Tuesday 18 April 2017

Threat of Nuclear War - not much fun is it?

We have written in the past many a post on C@W dissecting and analysing the Bay of Pigs and the Cuba Missile Crisis. It was after all, the only real time that politics (technology failure added some others) led to the possibility of an actual Nuclear War.

Fast forward 50 years and for the first time again, this seems as if it is possible. Perhaps not on the scale of the past, but enough that even life in far off Blighty would be mightily damaged should the worst happen.

And it is hard to blame, Trump, again. The idiotic man-boy has been left right in it but the intellectually superior but strategically inept President Obama. Trump has noticed that within 2 years North Korea will have weapons to strike anywhere in the world.

At that point it will be able to hold the rest of the world hostage to its mad desires and wants. This is not a situation the USA wants to happen. the US has been trying to get China to do something about this to little avail. China has been quite happy to get cheap resources from North Korea and a beholden export market (how do you think North Korea has all those nice buildings in Pyongyang that we see on the news - they did not grow themselves).

So now Trump has upped the temperature on the situation, whilst he still can. The threat is to South Korea and Japan - who still sit sweetly hoping the big boy will sort out the bully for them. China is alarmed, but perhaps also fearful that it has lost control of its client state.

In another world, assassination and regime change was the order of the day, in such a techno-medieval state of North Korea this is not on the table. Hopefully China can do something to end the impasse, but the context looks bad. North Korea's only raison d'etre is to re-take the South one day, as much as China and everyone else hopes it does not come to pas, surely one day it will.

It won't be pretty either, it is impossible to see how at least limited nuclear strikes do not take place.

Easter was yeterday


Electro-Kevin said...



(Hat tip Nick Drew)

david morris said...

"it is impossible to see how at least limited nuclear strikes do not take place".


Not just a little overstated ?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, Scott Adams appears to be forgetting a couple of things.

1) We've already played the international inspections game with NK, and we know how well that has worked out; and

2) The Chinese do not want any hard border with the US military on one side, and their own on another.

Given what we know of NK's ability, they're not a couple of years away from being able to ransom the world - takes time to get the material to weapons grade, and their missiles have a fairly high failure rate. The ability to fire one nuke at the US, with only a 75% guarantee it won't do a Jacques Cousteau *before* US defences kick in, isn't a threat, it's suicide-by-cop on a global scale.

If there is a deal, I suspect it'll involve resolving various disputes in the South China Sea to China's satisfaction in exchange for Fat Boy Kim's nuclear setup being completely flattened and a new dynasty to Beijing's liking being installed in NK.

I wouldn't be the least bit shocked if it emerged that China had allowed this to develop in order to provide a nice shopping list of demands in exchange for allowing the US to spend billions resolving it, whilst providing the Chinese military a decent seat in which to observe the US equipment in action and to retrieve anything that failed to go boom for inspection.

Electro-Kevin said...

Anon @ 11.16

You provide some light in the gloom too.

Anonymous said...

North Korea is not afraid of the US. Not even a little bit. North Korea is actually afraid of China. The only country China is afraid of is the US. North Korea wants to get in bed with the US so they can tell China to fuck off because the US is on their side. The US knows this is what North Korea wants, the US isn't willing to piss off China, so the US insists on talks that include China.

No one is really happy about the situation, but China, South Korea, Japan, and the US really don't want to have to pay for and deal with a North Korean collapse. It's a lot cheaper to let things stay as they are, but at some point that isn't going to be possible.

andrew said...

Which way do the prevailing winds in south Korea blow?

Dick the Prick said...

To be fair, if I was a dictator of any stripe, i'd be going for nukes. If they're gonna do regieme change anyway, may as well try and prevent it!

Strange how the FCO never called me back - I must have missed a digit out of my number!

CityUnslicker said...

David morris - I meant that to be in the context of if there is a war, then use of nukes is very likely as NK does not have many options outside of that. I don't that is over-stating it, the chance of war is not as high as the current rhetoric which is always of a high level, but the reality of it would be horrific.

Andrew -they are Northern Hemisphere so in my book we would be badly affected in the long-run.

andrew said...


Time to get the raymond briggs survival book out then

Anonymous said...

@CU - NK is unlikely to use nukes offensively in a war in the near future.

They've tested five devices, only one of which was missile deployable (last Sept), the other four requiring bomber deployment.

We don't know exactly how many devices they have, but a reasonable count would use one hand, and not a Norfolk one, as so far (AFAIK) they've only used plutonium-based devices of which they've a limited stockpile of (and we know where those stockpiles and facilities are).

Any use would have to be in NK itself, 'spoilsport' style to salt their own ground to frustrate invading forces.

They're a good decade from being an actual threat. The danger is in them shifting to uranium-based devices, which are much more difficult to ferret out.

And given their current kt strength, whilst I'd not be thrilled to see nukes used anywhere, the fallout would be similar to the Bikini Atoll tests in the 40's. Top of my head, we'd get a lot less than we did from Chernobyl in terms of radiation.

Blue Eyes said...

I have no special insight or knowledge but I am not very worried. NK has persistently over-egged its capabilities. China is no longer a particular supporter of the regime. The US has been quite successful at undermining efforts by Iran and allegedly NK by other means (see for example Stuxnet). If NK did launch something aggressive, I imagine it could be brought down in the East Asian neighbourhood before getting anywhere too important.

Electro-Kevin said...

Trump should just keep calling him Fat Boy.

deraieme said...

The root of the problem is that nobody in their right mind, nor indeed the loony in NK, could for a moment trust any undertaking made by the USA.

The USA has been breaking foreign policy promises recklessly ever since Slick Willie replaced Bush the Elder. Now she may be about to pay a price for it. Though it's more likely that Japan and SK will pay the price.

If the Norks do have a nuke pre-positioned in the US let us at least hope that it's Washington it destroys, not some other city.

tolkein said...

Perhaps Kim will be assassinated.

AndrewZ said...

There won’t be any war in Korea, nuclear or otherwise. All that’s happening is that Kim has been accustomed to using the “madman gambit” to extract concessions – look at me, I’m crazy, give me what I want or I could do anything – and Trump is now neutralising it by calling his bluff. Indeed, the fact that the left and the media have portrayed Trump as such a deranged monster only makes it easier for him to use Kim’s own tactic against him.

Any use of nuclear weapons by North Korea would invite retaliation in kind. Any attempt to mobilise conventional forces would prompt a Chinese intervention. Beijing doesn’t want a war on the Korean peninsula that would be likely to end with American troops stationed right up to the Chinese border, so it won’t let Kim start one. But in making clear that the status quo is unacceptable the US is signalling to China that it needs to make much more effort to bring North Korea under control.

Kim won’t be stupid enough to start a conflict that would result in his death and the total destruction of his regime. China and South Korea will both be pressuring the US to refrain from military action. The South Koreans don’t want to see Seoul flattened by North Korean artillery or to bear the enormous costs of reunification.

So, what we are seeing now are just diplomatic manoeuvres aimed at bringing about a new settlement. It would be too much of a humiliation for North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programme entirely. But it might accept a deal in which it agrees to limit its development to a purely defensive capability and refrains from exporting the technology, in return for a guarantee that neither China nor the US will try to overthrow the Kim dynasty. The Chinese would want North Korea to modernise its economy to stabilise the country in the long-term and reduce the need for Chinese assistance, and the US would also want some token movement on human rights. The South would readily accept a non-aggression pact with the North as long as the United States and China are willing to act as guarantors.

Obviously there’s no guarantee that any agreement will be reached. But I think there’s a good chance that Trump will get a deal that neutralises the North Korean nuclear threat without a shot being fired.

AndrewZ said...

Also, don’t underestimate the intelligence of Donald Trump. He had a successful business career, then used that to build a TV career, and then ran a political campaign that came out of nowhere to defeat all the major figures in the Republican Party, Hillary Clinton and a hostile media. That isn’t the track record of a stupid man. That’s the track record of a very shrewd opportunist with a talent for identifying and exploiting the weaknesses of his opponents, and that’s the kind of practical intelligence that is likely to be very effective in government.

Anonymous said...

"North Korea might accept a deal in which it agrees to limit its (nuclear weapons) development to a purely defensive capability."

What exactly is a "purely defensive" nuclear weapon ? All nuclear weapons are purely offensive.

The only way to prevent North Korea from acquiring them is by some form of pre-emptive military action.

rwendland said...

For the purposes of Trump, a "purely defensive" nuclear weapon could be defined as one not on an ICBM that can reach the U.S. mainland.

Luckily this is reasonably verifiable, as to develop a tolerably accurate ICBM warhead it is necessary to develop and test a re-entry capsule (which short/medium range ballistic missiles do not need). NK has not done this yet, so testing could be easily monitored. Anyway given the U.S anti-ballistic missile system in Alaska, if NK really wants an ICBM that can likely reach the U.S., it would probably want to develop and test decoy reentry capsules to confuse the anti-missile system, which is even more observable. It still has much development to do.

NB Japan has already done this - a former general blabbed that its asteroid material recovery Hayabusa mission, launched on an all solid fuel rocket, was to show "that Japan's ballistic missile capability is credible." Japan has been allowed to do most of the requisites of a nuclear weapon system, without all the fuss other countries get if they do half of that.