February 16, 2013

Are we about to be vaporized by North Korea’s nuclear weapons? Given all the hysteria this week over its third underground nuclear test, one would certainly think so.

In reality, we are not about to be nuked by the North’s new boyish leader, Kim Jong-un. But, like many heads of small nations, he really does get a big kick out of making the big boys go crazy.

The late Muammar Qadaffi and Saddam Hussein also used to enjoy this dangerous sport. But unlike young Kim, they didn’t have 4-6 operational nuclear weapons – a lesson not lost on North Korea.

While everyone was fulminating against the wicked North Koreans, there was barely any mention of US-South Korean-Australian war games near North Korea that Pyongyang claimed were training for a US-led invasion. Semi-annual US-led war games almost always cause North Korea to fire missiles and beat the war drums.

What’s clear is that North Korea is making steady progress in developing a smaller nuclear warhead capable of fitting into a nose cone, and developing a new long-ranged missile that may one day be able to strike North America.

However, North Korea’s third nuclear test was less than half the explosive power of the bombs dropped in 1945 on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States.

But Pyongyang’s description of a “smaller and lighter device” set off alarm bells in the Pentagon. Shortly before, in response to new US-led sanctions against North Korea after it launched a satellite into orbit, Pyongyang threatened to target the United States with its missiles.

That, so far, is empty talk. North Korea does not yet have a reliable, accurate ICBM that can threaten the US. It lacks assurance the miniaturized nuclear warheads it is believed developing can withstand the high g-forces and heat of missile flight and re-entry – or that they will detonate.

North Korea’s relatively crude medium and long-ranged missiles are inaccurate and unreliable. Most require hours of liquid fuelling, making them sitting ducks for US pre-emptive attack. The North is also fast using up its supply of bomb-grade nuclear material.

North Korea lacks the ability to inflict a crippling blow on the US mainland. By contrast, the US Pacific 7th Fleet carries enough nuclear weapons to vaporize North Korea in a few minutes.

This latest uproar over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons must be seen in context of the bitter rivalry between North and South Korea. Typical example: in the Demilitarized Zone dividing them, South Korea put its flag on a high tower. The North immediately built a flag tower 50% higher.

North Korea says it is the only authentic Korea; the South, claims Pyongyang, is a US colony garrisoned by 28,000 US troops. In fact, the North greatly fears that the economically powerful South will swallow it up. Neither Japan nor China want to see a united Korea, so they give covert or overt aid to Pyongyang while officially scolding it for nuclear tests.

Meanwhile, the same nuclear powers that denounce North Korea for building a nuclear arsenal are themselves in direct violation of the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Under the treaty, the US, Britain, France, the Soviet Union and China all pledged to quickly eliminate all of their nuclear weapons.

They never have.

India, Pakistan and Israel all have built nuclear arsenals. South Korea was on the way to producing nuclear weapons until forced to abandon the secret project by the United States. Japan is estimated to be able to assemble a nuclear device in only 90 days.

In 1994, the Clinton administration and North Korea signed a deal to end the North’s nuclear production in exchange for food and oil. But the deal was derailed in 2002 by neocons in the Bush administration who feared North Korea’s nuclear know-how and missiles might be sold to Israel’s foes in the Mideast. So back the US and North Korea went to their little Cold War.

Washington and Pyongyang can still make a deal. But it will require an explicit pledge by Washington not to invade North Korea and huge amounts of aid. Republicans and neocons will bitterly oppose such a deal. American conservatives need foreign enemies. Right now, Kim Jong-un is the best they’ve got.

copyright Eric S. Margolis 2013
German translation of column above can be found at: http://antikrieg.com/aktuell/2013_02_16_hysterie.htm

This post is in: China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea

6 Responses to “Hysteria Over Kim’s Nukes”

  1. Daddy taught him well… I can’t think of North Korea without a little grin appearing on my face. If it weren’t for the plight of the ordinary people, his actions would be a total farce, steeped in humour.

    I have greater concerns with real problems such as Japan, the US, Israel, Pakistan, India, and China, than I do with Kim popping off his little toys. His actions and the response from the other superpowers is a ‘tempest in a teapot’ and deserves about as much response.

    • solum temptare possumus says:

      I agree with your world analyses with a slight proviso. If you don’t watch the pot it may boil and pop its lid. Diplomatically speaking it is better to give some attention to despotic autocratic regimes, lest they up the ante and do something foolish to get attention.
      I believe the United States has enough influence with the UN; their food and energy programs, that they can ameliorate future harvest failures and make sure they get enough diesel fuel to keep most citizens from starving and in warmth.
      The US has control of the spigot and it can turn both ways.
      ad iudicium

  2. George Rizk says:

    N Korea is too far away from us. The people who should be soiling their pants are the South Koreans, the Japanese, and other nations in the neighborhood. The reality is none of these countries going crazy, but, our war party is.

    These N Korean need to feed themselves first before developing more arms. Right now they have the insurance policy against outside invasion. They need to get back to reunite with the South Korean brothers despite of the neocon objections.

  3. What a mess, when you need enemies to make your economy survive. Is that, what capitalism and democracy is built on?
    I remember, how the USSR was depicted in the western propaganda and how wicked their leaders were and how backward the women were there with beards and dirty hair etc.. Then came Gorby and his wife Raisa. Raisa with her doctors` titles made Nancy look small in more ways than one. That cold war is over now and look at the pictures about culture and architecture coming to us from Russia. That country did not transform overnight.
    For people to believe any more propaganda about any other country now, shows a severe lack of common sense and good judgment.
    Simple-mindedness can only make a person that way. The US had better think about their geographical separation from that part of the world, that is practically in China`s backyard. Not only that, but the US has spread itself so thin, that they cannot adequately defend any territory anymore. Not only are they financially not able, but with their swashbuckling attitude, they have made a lot of enemies, who may have a smile on their face, but a dagger behind their backs. What were Julius Caesar`s last words “Et tu Brute”?

    • George Rizk says:

      What a clear analysis! Sir, if most of the American people could see as clearly as you and I, we would never be in the mess that we are in. The 300 million robots cannot think!

  4. Eric remember North Korea, Iran, and the imaginary war on Terror serve but one purpose, to give America enemies. The collapse of the Soviet Union has left America with no real enemy so in order to justify the 800 billion dollars they spend on weapons each year, America has to settle for imaginary threats. China can never be seen as an enemy because, well China pretty much owns America now. Since most Americans are far too ignorant to know better these will do. Remember what Machiavelli said about the importance of an outside enemy?

    Mind you Iran has another aspect. Here is a country that is on the banks of the strait of Hormuz that America has no control over. That is why they are using the lie of their nuclear weapons

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