September 23, 2017

NEW YORK – Not since Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev banged his fists and waved his shoe at the UN in 1960 has a world leader made such a spectacle of himself as President Donald Trump did this past week at the world organization.

Trump vowed to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea, a nation of 25 million, if it dared threaten the US or its allies.   To do so, the US would have to use numerous nuclear weapons.

The president’s Genghis Khan behavior seemed to take no account that a US nuclear strike against North Korea would cause huge destruction to neighboring China, Japan and Russia – and pollute the globe.   They could hardly be expected to applaud Trump’s final solution for pesky North Korea.

As leader of the world’s greatest power, President Trump was foolish to get into a schoolyard fracas with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.  Superpowers shouldn’t engage in such childish behavior.  Trump’s claim that North Korea threatens the world is a reheated Bush-era lie used to whip up support for invading Iraq.

In a subsequent speech to African UN delegates, Trump comically referred to the nation of ‘Nambia’ instead of Namibia.  Let’s hope Trump does not mix up the Koreas.  While passing through Philadelphia last week I was reminded of its former flamboyant, tough-guy police chief Frank Rizzo.  He famously welcomed a senior Nigerian official as the leader of ‘Niggeria.’

Interestingly, both ‘axis of evil’ jeremiads originated from two different neocon speech writers, both known to this writer.

Escalating tensions, North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, suggested that his nation might detonate a hydrogen bomb in the atmosphere above the Pacific Ocean.

Amidst all the trumped-up hysteria over North Korea, too few questions were asked about its ballistic missiles that have caused such an uproar.

First, the DPRK’s medium-range missiles, notably the 6,700km-range Hwasong and the 3,500 km-range Musudan are fueled by highly volatile liquid propellants.  Fuelling them is often done outdoors for safety reasons.  The dangerous, unstable chemical fuels have a tendency to spontaneously explode.  Early US ballistic missiles had similar problems.  Musudan, based on an elderly Soviet design, is notoriously unreliable and plagued by technical problems.

These missiles are usually kept on wheeled transporters (aka TELs) secreted in caves.  The transporters are based on Russian and Chinese designs.  An erector device then positions the missile into upright launch position.

This is the most vulnerable time for North Korea’s missiles.  The US and South Korea claim they can knock out the DPRK missiles while getting ready for launch.

South Korea has a tactical program known as ‘Kill Chain’ that would use missiles, rocket batteries and air strikes to destroy the pre-launch missiles.  But the problem remains:  during the 1991 invasion of Iraq, US warplanes and missiles totally failed to knock out Iraq’s mobile missile launchers and stop it firing ineffective Scud missiles at Israel.

For North Korea, launching a major missile barrage is no easy matter.  The North’s missile caves, fueling points, and leadership bunkers are photographed even more often than super-model Cindy Crawford.  US satellites, high-altitude recon aircraft, sensors and drones keep a 24/7 watch on North Korea’s potential launch sites.

Preparations for refueling and erecting large numbers of missiles would invite a massive nuclear strike by US air and naval forces.  But given the technology unreliability of the DPRK’s missiles, it would have to fire a sizeable barrage in order to be sure of scoring a few long-range nuclear hits.

Equally important, North Korea’s ability to fire a nuclear warhead atop a ballistic missile has not yet been demonstrated.   A miniaturized warhead that can withstand the g-forces of launch and re-entry, extreme heat and cold and buffeting and detonate as planned after a 6,700-km journey is a tall order.   The US and USSR both keep redundant ICBM missiles because of the reliability problem.

North Korea’s submarine-launched prototype KN-08 missile could pose a far greater danger.  Though short-medium ranged, the missile if fired from submarines off the US East and West coast is greatly worrying US defense authorities.  But, once again, North Korea is only in its infancy when it comes to underwater-launched strategic missiles and submarines.

Another key point.  US and South Korean intelligence question how much missile propellant fuel the North has or could produce.   Supplies are believed limited; raw material components are under embargo, even from ally China.  Information about DPRK fuel supplies is, as always, scanty and unreliable.  So is US and South Korean intelligence about North Korea.

Finally, if Washington believed North Korea was about to launch a massive, long-ranged missile strike against North America, it’s likely the US would detonate a nuclear device high above North Korea.  The electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from such a detonation would likely fry most of North Korea’s electronic circuits, notably missile guidance systems and communications.   Of course, the North Koreans could do the same to the US and allies Japan and South Korea.  Pacific Russia and northern China would also be affected.

Behind all the hysteria over North Korea lies the basic question: why would rather small North Korea embark on a nuclear war with the United States? Its leadership, however zany and eccentric, is in no mood to commit suicide.  US nuclear weapons would vaporize North Korea before any of the missiles it might fire at North America could detonate.

Having nuclear-armed missiles does not necessarily make one’s nation a public menace that must be destroyed.  India has them. So do Pakistan and Israel, China and Russia.  Add France and Britain.  We don’t keep threatening to invade them and overthrow their governments. That’s why they are not threatening us.

Copyright  Eric S. Margolis 2017

This post is in: North Korea, USA


  1. One thing that strikes me… the MSM has made us numb to what US leaders say, with the exception of Trump… but here is a small window into what the North Koreans may be thinking when they hear the Americans threaten them…

  2. Some ramblings:
    I think it is fitting to call this phase of world politics, ‘The War of the Words.’
    The Donald said, “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!” This sounds like a pretty blatant threat. Considering the source, he really didn’t mean what he said. I was misspoken future history books will stipulate. We used to have an expression for the Donald and the world politics or survival. “I can explain it to you, but, I cannot understand it for you.”
    The Kim, showing off his Swiss education, referring to the Donald as a dotard. I had to ‘look it up’ to be certain of the meaning, and, sure enough in the dictionary there was a picture of the Donald… who’d a guessed.
    The term, to make one up, dollar’d came to mind, since it appears that most of the Donald’s actions are heavily business oriented and directed at increasing America’s financial position, and, that’s the scarier part.
    The dialogue is doing nothing to ‘defuse’ the problem created, only escalating the rhetoric. Just a reminder that the Donald has the launch codes close at hand.

    The Kim, using the Donald’s statement that it is a declaration of war and threatening to shoot down American aircraft in international airspace, really goes a distance to calm the situation. I can see an American fighter/bomber/drone venturing into North Korean airspace being fired on, and, with justification. To see the Kim ‘taking a shot’ at an American craft in international airspace would certainly ‘heat things up’ quickly.
    I suspect strongly that all the nations in the neighbourhood have drawn up plans or contingencies for the event that the Donald tries a ‘sneak attack’ and decides to carpet bomb North Korea. Kim would likely release all his weapons, to the extent he could, on all surrounding countries. This would likely be Japan and South Korea. Any nuclear fallout would seriously affect the manufacturing potential of that part of the world and have long term consequences for the rest of the world.
    This would greatly benefit American manufacturers worldwide. The Donald is fully aware of this, unless of course, he’s a real dotard.
    China would be placed in an awkward position. They are sitting on Gigabucks of American currency and are exporting huge amounts of manufactured materials to the US. This would be greatly diminished and who knows what the value of American currency would become.
    China has already tried to distance itself from North Korea… and, I hope that doesn’t send the Donald the wrong message, that it’s OK to ‘flatten’ North Korea. I’m also a little concerned that China and the US haven’t made a ‘back room’ agreement over the South China Sea’s ownership. China has done an abrupt turnaround that may have been tempered by North Korea’s stance.
    I’m also disappointed that the rest of the world hasn’t come out stronger against the Donald. He, foolishly, is pushing the world as close to a thermonuclear war as it has ever been. The consequences of this would be twofold. North Korea and the Kim will have reached their final dynasty, and, the world will be covered with generation threatening nuclear fallout. The atolls used by the Americans for nuclear testing are uninhabitable for a long time to come… the radioactive material has a half-life of approximately 22,000 years. Governments and the UN have cautioned the Donald, but, no one has clearly stated the consequences of his comments on a real world scenario. They are ‘cowed’ by this schoolyard bully.

  3. The threat of North Korea is due to the government committing what America considers to be the worst of all crimes. The same crime committed by all of America’s enemies, failure to throw themselves of their faces before the mighty American Empire. And with that utter narcissist Trump the offence is compounded.

  4. Joe from Canada says:

    Americans had a choice between Nixon and McGovern, and chose Nixon.

    Americans had a choice between Bush and Gore and chose Bush.

    Americans had a choice between Trump and Sanders….


    Possibly too many flag-waving, testosterone-filled sports events, violent movies, and reality shows?

    Nice people, otherwise.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.