Academic journal article Military Review

North Korea: Is ICBM a Threat?

Academic journal article Military Review

North Korea: Is ICBM a Threat?

Article excerpt

The North Korean nuclear program is a horrible example of the results of American leadership failure, deferring action to the next administration.

As to Chinas role in deferral, it is an open question. Agreements were signed but were violated immediately, so we seek new agreements. Sanctions are not a policy, just a pretense of policy. All they have accomplished is starvation of millions of North Koreans. China has never enforced sanctions and will never dare to do so. They have not worked elsewhere either, so we seek more sanctions.

Now North Korea claims it has an intercontinental ballistic missile (1CBM). What to do? The United States has basically one option; China has several options. By stopping all imports and exports through or from its territory, China could collapse the North Korean economy quickly. It could attack the nuclear facilities, also an American option. It could simply invade and occupy the country. It may have means of bringing about a change of regime. Does it really care enough to do anything? Perhaps, to induce regime change, but not to block trade, destroy, or invade after all. North Korea is not threatening to attack China with its ICBM. The United States as far as we know has only considered a military attack on nuclear facilities. Think again.

Chinese culture is horrified at the prospect of uncertainty and chaos. Now, there is no alternative. Its apparent plan to replace Kim Jong-un with a relative ended with the relatives murder in Malaysia. But even a palace coup or massacre was unlikely to go smoothly, nor was there a guarantee that a new ruler would behave as hoped for; South Korea might have its own candidate among the refugees.

The panic reaction to the successful launch of an alleged 1CBM is unwarranted. It is irrelevant at this time, perhaps a diversion. North Korea is not going to attack the United States. It is homicidal, but not suicidal. Nor is it going to invade South Korea unless it is convinced that the United States will not retaliate.

The current North Korean strategy is about money to keep its elite happy. It is more afraid of internal unrest than of foreign attack. Counterfeit currency, drugs, and ransom have all been tried. It is a criminal administration. Other nations have better missiles for sale, at low prices. It is exporting labor, possibly draining its armed forces. What else? North Korea has a lot of uranium-238 and plutonium in various packages--compact, portable, extremely valuable. …

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