UPDATED: Is Kim Jung Un, the 30-year old despotic leader of North Korea, about to launch a nuclear war against the United States and South Korea? Experts keep saying “probably not,” that he is just trying to show the world he is tough, but what if they are wrong? What if the leaders in Pyongyang blunder into a war? Or what if they really believe they can wage such a war and somehow “win”?
The rhetoric is red hot. But the military moves are aggressive and preparatory for war. And now foreign embassies in Pyongyang are being encouraged by Un’s government to evacuate by April 10th. Could that suggest war is coming in five days? Or is it merely yet another in a history of high-profile bluffs?
On March 10, 2011, “Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified that North Korea ‘may now have several plutonium-based nuclear warheads that it can deliver by ballistic missiles and aircraft as well as unconventional means,” noted Bruce Klingner, former chief of the CIA’s Korea branch and now a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center. At the time, Klingner noted that “it is uncertain whether Lt. General Burgess’s statement is based on new intelligence reporting or a higher level of confidence that DIA has in the new analytic assessment. His remarks were disturbing because most experts to date have held that North Korea has not yet mastered the requirements to miniaturize any nuclear warhead sufficiently to put it on a missile.”
Two years and a third nuclear warhead test later, it appears North Korea may now have built and deployed short-range nuclear missiles.
Dr. David Albright, a leading expert on the North Korean nuclear weapons program and President of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), wrote on February 13th — just after Pyongyang’s third nuclear test — that “ISIS assesses that North Korea has the capability to mount a warhead on the Nodong missile” which has a range of about 800 miles. In other words, Albright and his fellow experts have concluded North Korea does have the ability to fire nuclear missiles that could potentially obliterate major cities in South Korea and Japan, though they cannot say with certainty that such nuclear warhead-tipped missiles have been deployed. At this point, ISIS has concluded that North Korea probably cannot launch a nuclear warhead on an ICBM yet, but that they are steadily approaching that goal.
“The United States would ‘not be surprised’ if North Korea launched a missile, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Friday,” reports CNN. “‘We have seen them launch missiles in the past and the United Nations Security Council has repeatedly condemned them as violations of the North’s obligations under numerous Security Council resolutions.'”
“North Korea has advised foreign diplomats to consider evacuating their embassies in Pyongyang in light of increasing tensions in the region, Russian and British diplomats said Friday,” reports the Washington Post. “Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, told reporters traveling with him in Uzbekistan on Friday afternoon that Moscow was seeking more details about the North Korean statement before making a decision about whether to evacuate.”
“The British Foreign Office said its embassy ‘received a communication from the North Korean government this morning saying that the North Korean government would be unable to guarantee the safety of embassies and international organizations in the country in the event of conflict from April 10,'” notes the Post. “The development comes at the end of a week of bellicose threats by the North Koreans against South Korea and the United States. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing intelligence sources in South Korea, reported Friday that the North had moved intermediate-range rocket launchers to its eastern coast, putting Guam potentially within range of a strike, Reuters news service said.”
“Two things appear to be going on,” notes Dr. Kim Holmes, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, now a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation, a highly-respected think tank in Washington, D.C. “First, the young Mr. Kim is trying to prove himself, not only to us, but possibly to his own people, by playing tough. Second, and more worrisome, the leadership may be emboldened by the belief that they’re very close to possessing a nuclear missile capable of reaching the United States. The situation is ripe for miscalculation. The new South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, whose mother was killed by a North Korean agent, has made it clear she will not roll over like other South Korean leaders. Moreover, there is a new U.S.-South Korean agreement that could result in the United States more forcefully backing the South militarily short of all-out war. Another North Korean attack could result in the U.S. forces joining South Korea in some form of military retaliation. Either way, we should not think this is a case of parties on the peninsula crying wolf. North Korea has shown time and time again it will strike with violence. It may well be on the verge of doing so again.”
- North Korea tells Brit diplomats to get out — then sets chilling April 10 deadline (The Sun, UK)
- April 4: North Korea warns military cleared to attack U.S. with nuclear weapons (AP)
- March 31: North Korea: Nuclear weapons are a ‘treasure’ (AP)
- March 11: North Korea declares 1953 armistice invalid (CNN)
- The posturing boy despot who could blunder into apocalypse (Daily Mail, UK)
- North Korea crisis biggest nuclear threat since Cuba, says Fidel Castro (Daily Mail, UK)
- North Korea moves missiles, South Korean markets roiled (Reuters)
- North Korea moves missile to east as nuclear crisis escalates (NBC News)
- North Korea bars southern workers from industrial complex (Washington Post)
- Dr. Kim Holmes: Decoding North Korea’s Nuclear Rhetoric (The Heritage Foundation)
- Profile of NK leader Kim Jung Un (BBC)
- Dr. Graham Allison: North Korea’s Lesson: Nukes for Sale (New York Times, Feb 12, 2013) — “The most dangerous message North Korea sent Tuesday with its third nuclear weapon test is: nukes are for sale….As the former secretary of defense Robert M. Gates put it, history shows that the North Koreans will ‘sell anything they have to anybody who has the cash to buy it.’ In intelligence circles, North Korea is known as ‘Missiles ‘R’ Us,’ having sold and delivered missiles to Iran, Syria and Pakistan, among others. Who could be interested in buying a weapon for several hundred millions of dollars? Iran is currently investing billions of dollars annually in its nuclear quest. While Al Qaeda’s core is greatly diminished and its resources depleted, the man who succeeded Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has been seeking nuclear weapons for more than a decade. And then there are Israel’s enemies, including wealthy individuals in some Arab countries, who might buy a bomb for the militant groups Hezbollah or Hamas. President Obama has rightly identified nuclear terrorism as ‘the single biggest threat to U.S. security.’ If terrorists explode a single nuclear bomb in an American city in the near future, there is a serious possibility that the core of the weapon will have come from North Korea.”
- February 2013: Park Geun-hye becomes South Korea’s first female president (CNN)
- March 28, 2013: South Korean president stumbles in first month on job (AP)
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