Thursday, February 10, 2005

North Korea - just a tad bit mental

Here's the options: 1) North Korea is bluffing and they don't have nukes; 2) They're not and they do.

Let's take 2) first.

If North Korea have nukes, what can they hit? Well, they reportedly have missiles with a range of 3,700 miles, and there are reports of North Korean warheads being found in Alaska. That's not good.

If you reckon those are exaggerations, fine - they are from biased South Korean sources. These are fact. Two years ago, North Korea fired a missile into the Sea of Japan. On August 31st 1998, they managed to fire a missile OVER Japan, which landed in the Pacific. North Korea certainly - at the very least - has missiles capable of reaching anywhere in Japan.
(More North Korean missile info here.)

Japan is, for a fact, North Korea's most likely target other than their cousins to the south. Not only is there a historical dislike for the Japanese in the Korean peninsula as a whole (WWII and all that), but Japan is effectively the staging post for the United States in the region, thanks to sizable US military bases in the country, so would need to be hit quickly to prevent US retaliation. North Korea was also beaten by Japan in the football the other day. (You may laugh, but Pyongyang officially announced that Japan was the North's sworn enemy before the match...)

If North Korea nuked Tokyo, what (apart from biker gangs and psychic mutant children charging around a post-Metropolis dystopian cityscape) would happen? Well, think what happened after 11th September 2001, when just two buildings in New York were destroyed. Multiply that by a couple of hundred (at least). Beyond the tens of thousands, probably millions of deaths, there would be instant global economic meltdown. Tokyo, with London and New York, is one of the major epicentres of world commerce and finance. With it gone, we'd all be screwed.

But they wouldn't do that, right? That's what you're thinking. The whole point of an independent nuclear deterrent is that it means you can't get pushed around by the other nuclear powers any more. That's why Britain got one, that's why France got one, and that's why both India and Pakistan got one. Heck, it's even why the USSR got one.

No one would actually be stupid enough to deploy nukes in an age where everyone's got 'em, because that leads to Mutually Assured Destruction (the wonderfully-acronymed MAD) - that's what you're thinking. North Korea nukes Japan, the US is obliged by treaty instantly to nuke North Korea. And the US has rather more warheads lying around. The north of the peninsula would be melted into a pretty sheet of shiny black glass. It simply doesn't make sense.

Well, you see, the thing about "MAD" is that it's major flaw is that all it takes is someone who actually IS mad for it all to fall apart. The North Korean leadership are hardly known for the loving care and attention they spend on their citizens. They're hardly known for doing their best to keep them alive. What makes you think the leadership wouldn't just retreat into a bunker miles underground, nuke Tokyo and watch the world descend into economic chaos? They're communists, after all. They actually WANT the destruction of the current capitalist system. If you buy your Cold War propaganda, they would be more than willing to sacrifice their fellow countrymen for the greater good of the global revolution.

But what about 1)? What if they're bluffing?

If so, they're actually very cunning. It works like this:

Everyone knows North Korea has been building its missile programme. Everyone knows they're a bit crazy. Everyone knows they're part of the "Axis of Evil".

The Axis of Evil was Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Iraq is now out of the picture, and was found to have none of the Weapons of Mass Destruction that were claimed.

Iran is currently facing the brunt of the diplomatic pressure from the West, just as Iraq did before it. The difference? Iran actually HAS a nuclear programme, albeit one they claim to be for non-military purposes.

So, if the only other remaining member of the Axis of Evil suddenly stands up and says "HEY! WE'VE GOT WMDs! LOOK AT US! WOO!", the world - and specifically the United States, really should stand up and start doing something.

After all, if the Bush administration and Blair government were TRULY convinced that Saddam had WMDs, yet were still willing to sacrifice their brave troops on the battlefield with insufficient protection against chemical and biological attack (rather than the far safer option of simply bombing the shit out of the place), surely they'll have no qualms about invading North Korea to rid that country of its WMDs either? Because, let's face it, not to do so having set the precedent of Iraq would not only be hypocritical, but if North Korea ACTUALLY has nukes, it would also be utterly irresponsible.

Now, having made this announcement, North Korea knows that the US has only two options. First, make a show of diplomatic efforts (which have never worked in the northern regime's history) followed by invading - just like Iraq. Second, effectively ignore it, and focus on the Middle East.

It's a catch-22 for the US:

1) If they attack North Korea, the constitutionally pacifist and economically vital Japan will almost certainly be attacked in retaliation (either with nukes or conventional missiles), plus the already overstretched US military risks getting bogged down in ANOTHER war of attrition in South East Asia to go with the one they've still got in Iraq.

2) If they don't attack North Korea, then any accusations that US foreign policy isn't "anti-WMD" or "anti-dictator" so much as "anti-Muslim" really cannot be shaken off. In other words, this announcement could, indirectly, lead to yet more Islamic fundamentalist / al Quaida militancy, as lack of action will be seen as proof of the United States' "crusade" against Islam.

As I say, Fuck...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally I don't think it is that straight forward with North Korea. It's merely down to practical safe defense on why they develop their own nuclear power.

The North Korean regime is really a stalinist regime. I wouldn't believe that they would want to go out of their way to destroy the 'evil capitalist system'. The y might makes moves that will shore up support for their regime. Blackmail money from the South Korea through developing their relations. (South Korea has been giving aid to them for years. The reason why is because if the NK regime collapse, then there will millions of people immediately heading for the south for food and work.)

They shoot missiles across Japan just to give them the hee-bee gee-bees now and again.

Just as long Kim Il Sung has enought cognac, concubines and Hollywood dvd's. He's happy as larry.

2/10/2005 10:29:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep. It's very unlikely they'd do anything that stupid. This is all hypotheticals anyway (and that particular bit about communism and suchlike was largely aimed at American readers, I must admit).

That's why the outcomes I suggested for the bluffing option are far more likely (even if they AREN'T bluffing). They're cunning bastards - I wouldn't be at all surprised if this whole thing is purely designed to provoke more terrorist attacks in a distant part of the world.

2/10/2005 10:41:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

Sorry - that was me - not logged in properly...

2/10/2005 10:43:00 pm  
Blogger AK said...

Well they are probably just trying to get aid again as they seem a bit unhappy that aid to not build NUKES was cut off when they were discovered that they were building NUKES. Bluff or not hopefully diplomacy will work as War definitely will not

2/10/2005 11:41:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

Probably. Either way, it's not going to do Bush's claims about the "fires of freedom" much good... Most people can probably agree that if any country counts as a psychotic dictatorship these days, it's North Korea. Even by the post facto justification for the Iraq war, those chappies are a prime target for "liberation".

2/10/2005 11:54:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think your analysis is rather hit-or-miss. On several points you are obviously right: Sure, Kim jong Il is mad as a hatter. Yes, he probably has a bomb or two (probably crude weapons on the order of what we used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki). Yes, he hates his neighbors, particularly Japan, who ruled the Korean peninsula for 35 yrs before being dispatched in WWII. Yes, he might even be crazy enough to use it someday if he's desperate enough for attention.

But you're missing a huge reason why N. Korea is only marginally on our radar screen: The population of Islamic N. Koreans probably approaches zero. That's all there is to it. We don't worry about everyone with WMDs, only the bad guys (read, not UK, France, S. Africa, Israel, etc.)

What's the difference between a good guy and a badguy then? It's not whether you're a US ally, or whether you respect human rights, or whether you believe in freedom, democracy, capitalism, etc. (China and Russia have WMDs and treat their citizens like shit, but the US gets along rather well with them).

It's based on a calculus of two factors 1) what is the county's willingness to use the WMDs on someone else? (namely, us) and 2) what is their willingness to sell or give away WMDs so that a third party can use them against us?

So the "threat level" question doesn't really turn on who hates the US...hell, a lot of countries do, the French are very vocal about their feelings in this regard. The real question is, who is actively trying to kill Americans and destroy our country?

There is only one answer to that--hate-filled Islamic jihadists. So you may be a very bad guy (Mugabe's Zimbabwe comes to mind) but because you're not trying to kill us, we don't care. But majority-Muslim countries must be closely monitored. And if they are extremely conservative/fundamentalist and anti-US that's not good (think Saudi Arabia). If they are very pro-jihadist/anti-US AND they are pursuing WMDs, AND they are engaged in furious saber-rattling (like Iran)...well, that's just downright dangerous (for them).

Because N. Korea has no Islamic extremists, nor do they seem willing to sell/give their hard-earned WMDs away, they are not deemed a threat right now, at least not to the US (Japan's another story). N. Korea is on the Axis of evil because they are pursuing WMDs, they treat their own citizens like poo, and they are a voltile, bellicose, and thoroughly weird-ass commie regime. But that doesn't mean they are an active threat to US citizens (unless you're a US soldier stationed in Seoul).

Therefore, the real "next step," with or without diplomatic progress, is a massive increase in covert/clandestine operations in N. Korea by the CIA and any other outfit they can work with (Japanese, CHinese, or S. Korean intel agencies) in order to collect info about four main questions: where are the nukes?, how close is the regime to going under?, what can we do to expedite its demise?, and what are the consequences of doing so?

So all in all, military intervention is simply not realistic UNLESS the microscopic chance of a first-strike by N. Korea against one of its regional neighbors occurs. And if that happens...

N. Korea will get crushed. And it wouldn't stress the US forces to do so (even if we had to go-it-alone, which we wouldn't, cause naked aggression always brings in a coalition, and this would bring in the formidable resources of China, regardles of it being a fellow communist state) 1991 it took a 6 week air war plus 100 hours of ground fighting for the US to beat Saddam's Army (at the time, the world's 4th largest Army). More recently IN 2003, we beat his army in about a month (not including the guerilla insurgency, just the Iraqi Army).

N. Korea is a starving country with a failed economy. Even if they have the largest standing army on Earth, it won't take much to beat them, really. With a 24/7 air war cutting down supply lines, armored divisions, command and control centers, etc....they wouldn't last more than one brutal Korean winter before capitulating. THrow in a few low-yield tactical nuke strikes on industrial/military targets to respond in kind if they lob a nuke (and to scare the shit out of them, knowing the US has 10,000 more where that came from) and I think we could mop them up in 6 months with very little in the way of ground troop commitments.

Ok, that's my two cents.
-Alan (

2/11/2005 01:48:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is yet another possible explanation: the announcement has nothing to do with the US or Japan, but instead it is intended for domestic consumption. So North Koreans can say: "We have no food, but we have nuclear weapons!"

This is a tactic that was often employed by Slobodan Milosevic (and possibly other dictators) during his regime in Serbia.

2/11/2005 08:13:00 am  
Blogger burton said...

Breaking news - "North Korea stunned the world Thursday when it publicly admitted to having nuclear weapons."

Hello...we already knew that! We've known for years but suddenly - it's big news! Give me a break!! It'll be news if they actually test one! It'll be news if the Bush administration changes its strategy from six-party negotiations to two-way talks. Afterall, the so called six-party negotiations have made so much progress...

North Korea will never launch a nuke at anybody, that would be a one way ticket back to the stoneage - and how is anybody going to "liberate" these would make Iraq look like a nap on the couch...

nice blog by the way

2/11/2005 09:46:00 pm  
Blogger john b said...

Alan #2 - there are two small flaws in your analysis: the one about large numbers of extremist Muslims wanting to kill us, and the one about nobody else wanting to kill us.

Apart from that, spot on.

2/13/2005 11:17:00 am  

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