How to stumble into a nuclear war in North Korea

Senior aides to President Trump repeatedly warned him not to deliver a personal attack on North Korea’s leader at the United Nations last week, saying insulting the young despot could irreparably escalate tensions and shut off any chance for negotiations to defuse the nuclear crisis. Aides warned Trump not to attack North Korea’s leader personally before his fiery U.N. address. But did our inexperienced infantile man-child listen? Nooo.

Trump’s derisive description of Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man” on “a suicide mission” and his threat to “totally destroy” North Korea were not in a speech draft that several senior officials reviewed and vetted on Monday, the day before Trump gave his first address to the U.N. General Assembly, two U.S. officials said.

Some of Trump’s top aides, including national security advisor H.R. McMaster, had argued for months against making the attacks on North Korea’s leader personal, warning it could backfire.

But Trump, who relishes belittling his rivals and enemies with crude nicknames, felt compelled to make a dramatic splash in the global forum.

Some advisors now worry that the escalating war of words has pushed the impasse with North Korea into a new and dangerous phase that threatens to derail the months-long effort to squeeze Pyongyang’s economy through sanctions to force Kim to the negotiating table.

A detailed CIA psychological profile of Kim, who is in his early 30s and took power in late 2011, assesses that Kim has a massive ego and reacts harshly and sometimes lethally to insults and perceived slights.

This same profile applies with equal accuracy to Donald Trump.

As predicted, Kim took Trump’s jibes personally and especially chafed at the fact that Trump mocked him in front of 200 presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and diplomats at the U.N.

Kim volleyed insults back at Trump in an unprecedented personal statement Thursday, calling Trump “a mentally deranged U.S. dotard” and a “gangster” who had to be tamed “with fire.”

Kim’s foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, threatened to respond with “the most powerful detonation,” a hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific Ocean, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

And of course he did … our man-child Twitter-troll-in-chief tweeted on Friday that Kim “is obviously a madman” who starves and kills his own people and “will be tested like never before.”

On Monday, North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong Ho, speaking to reporters at a hotel across the street from the United Nations, said President Trump’s comments at the General Assembly last week constituted a declaration of war. North Korea asserts a right to shoot down U.S. bombers:

“The whole world should clearly remember it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country,” he said. “Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country.”

Ri’s remarks were the most direct and threatening so far since Trump gave a combative address to the General Assembly last week in which he threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea.

Tensions have escalated almost every day since then. North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, made a rare TV appearance in which he called Trump “mentally deranged.” Trump responded with mockery, calling Kim “little rocket man.”

Ri, who said North Korea was prepared to test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean, told the United Nations on Friday that Trump’s disrespect toward Kim made it “inevitable” that rockets would “visit” the U.S. mainland.

Someday soon we are going to wake up to a news alert that the Korean war has been renewed and that combat operations are underway. It is only a matter of time, and it is inevitable.

Donald Trump has previously threatened to use nuclear weapons. 9 terrifying things Donald Trump has publicly said about nuclear weapons. There is no reason to believe that Kim Jong Un would not use his limited nuclear arsenal in a renewed Korean war, especially when Trump’s stated goal is to “totally destroy” North Korea. Kim has no choice but to resort to his nuclear arsenal.

Barbara Demick of the L.A. Times writes, “This is the way a nuclear war begins.” This is how a war with North Korea could play out:

Simulations of a war on the Korean peninsula usually start with a relatively minor incident at the demilitarized zone between South Korea and its hostile northern neighbor, or a provocation that develops into a conventional war and then escalates.

President Donald Trump’s threatening posture toward North Korea — most recently exhibited at the United Nations, where he warned that the U.S. could “totally destroy” the country — has prompted military strategists to examine what would actually happen if a war broke out.

The scenarios are a sobering corrective to the notion that North Korea’s nuclear capacity could be taken out in a single strike, or that the government would prove as fragile as that of Saddam Hussein in Iraq or Moammar Gadhafi in Libya.

“Too many Americans have the view that it would be like the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan, or like combat operations in Libya or Syria, but it wouldn’t remotely resemble that,” said Rob Givens, a retired Air Force brigadier general who spent four years stationed on the Korean peninsula.

And that is before the North Koreans turn to nuclear weapons. “There is only one way that this war ends,” Givens said. “With North Korea’s defeat — but at what cost?”

James Stavridis, a retired Navy admiral and dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, said the horrific war many have long feared with North Korea is a distinct possibility. He puts the chances of conventional conflict with North Korea at 50-50 and the chances of nuclear war at 10 percent.

“We are closer to a nuclear exchange than we have been at any time in the world’s history with the single exception of the Cuban missile crisis,” Stavridis said.

* * *

North Korea has about 11,000 conventional artillery pieces dug into the mountains north of the demilitarized zone. Although much of the equipment dates from the Soviet era, it is in excellent working order and well protected from drone strikes and airstrikes because it is designed to be rolled in and out from tunnels in the mountains.

The United States would try to take out the artillery with drones and airstrikes, but that would take days, in which time the North Koreans would probably launch a punishing barrage aimed at Seoul and its population of 25 million.

As the war escalates, the North Koreans would probably bomb the bridges across Seoul’s Han River to make it more difficult for civilians to flee; use special forces and infiltrators to attack key facilities and personnel in South Korea; and launch short-range missiles against South Korean and U.S. military bases.

The Pentagon has estimated the potential number of dead in South Korea at 20,000 each day, Givens said. And that is before the North Koreans turn to nuclear weapons.

Although North Korea has successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile and conducted six nuclear tests, the technologies have not yet been married together. That means that though the West Coast of the U.S. now appears to be within range of North Korea’s missiles, it is unlikely that Pyongyang could credibly target the mainland United States with a fully functioning nuclear weapon at this stage.

On the other hand, a nuclear device could be smuggled into a container port or dropped from an airplane, perhaps near one of the U.S. bases in Asia.

“In an all-out conquest for regime survival, they will come after the United States. They are not going to win, but they will try — I guarantee that,” Givens said.

The paradox with North Korea is that its weakness is what makes it so dangerous — and why it is difficult to make comparisons with the Cold War period, when fears of mutually assured destruction deterred war with the Soviet Union.

If Kim thinks his government is collapsing, many of those who have long studied the inscrutable leader believe, he would be inclined to reach for the nuclear option to take down everyone else with him — a last lash of the dragon’s tail.

“The North Koreans are in a weak position. They can’t sustain a protracted conventional war. They would have to reach for their weapons of mass destruction early on,” said Daniel Pinkston, a former military translator who now teaches defense strategy in South Korea.

The very notion of trying to take out North Korea’s nuclear weapons, he added, “has a high likelihood that you are going to unleash the very thing that you are trying to prevent.”

Kim Jong Il, father of the current leader, is widely reported to have said, “I would destroy the world or take the world with me before accepting defeat on the battlefield.”

The oft-cited statistics about North Korea’s military are formidable: 1.2 million soldiers in the fourth-largest ground army in the world, among them more than 100,000 special forces trained to infiltrate South Korea. Although its military hardware dates back to the Soviet era, North Korea has more tanks than the United States (3,500 compared with 2,381) and more artillery pieces than China. Its nuclear fissile material is enough for at least 12 nuclear weapons, possibly as many as 60, depending on their size. (According to the Arms Control Association, the U.S. has 1,411 strategic nuclear warheads.)

“The North Korean army is still inferior in every aspect of their operations, but they have massive artillery and missile capability, very large special forces and covert operations and submarines,” said Anthony Cordesman of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies and author of a study of the military balance in Asia.

* * *

One of the unpredictable factors charting the course of a new Korean War is whether China would enter the war to save its communist ally.

The Global Times, a newspaper that often expresses Chinese government views, editorialized last month that China would not help North Korea if the U.S. retaliated against a North Korean missile attack. However, it also warned that “if the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.”

Most military strategists don’t expect the current Chinese government under Xi Jinping to send its troops across the Yalu River as Mao Tse-tung did in 1950. But Beijing could conduct airstrikes to prop up the government in Pyongyang, in much the way that Russia has come to the aid of Syria’s Assad. The Chinese also might intervene to call for a peace deal that would end up keeping Kim in power.

The aftermath of a new Korean War, even a conventional war, could be as messy as the conflict itself.

Removal of Kim could leave the country with a power vacuum and no one clearly in charge.

“You might have a legitimacy competition in North Korea where different actions are backed by different parties,” said Scott Snyder of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Although North Korea has an ethnically homogenous population — no rival ethnic factions competing for dominance — it has often been torn by regional divisions and could easily disintegrate in the way that countries such as Iraq and Libya did after the fall of dictators.

“I would not rule out the possibility that North Korea’s future could look a lot like Syria,” Snyder said. “North Korea could become a resource-consuming quagmire of many, many years.

How many hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people, will die because of the egos and childish taunts of these two man-child mad men?

26 Responses to How to stumble into a nuclear war in North Korea

  1. For Sure Not Tom

    This is the world Trump’s childish Tweet’s are taking us all back to.

    What the fake conservatives call “the good old days”.

    For the record, this does no good.

    • For Sure Not Tom

      • OMG, that is so funny but true. My grammar school had these drills where we would line both sides of the hallways and just sit there for awhile. I guess the reasoning was we were better off away from the windows. Everyone had to bring in a gallon Clorox bleach jug full of water to be stored and used for drinking after the nuclear bomb hit. Your mother was supposed to use up all the Clorox as she normally would, not rinse out the jug, then fill it with water.

        • ““Certainly he shows more respect than Obama did.”/ “Certainly he shows more respect for veterans than I normally see on the pages this blog.” / “That’s pure BS!” // Your words. Rearranged.

          Yes, I recognized what I wrote. But what was the point of doing that? If you are trying to demonstrate words can be rearranged to state something that was different than the intended message, you accomplished that. But to what end? Anyone can do something like that, but it means nothing. You are much better off to use your own words to state something. Otherwise what you write may be cute, but it is pointless.

          • The statements of yours that I quoted are unsubstantiated, pointless, and pulled right out of your a$$ like most of you write on this blog.

          • And your reply is misplaced. But I suppose it makes little difference where you post your drivel.

    • “This is the world Trump’s childish Tweet’s are taking us all back to.”

      No, it isn’t. Your exaggerated hysteria does not paint a real picture of what is going on. There are no other nuclear super-powers involved that could possibly threaten us. Get a hold of yourself, Tom, and be realistic.

      “What the fake conservatives call “the good old days”.

      In many respects they were the “good old days”,Tom. They also had some truly rotten things that went on. The exact same thing can be said of any, including today. That you refuse to see any good from the period does not alter that reality one iota. The darkness you constantly see when you look there is more of a reflection of you than it is of the time period. And that attitude is not limited to you. You tend to hang around with people who suffer the same darkness of spirit; the ones to whom the phrase, “the good old days” are said with a sneer. That refusal to see “good” where it exists is your problem, Tom, not the problem of the time period.

      “For the record, this does no good.”

      That is true…your attitude does no good to anyone, but especially to you.

      • For Sure Not Tom

        Goddamn but you’re an idiot.

        Guam issued the following on 8/11/2017.

        http://ghs.guam.gov/sites/default/files/files/JIC_Factsheet_2017_003%20-%20In%20Case%20of%20Emergency%20-%20Preparing%20for%20Imminent%20Missile%20Threat.pdf

        I’m guessing you don’t live in Guam, or Japan.

        Goddamn but you’re an idiot. Ease up on the knee jerk reactions to everything I post, weirdo, your going to get a groin pull.

        • “Guam issued the following on 8/11/2017.”

          I know the kerfuffle that went on in Guam a while back. It was the result of hysteria caused by the media playing up the theory that North Korean missiles might have the range to hit Guam. However, in the technical press where people actually know what they are talking about, it was considered extremely unlikely the missiles could reach Guam because they had neither the range to reach Guam nor the hardiness of platform to actually survive such a flight. It was also considered highly unlikely that the guidance systems on he missiles had the sophistication to actually hit a tiny and distant location like Guam.

          “Ease up on the knee jerk reactions to everything I post, weirdo,…”

          There is nothing “knee jerk” about my reactions to much of what you write. Much of what you have been writing, Tom, borders on hysteria. Whether done for effect or because you genuinely believe what you write, many of your pronouncements need corrected. At the very least, the legitimate countering arguments to what you write need to be stated lest the erroneous information you post is viewed as the final word on the subject.

          “Goddamn but you’re an idiot.”

          I am sure that you would like to think so, Tom. It would undoubtedly make you feel better when I ask you those questions you won’t answer as opposed to acknowledging their legitimacy and answering them. In any event, I will just add the term to the list of pejorative terms you’ve called me in the past.

          Also, as I told Liza the other day, you post so many messages that the odds that I will respond are great simply because your volume of posting is so great.

  2. For Sure Not Tom

    Trump tweet this Saturday night:

    Iran just test-fired a Ballistic Missile capable of reaching Israel.They are also working with North Korea.Not much of an agreement we have!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017

    The problem is that the footage Fox News showed was seven months old.

    The Commander in Chief of the United States of America is tweeting fake news and does not know what is actually happening in the real world.

    The GOP needs to admit they screwed up and get rid of this idiot. You elected an idiot who should be working with his IC and military and not getting his information from TV.

  3. what side will the corporate democrats choose? last time hillary biden kerry chose warmonger to run for president as did nancy pelosi. bernie sanders lincoln chafee( a republican at that time) ted kennedy and dennis kucinich voted for peace.

  4. “But Trump, who relishes belittling his rivals and enemies with crude nicknames…”

    Hey, Tom! I read this line is AzBMs commentary and I realized that you share this affectation with Trump. How about that?!?!

    “Let’s see how the American people feel about Trump insulting us into a 3rd war that we cannot win and cannot afford.”

    You are wrong about us not being able to win it? We can, with relative ease, win such a conflict. As far as not being able to afford it, I think you can make a good case that you are correct and we can’t afford it. However, the odds are it would merely consume only some of the existing stockpiles of weapons and equipment before the war ended. The cost of replacing those stocks would be a lot.

    Why do you call it the “3rd War”? We have many more wars than that in our history.

  5. For Sure Not Tom

    Stumble into war, or Tweet our way to Victory!

    The GOP elected a reality TV game show host with a history of failed businesses and grabbed pussys.

    Let’s see how the American people feel about Trump insulting us into a 3rd war that we cannot win and cannot afford.

    • The American people? At least 27-30% will support it, especially if they don’t have to actually go fight in it. Provided there’s something left after a potential nuclear exchange.

      • For Sure Not Tom

        Yeah, you’re right.

        We would solve half the country’s problems if we brought back the draft. Overnight, kids would suddenly develop an interest in politics and start voting.

        What I don’t get is who would go to war for Trump? He’s said he doesn’t like people who get caught, so if you’re a POW you’re screwed, and he’s said if you come back from war with PTSD you’re weak.

        He’s disrespectful of vets on any given day.

        He’s playing the Patriot card this week, saying American football players don’t respect the military, blah blah blah, but how does his draft dodging ass show respect for the military?

        He’s just another shameless GOP chickenhawk.

        The GOP must be so proud.

        • You bet they’re proud! After excoriating Bill Clinton as a draft dodger because he dared to criticize the Vietnam war while he was a student at Oxford, besides John McCain, who have the Republicans run since?

          George W. Bush who supported the Vietnam war, yet due to family connections, was able to jump over a long waiting list and get into the Texas Air National Guard. During the war the Guard was the place to be since they weren’t going to be mobilized. Johnson & Nixon never mobilized the Guard as that would be admitting there’s a full scale war going on over there. Not going to go into Richard “Third Branch” Cheney.

          Mitt Romney who supported the war yet felt proselytizing in France was a higher priority.

          And that brings us to the present. Donald Trump who supported the war (though he denied it during the campaign) and after running out of student deferments, got a medical deferment due to “bone spurs”. Allegedly from a doctor who was known for writing up deferments for the children of the Wall Street elite. Funny that a guy who bragged about having a “very good brain” can’t remember the doctor’s name & has no idea where the deferment paperwork is.

          • “After excoriating Bill Clinton as a draft dodger because he dared to criticize the Vietnam war while he was a student at Oxford…”

            Wileybud, you know they don’t call someone a draft dodger because they protest. They call someone a draft dodger because they dodged the draft…like Clinton did.

          • Steve, exactly how did Clinton dodge the draft? For getting student deferments like your President and Dick Cheney did multiple times?
            Please show us unpatriotic liberals the difference or go crawl back under your crumbling bridge troll boy (h/t FSNT).

          • “Steve, exactly how did Clinton dodge the draft?”

            Having lived through period, one of the several definitions of a “draft dodger” was to address those who used the selective service systems rules (including the systems deferment programs) to find ways to avoid being called up. Now that did not include those people who, having finished school and/or had another change in their status, were then drafted.

            Bill Clinton used student deferments to avoid being drafted and he never went on to serve. He was/is a draft dodger by the way he manipulated the system to avoid having to serve.

            “For getting student deferments like your President and Dick Cheney did multiple times?”

            Yes, just like that.

            “Please show us unpatriotic liberals the difference…”

            The difference in what? Among Cheney, Trump and Clinton? If that is what you mean (and I am guessing here) then there is no difference. Were you expecting me to try and say there was a difference? Why?

            “…or go crawl back under your crumbling bridge troll boy.

            Calm down, Wileybud. I didn’t insult you so why was it so important to you that you try to insult me?

          • Steve, when you responded all you had to say was that Bill Clinton was a draft dodger, leaving out the actions of Bush, Romney & Trump. Which brought on the troll remark.

            C’mon Steve, you knew what you were doing so your playing the hurt victim is pretty transparent.

          • “C’mon Steve, you knew what you were doing so your playing the hurt victim is pretty transparent.”

            Actually, the only reason I mentioned Clinton alone was in response to your message which focused on Clinton. We have enough people in power who managed to avoid the draft back in my day that we could talk a long, long time about them. As far as I am concerned that is all history and bears little impact today.

        • “He’s playing the Patriot card this week, saying American football players don’t respect the military…”

          He’s correct, they don’t. Among many, many other Americans to whom they showed disrespect.

          “…but how does his draft dodging ass show respect for the military?”

          The truth he gets very high marks from the military for the way he treats them. Certainly he shows more respect than Obama did.

          “He’s disrespectful of vets on any given day.”

          That’s pure BS! He is VERY respectful of vets and they appreciate him for it. Certainly he shows more respect for veterans than I normally see on the pages this blog.

          “What I don’t get is who would go to war for Trump?”

          The people who go to fight our wars wouldn’t do so for Trump. You should know that.

          “Overnight, kids would suddenly develop an interest in politics and start voting.”

          That would be a reasonable assumption, but experience in the past demonstrates that the draft age kids in the last drafts were no more involved in politics and voting than that same demographic does today.

          • “Certainly he shows more respect than Obama did.”

            “Certainly he shows more respect for veterans than I normally see on the pages this blog.”

            “That’s pure BS!”

            Your words. Rearranged.

      • “Provided there’s something left after a potential nuclear exchange.”

        Don’t be so glum, Wileybud. North Korea only has a tiny number of nukes and very little ability to deliver them across the Pacific. They might use the three or four nukes they have against South Korea or Japan, but given the small number they have, there still would be most of the world (and North Lorea and Japan, as well)left after a potential nuclear exchange.

        • Frances Perkins

          What a wonderful prospect. We would win a war but half of South Korea would be in rubble, Japan would be damaged and have nuclear fall out damage for years. These are great tradeoffs for two egotistical blowhards who care nothing for anyone else but themselves. This isn’t a TV show. Even Reagan, senility and all, wasn’t this crazy. Just shut the hell up, you egomaniacal morons, both Kim and Trump. But expecting Trimp to be a measured intelligent President is impossible. At least George Bush senior was intelligent, and had actual war experience.

          • “What a wonderful prospect.”

            I certainly hope you are not implying I think that going to war is a “wonderful prospect” because you are wrong. However, I do believe that if you are going to discuss war you should do so in a realistic fashion. Hysterical exaggeration never does help the discussion.

            “Just shut the hell up, you egomaniacal morons, both Kim and Trump.”

            I agree completely. I wish they would both shut up. At the very least I wish Trump would shot taunting Un. Un is especially brittle and unstable, and therefore more dangerous.