Why I’m not worried about North Korea

(Previously published in the McTavish Opera blog 8 April 2013)
Kim Jong-un’s poor Korea choice.
(Oh come on, you knew someone was always going to use a pun like that)

Oh dear. Silly season on the world stage again as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un throws another tantrum and declares there is a state of war between his country and South Korea. Well of course there is. The two never signed any peace treaty and technically have been at war for over 60 years now.

There has been many things said during the current “crisis” including some stating that there would be no sign of conflict as long as the shared Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex stayed open. This plant, ten miles inside North Korea, opened in 2004 and had South Korean companies and managers enjoying the benefits of cheap North Korean labour. Well, on 3 April 2013, North Korea refused the South Koreans entry to Kaesong, which naturally enough has led to increased tensions.

North Korea has also been moving it’s missiles to more “strategic” positions near the coast, has stated it is restarting Yongbyon nuclear complex to bolster it’s nuclear forces and has stated that diplomats in foreign embassies will not be safe after 10 April and has advised them to pull out.

All this has got the South Koreans, the Americans and the British with their knickers in a knot. Me? I’m sitting back, relaxing and sighing, because it’s all bullroar.

Whenever an alarm goes off about a rogue state, particularly if it North Korea, I immediately go to the website of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was founded in 1945 and it is they who gave us the “Doomsday Clock” (the amount of warning we would get before nuclear war – currently standing at five minutes to midnight). Guess what? The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have said NOTHING on the current conflict, which suggests to me that they, the experts on nuclear weapons, are not worried at all. None of North Korea’s nuclear tests have even come anywhere near the yield of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, which was 13 kilotonnes. The latest North Korean test registered only 7 kilotonnes. Concerning North Korean tests, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists came up with these four scenarios:

A: the device failed to detonate properly;
B: the device was a higher-tech device designed for smaller yield with less fissile matter (e.g., missile warheads or briefcase bombs
C: the North Koreans faked a nuclear explosion with conventional explosives;
D: the North Koreans detonated a larger device in a large cavity to muffle its yield.

Of these, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reckon that option A was the most likely. They completely disregard option C, that the explosion was faked with conventional explosives. I for one do not. The only people who know for sure are the North Korean military and leadership. And given the horse feathers they have talked before, then it is perfectly possible that they have been faking it all along. Consider also that the Yongbyon reactor has been closed since 2007, thereby giving NK little to no fissile material to work with, and that makes the possibility of faking an explosion all the more likely, especially when one considers the extremely low yield of their tests.

There is therefore every possibility that North Korea has faked all of its nuclear tests with conventional explosives. They are after all masters of kidology and it may well be that on this occasion other nations such as the UK and the USA are happy to go along with that kidology, in order to justify keeping their own arsenals. Should anyone doubt that is possible, consider the words of UK Prime Minister David Cameron on 1 April 2013, when stating why the UK must retain its nuclear deterrent;

“The highly unpredictable and aggressive regime in North Korea recently conducted its third nuclear test and could already have enough fissile material to produce more than a dozen nuclear weapons. Last year North Korea unveiled a long-range ballistic missile which it claims can reach the whole of the United States. If this became a reality it would also affect the whole of Europe, including the UK.”

Not so. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists certainly does not think that North Korea has enough fissile material to produce more than a dozen weapons, and if they did, why even bother reopening the Yongbyon reactor? As to the “long range ballistic missile”, which we shall look at in a moment, it could not reach anywhere near Europe, let alone the UK, if it actually worked. David Cameron must know better than that, so he has been caught out telling a pack of utter lies. But then, it would not be the first time the public in the UK (or the USA) have been lied to about rogue states having weapons of mass destruction, would it?

Concerning missiles, of the four long range rockets North Korea has, only the Musadan missile, with a range of 4000km, is capable of hitting Guam or the Philippines, and the Taepodong-2, with a range of 6000km, is capable of hitting Alaska. Both missiles are untested and it is believed that the true reason why North Korea has moved Musandan missiles to the coast is so that if they do carry out a test launch, as is expected, it is far more likely the missile will fall into the sea rather than come down on North Korean soil, or in South Korea, where the remnants could be seized and examined by both South Korean and US missile experts.

Even given the possibility that North Korea has an atomic bomb, it is highly unlikely they have made a device small enough to fit onto a missile as a warhead. And even if they did, they may well be fire a rocket into space, which is relatively simple. Harder still is getting such a device to re-enter earth’s atmosphere without it burning up. To put it simply, North Korea simply is not that clever.

Of course, South Korea and Japan are well within striking distance of North Korea but then one has to ask oneself what would it profit Kim Jong-un to attack allies of the USA? He knows very well that it would mean the end of him and his country. The USA have announced they will delay a missile test to try to de-escalate tensions. They appear to be bending over backwards diplomatically but even President Obama’s patience is not without limit. The USA, with some of the most sophisticated firepower in the world at their disposal, could flatten North Korea with conventional weapons, and without any need to go nuclear, and there is no-one would lift a finger to help them. Russia has recently condemned North Korea and even their closest allies, China, are fast losing patience with them and would be highly unlikely to get involved with in a conflict with the USA. Especially when one considers just how much the US has become a cash cow for China ever since they embraced capitalism. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

It seems to me that Kim Jong-un, having stepped into the shoes of his father, the late “glorious leader”, Kim Jong-il, has realised he still lives in his father’s shadow and is perhaps trying to outdo him. I was wondering just whom Kim Jong-un reminds me of then it suddenly came to me; Dr Noah / Jimmy Bond in the 1967 spoof movie of Casino Royale. Excellently played by Woody Allen, this portrayed the nephew of James Bond who, being a little guy, was sick of being ignored and living in his famous uncle’s shadow, so set about on a plan for world domination. So it is Kim Jong-un is playing at bluster to try and impress the world – and failing badly at it.

So I won’t worry about North Korea and nobody else should either. They may well have a test launch of a missile but it will be that, a test launch. And don’t be surprised if it goes wrong either, but do remember to have a good laugh if it does.

And while you’re about it, don’t forget to keep laughing at Kim Jong-un; a sad, pathetic, little squit of a man, who will never have the power or respect he dreams of.

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