Thursday 10 August 2017

Nuclear War - the world should make this avoidable

It is really quite worrying that this is being discussed.

What lesson should we really learn, to me the obvious one is that we desperately need the UN Security Council to have more muscle.

North Korea should have been stopped from getting hold of Nuclear Weapons, history has shown us that they are very safe in a MAD environment when controlled by sane Governments. North Korea is not sane, never has been - not an adult country that can be trusted with Nukes.

The list of countries like this is quite long, but not overly so. Few societies manage to fail so spectacularly over such a long-period of time, although being communist tends to be a strong marker for this.

The next on my list is Pakistan, utterly corrupt country and culture with religious extremism thrown in too and an existential fear of India. Only then would we get to the likes of Iran.

However, surely North Korea shows that the sanctions process is very key over the longer term - Iraq, with hindsight, even proves that.

I do wonder now that the hell China is going to do in the current circumstances - after all without Chinese help North Korea would still be a peasant state instead of nuclear armed terror threat. It is hard to know as I guess there is potential for China to like the idea of the North eliminating its rivals in South Korea and Japan - equally though, in statecraft the Chinese operate effectively over decades and are useless when things have to be done over days or weeks. A tricky situation indeed, the US is out of the game now, as any sate is when threatened with MAD.


Anonymous said...

Okay, the US isn't threatened with MAD from the Norks.

NK have tested exactly one missile-deliverable warhead, with a yield similar to the Fat Man bomb. Their missiles haven't got the greatest success rate either.

So for them to hit the US mainland, the missile has to not blow up on launch, get past THAAD, survive re-entry and 40 years of ballistic missile defences. For that we're in a game of percentages. I think Russia only bet on around 50% of their missiles reaching target, NK would have to bet on a lower success rate. Much lower. So NK would likely need around 5 missiles per target.

For MAD, NK would need hundreds of missiles, possibly north of a thousand, all with a nuclear warhead.

If they had that, they'd also have SK by now.

If NK is stupid enough to launch towards Guam, then the US's own tubby paranoiac would flatten the place and any response from the Norks would be towards SK, not the US.

NK is a good 5 years off from being a regional nuclear menace, a decade from an international one, assuming they keep on the impressively fast track.

If the US has any adults in the White House, they need to explain to China that either they take out Fat Boy Kim, or the US will leave them with a mess on their doorstep.

My suspicion is that China has always been prepared to permanently deal with NK, they're just waiting for the right deal that resolves numerous Asia/Pacific disputes to their advantage.

Trump needs to try shifting his lardy arse away from golf courses for long enough to do a deal with China and sort this mess out. Or at least delegate it to one of the diminishing number of adults in the administration.

CityUnslicker said...

nope, don't agree, NK can today potentially destroy SK, Japan and maybe Hawaii. THAAD does not work against ICBM's, it is designed for SCUDS etc.

The NK problem is much worse than the US feared, they thought they had 10 years and now they have none.

Over to the Chinese to actually put a stop to the escalation - but their hesitancy in international affairs really works against them.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and if they use the stick against NK, they need some carrots for Iran.

NK heard the message of "we can take out any tinpot dictator we want to" and acted accordingly.

The message needs to be "if you want nukes, we'd prefer to talk with you about not having them, but if you insist and refuse to chat, then we'll regretfully flatten you." If it's "you're fucked either way" then said tinpot dictators will simply pass the horrible stuff over to terrorist groups. I'd really rather not see that.

Anonymous said...

@CU - *how*

The US dropped two weapons of equivalent yield to NK's current nuclear weaponry on Japan. It is, apparently, still there.

You're right about THAAD, however any regionally targetted missiles would be in it's ability.

NK simply hasn't enough warheads, or a reliable enough delivery mechanism. Yet.

Of course, neither of us can be proven correct without the worst case scenario raising its head, so here's hoping it remains little other than keyboard debate.

hovis said...

- NK is aware that they are stil technically at wor with the US.
- They have seen that the only people not to get dicked around by the US are those in the nuclear club - so they have (a few but not enough to be a real threat) nukes
- The US wishes to be the BSD, but in this game NK cannot back down, the Chinese - I expect are indifferent; a bit pissed off at Kim playing silly buggers but in ino mood for the US to start imposing in its sphere of influence.

So nuclear war? maybe but it won't be NK that fires (nuclear) first. The threat to Guam is a pissing contest and they have not as far as I see actually threaten to wipe it out only place missiles 30km out as a "Fuck You". If they go ahead the question is does the US use this a a trigger or do grown ups prevail.

Btw CU what have you been smoking:
"we desperately need the UN Security Council to have more muscle."

Electro-Kevin said...

I can't see much of a way out of this (safely) that doesn't involve China becoming a lot more powerful.

Tweeting Trump has painted himself in a bit of a corner. Had he said "If NK strikes then ..." But he didn't. He specifically said "If NK makes anymore threats..."

Mean what you say, say what you mean. Or don't say it at all.

As any good parent with a petulant child will tell you. Otherwise they will run rings around you and play you up rotten.


I don't think WW3. (I have faith in the US military leaders) But I do think the US has messed this one up.

Steven_L said...

So George W and Tony Blair were right about the need for preemptive strikes against these rogue states in the axis of evil after all?

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's retaliation for China building the new islands. I think the 7th fleet buzzed them a couple of months ago. If China are to be expansionist which is vaguely reasonable then they have to give up NK. It truly is unacceptable that they are now threatening SK and Japan and short of sanctions being able to have an effect then all diplomacy is bunkem.

I saw a documentary by John Kampfner a couple of years ago and, blethering lefty aside, the map of US bases around the Pacific Rim was bloody ludicrous. China has 2 choices - be responsible or shut the fuck up; it can't have it both ways.

Although if I was to pop my tin-foil hat on it does appear to replicate the US's NATO strategy in that nations pay their way - no such problems in the South China Sea!! I've got a theory that if the shit hits the fan - every Samsung phone transforms into a little autobot and starts firing mini ballistic missiles to NK. I'm telling ya - why are their phones so big, what the hell is in them?


dearieme said...

What if NK delivers its bombs by shipping container? Harder for NK than most countries I expect, but far from impossible I'd guess. And very hard to prove who dunnit. In fact, this might be a good moment for a nutcase in Pakistan to decide to take out NYC, Long Beach, Houston and a few more, expecting the retaliation to be aimed at NK.

Hell, we're dealing here with the nation of madmen who, attacked by Saudis, retaliated against Iraqis.

Anonymous said...

Since this CityUnslicker - a site that promotes raw capitalism, let the market decide.

So a few acres of real estate will go cheap if you are willing to wait a few millennia or more. But at least the market is king.

Bill Quango MP said...

Its well documented that there are huge defences between NK and SK. Up to 1 million mines are possibly in place over a 160 mile border. Six thousand a mile is that?
And that artillery that can flatten Sk in fifteen minutes.

i wonder what the scale of the defences are on the Nk-China border?
I wonder which top military Nk generals are in the pay of the Chinese communist party. Which are double agents?
Which low level technicians in the power sub stations listen for secret code words to trip the lights at XXXX as the tanks and helicopters roll in?

Or will the Chinese just drop their own limited yield nuke on Kim when he's in the right place.
{having agreed with the Americans and the Russians not to touch any dials or react in any way at all to it.}

Then everyone invites the UN for the cleanup.

And America, a bit later on, decides it has no interest in the south china sea any longer and moves back to Hawaii. And everyone goes about their uneasy business as before. Only also measuring the parts/radiation there is in the air into that threat passes too.

Bill Quango MP said...

dearime. That isn't quite true.
They attacked Afghanistan that was hiding those saudis. this was a Nato mission.

The US government took the opportunity of a pearl harbour style nation unifying event to go and invade Iraq and end all the {unfriendly} middle east dictatorships. A weak and impotent Russia. A strong and successful USA. Indifference to the UN. {Not wrongly}
And without the thought they might need allies. {Very wrong}

We know it was a total disaster. But it wasn't to do directly with the Saudi attack at all. That was Afghanistan. Which was won quite easily.
And lost over a longer period.

dearieme said...

"But it wasn't to do directly with the Saudi attack at all." They successfully persuaded much of the US population that it was.

PGA Championship said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

So nice of Mr.Clinton to sort out that nuclear reactor for them back when he was president. Another useless Democrat.

Electro-Kevin said...

BQ - You ARE Frederick Forsyth and I claim my five pounds.

hovis said...

E-K - Frederick Forsyth at least wrote some decentish page turners unlike that unthinking neocon turd Con Coughlin

andrew said...

Personally, I Prefer len deighton to freddie forsyth.

rwendland said...

Anon @ 10:09 pm, the nuclear power reactors under Clinton's 1994 Agreed Framework were never built.

The NK plutonium producing reactor is actually based on the Sellafield Calder Hall Magnox designs. So in fact it is good old Blighty that helped them! Though the detailed designs were made public through the US "Atoms for Peace" programme in the 1950s to kick start the peaceful use of nuclear. So I guess we could sort-of blame Eisenhower for that.

The 1994 Agreed Framework was, roughly speaking, torpedoed by Congress over the years, and then Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech. Even so it did put back NK's nuclear and missile development back by around 10 years. Had the Agreed Framework run to completion, when the new nuclear power reactors were near completion NK would have essentially destroyed its plutonium producing reactors. It would have either stopped NK nuclear weapon programme, or at least put it back another 15 years or so - so we wouldn't be in this situation today.

Bill Quango MP said...

I like them both.

Le Carre would have Kim being a sleeper agent for Putin. Who is secretly working for MI5. But has been turned by Mossad.

Nelson DeMille would have Kim killed by aging agent ex Military intelligence officer,John Corey. But Kim keeps reappearing with new master plots to kill everyone having somehow survived.

Tom Clancy would have the USN Submarine fleet tracking KIM across the pacific. Jack Ryan blows him away with a MK IX torpedo in the end.

And Ian Fleming would have a big finale fight. James Bond versus Tubby Kim. In a hot air balloon. Over a nuclear silo hidden in a volcano.
And when Kim tumbles down and flares with a phosphorus glow Bond says,
"He's met his match."
Before blowing to safety into South Korea.

Where, because he's Daniel Craig, he just looks very sad about all the bad in the world.

Elby the Beserk said...

They didn't have nukes. Then Clinton offered them aid in return for a promise not to build nukes. They got the aid. They built the nukes. And here we are today. Clinton and Blair between them have done more damage to the West than any politicians since the dawn of time. They should both be strung up.

rwendland said...

Elby, in 1994 NK had their 5 MWe prototype Magnox reactor in operation - it started operation in 1986, were within 1 year of commissioning a 50 MWe (UK Calder Hall sized) Magnox reactor, and construction of a 200 MWe Magnox reactor had started (Hinkley Point A sized). The Agreed Framework's main immediate objective waa to stop the 50 MWe reactor from coming into operation.

rwendland said...

... talking of NK's very slow development of nuclear weapons, the history and rationale is interesting.

In 1958 the US deployed tactical atomic weapons - as they were then called - in South Korea. See here for a 1958 newsreel on the deployment. Buy 1964, when China tested its first nuke, the US had 500+ atomic weapons in South Korea, clearly ranged against North Korea. It got to near a 1000 nukes deployed to South Korea by 1967 - even the US realised this was a ridiculous OTT number and gradually reduced the number from this point - see this graph. Back to 500+ by late-1970s, and by 1984 they were down to a "mere" 100 odd tactical nukes in South Korea, but of course had a huge air-deliverable arsenal elsewhere in south east Asia by then. Though all this was highly secret back then, and NK would not have seen this decline clearly, if at all.

Unsurprisingly this worried NK enormously, and they decided they needed a nuclear deterrent. In the 1960s (pre NPT) they asked the Soviet Union and China to help them build a nuclear weapon, but were refused. So they sent scientists to study nuclear science abroad, and got a small research reactor from the Soviet Union - the US was also dishing out research reactors to everyone, eg the Congo and Iran - to prepare the skill-sets to sell nuclear power reactors around the world. The atomic future was all the rage back then.

By 1979 NK figured they had learned enough to start building a series of nuclear reactors based on the UK Magnox design. As a carbon dioxide cooled, graphite moderated Magnox reactor does not require difficult-to-produce enriched uranium fuel or heavy water moderator, it was an attractive choice for a wholly indigenous nuclear reactor development.

By 1986 they had their prototype 5 MWe Magnox reactor running OK. They then started a programme of full scale reactors, a 50 MWe and a 200 MWe for starters. If they followed the UK model, the 50 MWe (like Calder Hall at Sellafield) was mainly for weapons plutonium, and the 200 MWe (Hinkley Point A sized) was the first primarily power reactor.

Then the 1994 Agreed Framework and other stuff came along to try to stop them following this path, or at least slow them down.

For me, the interesting historical question is if the US had not deployed 500+ tactical atomic weapons in South Korea in the 1960s, clearly to potentially utterly destroy North Korea, would NK have started on its own very slow path to building its own nukes? An interesting counterfactual history to consider. To my mind, it underlines the fact that most actions cause a reaction, and in international politics you have to think ahead very carefully.

E-K said...

BQ You ARE the Viz editor and I claim my 5 pounds.

Anonymous said...

rwendland - very interesting, thank you

CU - "without Chinese help North Korea would still be a peasant state"

A peasant state full of average 105 IQ peasants can become a nuclear power, especially if other people give them reactors. Or a semiconductor and car power, like SK. Not so much a state full of 85 IQ people, like Congo (D). I had no idea there was a reactor in Kinshasa.

I think it's more that China is a benevolent and indulgent uncle whose unruly nephew 'just happens' to be putting the US in an awkward position.

Electro-Kevin said...

Anon - The easiest way to defeat an enemy is to persuade them of the virtues of our welfare system, Comprehensive schooling and soft university degrees, in order to lower their general IQ through (un)selective breeding and general ignorance.

Tell them it's all good for economic growth and low unemployment.

dearieme said...

I don't think I yet know exactly what the problem is. I see the excitement, nay hysteria, but what is the Norks' aim, what the US's?