17 Sept 2016

North Korea’s fifth nuclear test produced an explosion fury and hysteria around the world, more empty threats against the Hermit Kingdom, and a giant sell-off in stock markets by foolish investors.

No wonder gleeful North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was having such a big laugh. It’s not often that a small nation of only 24.8 million can defy the mighty United States, Japan, South Korea and even its sole ally, China. But Kim did, and survived the experience.

North Korea fired off its fifth underground nuclear device estimated at 15-20 kilotons. The detonation was estimated at around the same size as the US nuclear devices that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

What made this test different was the announcement by Pyongyang that it had ‘standardized’ production of nuclear warheads and, even more important, reduced their size and weight so they could be fitted atop medium and long-ranged missiles. Previous North Korean nuclear devices were believed too heavy and bulky to be delivered by missiles.

Western experts believe North Korea will have 20 nuclear warheads by the end of this year, though how many of them can be delivered by missile is not known.
The North has no long-ranged missiles that can hit North America, contrary to this week’s hysteria. Its new submarine-launched missile, a real potential threat to the US mainland, is still many years away from deployment. No one seems to care that India has ICBM’s and sea-launched SLBM’s that can hit the US today.

North Korea’s missile force is not designed to attack the United States but rather to deter any invasion or nuclear strike by US forces. The US Air Force underlined this potential threat by flying two nuclear-capable B-1 heavy bombers near the border with North Korea.

For North Korea, most of South Korea is too close for potential nuclear attack. Radiation would blow back over North Korea. Only the South’s most important southern port, Busan, through which any invading US forces would pass, might be a viable target.

Even if North Korean missiles could strike the mainland United States, there would be an immediate US nuclear riposte from Guam, Japan and the powerful 7th Fleet that would turn North Korea to radioactive dust. Kim Jong-un is neither mad nor suicidal.

But the North’s growing force of medium-ranged missiles could hit Japan’s home islands, Okinawa, and Guam, America’s primary Asian military bases. Three or four N Korean nuclear weapons could cripple Japan.

In effect, North Korea holds Japan a nuclear hostage. Japan has no leak-proof defense against nuclear missiles. Its lack of nuclear weapons means that Japan is naked before the North Korean threat and must rely on the uncertain US nuclear umbrella and unproven anti-missile systems.

That’s why presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed that Japan be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. It’s unacceptable for the world’s third largest economy to be held in thrall by pipsqueak but nasty North Korea.

Japan has considered developing nuclear weapons for decades but US pressure and anti-militarist public opinion have prevented Tokyo from doing so.

Japan could produce a nuclear weapon in three months if it so decided. But it won’t, and so remains vulnerable to North Korea and to nuclear-armed China with which Japan is in a serious confrontation in the South China Sea and off the Ryuku Islands.

The US and South Korea have staged their annual Fall military exercises that mimic an invasion of North Korea. Each year, North Korea blows its top when this provocation occurs. There’s no military need – it’s merely primitive chest-thumping by Washington and Seoul and tantrum-time for the North. Call it North Asian Primeval Scream Therapy.

Interestingly, this time South Korea’s conservative government led by PM Park Geun-hye joined the all-Korean threat-a-thon by vowing to turn Pyongyang ‘to ashes’ if it was seen preparing a nuclear attack on the South. In fact, South Korea lacks this military capability in spite of recent additions of new artillery missiles. Seoul’s threats were more designed to placate angry right-wing South Korean Christian voters than to intimidate the North.

But it’s also worth recalling that in the late 1970’s, the US forced the current prime minister’s father, President Park Chung-he, to halt his secret nuclear weapons program. Today, South Korea still has good reasons to develop a few nukes, though much of North Korea is too close for retaliatory strikes. Both sides in Korea would be better off with small, tactical nuclear weapons.

It’s always fun watching the hot-tempered Koreans hurl threats at one another and the US. Yet one of these days, threats could turn to real shooting on the Peninsula. Think of the Japanese nuclear melt-down at Fukushima…and then multiply by 150.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2016

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

7 Responses to “KIM’S LATEST BIG BANG”

  1. Joe from Canada says:

    Lest my last post was too vague…………

    As of September 25, 2016, USA has the choice between expanding its wars from bombing seven or more counties under Clinton, to going outright fascist under Trump….

    I feel sorry for my neighbours to the south…

    Pity health care, education, housing, infrastructure…

  2. I have read your column off and on for many years. Going back to the eighties when you were a columnist for the Toronto Sun. My opinions about American foreign policy aligned with yours but I do take exception with one statement:

    “That’s why presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed that Japan be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons”.

    Indeed North Korea holds Japan a nuclear hostage but Chump’s reasoning for supporting a nuclear Japan were rooted in the fact Japan and South Korea rely on total American support for defense. In Chump’s view this situation is costing America financially and can be rectified by these countries developing their own nuke program. Do not give this narcissist credit for deductive reasoning when all avenues point to the exact opposite.

    Hope you are well

  3. Kim Jong-un is like a burr under the American saddle and really seems to enjoy making fools of its foes with its threats, which are certainly no bigger than those coming out of Washington all the time, but Washington for some strange reason seems to think it is more equal than the rest of the world. What would happen, if 10% of the damage Washington has done to so many countries since WW2 was to be done against the US mainland? Look at the consequences of 9/11, which is possibly a self-inflicted wound, but it is being used ad nauseam as an excuse to act, as if the Americans are really an exceptional people, which they indeed are, if we allow for an expansion on their own definition of exceptionalism. When I look at the presidential candidates in the US today and compare their antics with those of Kim Jong-un, then I think of the pot and the kettle calling each other black. Do the masses ever need to increase their level of intelligence, before they let a handful of narcissistic and corrupt fools destroy the rest of the planet, that they haven`t gotten to yet in their insane greed. How fortunate we are, that we now have internet, because it puts a bridle on the propaganda lies of the monopolized MSM. Nobody can claim ignorance again as defense, when things go wrong. All one needs is a critical eye and a sound mind.

  4. lpapoff@bell.net says:

    So South Korea should join the nuclear club as a junior member with a entry-level-sized nuke. Wonderful! Another finger on the trigger and a “hot-tempered” one at that.

  5. Not to mention Hillary gets to scream “America is under threat form our enemies!”

  6. It’s like Kim having a thermonuclear hand grenade… kind of a neat toy, but not very useful.
    When it comes to North Korea, all protagonists put on their clown costumes and behave like utter fools. It would be OK if the outcome weren’t so devastating.

  7. Joe from Canada says:

    Mr. Margolis: time is running out for the American Empire as we both knew it: the empire of Eisenhower Republicans viewed through the eyes of Pearson Liberals.

    The Eisenhower Republicans morphed through years of obfuscations and wars from Nixon, to Reagan, to Bush to a place they did not know, as GI Joe became The Ugly American, and the friendly cop at the ice cream counter shot black kids on nightly news.

    It was sad to watch, as one who first knew America through the eyes of Norman Rockwell, with great admiration for The Peace Corps.

    It was sad to watch the dreamers of America become slaughtered first, by guns, then, more effectively, through character assassination.

    Sad that a president promising change and an end to a war should be now bombing seven countries (or more).

    I held my breath and wanted to believe McCarthy would rise through ranks to beat Nixon; that McGovern might beat Nixon; that Carter, a peace president, would not be stopped by obfuscation; that Gore would defeat Bush….

    Sad that a silly dictator as Kim could garner this much attention; enough to distract America from its enemy within.

    In the meantime, Clinton promises to out-war Bush Republicans.
    Meanwhile, her opponent boasts racism, fear-mongering, and simplistic war policies…FOX and CNN, in tow.

    In the meantime, 30 million Americans live in poverty.

    In the meantime, money that could alleviate that poverty, or patch infrastructure, or build schools, or build medicare goes to endless wars; goes to arms manufacturing; goes, as foreignaid (!) to brutal countries like Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

    I weep for this nation that gave me the dreams of my youth.

    Are we witnessing the rise of The Fourth Reich?

    If only the voices of reason, like Sanders and Warren could run as independents. What is there to lose?

    Much to win.

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