government.
    #3. We’re here to take care of your needs, so we’ll call you the People
    #4. The nanny, we’ll consider her the Working Class.
    #5. And your baby brother, we’ll call him the Future.
    Now, think about that and see if it makes sense.”

    So, the little boy goes off to bed thinking about what Dad has said.

    Later that night, he hears his baby brother crying, so he gets up to check on him. He finds that the baby has severely soiled his diaper.
    So, the little boy goes to his parent’s room and finds his mother sound asleep. Not wanting to wake her, he goes to the nanny’s room. Finding the door locked, he looks in t he peephole and finds his father in bed with the Nanny. He gives up and goes back to bed.

    The next morning, the little boy says to his father, “Dad, I think I understand the concept of politics now.”
    The father says, “Good, son, tell me in your own words what you think politics is all about.”
    The little boy replies, “The President is screwing the Working Class, while the Government is sound asleep. The People are being ignored and the Future is in deep shit.”

  8. Nelly Smickers

     /  26th April 2017


    Kim Yong Un named as *best dressed man* in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea for 12th consecutive year.

    • Gezza

       /  26th April 2017

      Kim Jong Un will be incensed at this news I expect. Wouldn’t be surprised if Yong Un disappears from public view soon.

  9. I find it hard to believe that Kim Jong Un and his senior cronies do not grasp that they and their families and concubines will all be dead within milliseconds if he pushes a nuclear button. I think he just wants a nuclear bomb so he can feel important, and to deter others from attacking him. I hope he has a licence for the fishing rod he is playing the Western media with.

    Meanwhile Iran, which wants a nuclear bomb so it can destroy all of humanity and bring on the 72 virgins, is clearly building one as we speak while pretending not to. But because they are Muslim everyone looks the other way and pretends it is a Reactor of Peace. I think Desmond Morris called it Displacement Activity – when an animal furiously pecks at an imaginary threat because the real one is too terrifying to face up to.

    • Blazer

       /  27th April 2017

      you are all at sea ..sailor…former President Ahmadenijaad answered all those claims on many western forums…his logic was undeniable.Go to YT,and see for..yourself.

      • To plagiarise Mandy Rice-Davis’ immortal words at the John Profumo trial: “He would say that, wouldn’t he?”

  10. Zedd

     /  27th April 2017

    If MrT is serious about being Mr. president.. he should be calling Mr K ASAP & saying.. ‘hey lets stop this before one or both regret their actions’ ! 😦

    of course.. it may well be too late already ?

  1. North Korean nuclear threat ‘is real’ — Your NZ | Matthews' Blog
  2. North Korean nuclear threat ‘is real’ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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