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Old 05-13-2019, 10:53 AM
Steven Estes is offline
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Why is there fear of North Korea’s nuclear power?


Why is there fear of North Korea’s nuclear power?
Were North Korea to launch a Nuclear attack on Los Angeles or, I assume, Seoul, the United States would respond with an all out nuclear attack and there would be no North Korea.
This being the case, why is there the fear of North Korean nuclear power?
(While it is, I suppose possible in principle that the NK leader is so crazy as to be willing to make this trade, this would seem extraordinarily unlikely.)
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Old 05-13-2019, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Steven Estes View Post
Why is there fear of North Korea’s nuclear power?
Were North Korea to launch a Nuclear attack on Los Angeles or, I assume, Seoul, the United States would respond with an all out nuclear attack and there would be no North Korea.
This being the case, why is there the fear of North Korean nuclear power?
(While it is, I suppose possible in principle that the NK leader is so crazy as to be willing to make this trade, this would seem extraordinarily unlikely.)
"Extraordinarily unlikely" is not unlikely enough when it comes to nuclear weapons.
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Old 05-13-2019, 11:21 AM
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Were North Korea to launch a Nuclear attack on Los Angeles or, I assume, Seoul, the United States would respond with an all out nuclear attack and there would be no North Korea.
Sure, but the damage would be already done. Wiping North Korea off the map is little consolation for the loss of a million Americans and damage done to the U.S. economy and psyche that would dwarf 9/11. It's not like revenge somehow heals the damage.

Prevention is key.
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Old 05-13-2019, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Steven Estes View Post
Were North Korea to launch a Nuclear attack on Los Angeles or, I assume, Seoul, the United States would respond with an all out nuclear attack and there would be no North Korea.
This being the case, why is there the fear of North Korean nuclear power?
(While it is, I suppose possible in principle that the NK leader is so crazy as to be willing to make this trade, this would seem extraordinarily unlikely.)
First, the underlying basis of U.S. nuclear policy is a strong emphasis on deterrence (making one's opponent not take an aggressive action because they fear the consequences). Most Americans would not be satisfied with a war in which Los Angeles is destroyed, but so too is Pyongyang. That would seem like a poor trade, so U.S. policy has been to up the threats against our adversaries (such as by rejecting a "no first use" policy) with the goal of making us look so aggressive that our opponent cannot see how they could "win" a nuclear war.

So, with that in mind, there is some debate as to whether North Korea is deterred from using nuclear weapons in the same way that Russia or China may be deterred by our nuclear policies. Just as the average American would probably think that trading Los Angeles for Pyongyang is a bad deal on our end, do North Korean leaders think that it is a good deal on their end?

Or, do they think that if they get in a conventional war with South Korea/the U.S., that they are going to lose horribly anyway, so why not blow up Los Angeles regardless of the consequences?

The bottom line is that there is some debate as to what is needed to deter North Korea from using nuclear weapons. And the fact that we don't know precisely what it does take to deter them makes many people very nervous.

Last edited by Ravenman; 05-13-2019 at 11:25 AM.
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Old 05-13-2019, 11:25 AM
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Yeah, the North Korean leadership is inherently unstable and unpredictable. Their primary goal is to maintain power in an increasingly unbalanced national polity.

So they could, at some point, do something that appears irrational from the outside if they feel their hold on power is sufficiently threatened. And losing Los Angeles is not made up for by the destruction of NK's ability to also destroy San Diego or Las Vegas or something.
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Old 05-13-2019, 11:30 AM
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North Korea is also big on exporting it's military tech to other countries. They don't care who buys their missiles as long as it's in a hard currency.

If the DPRK gets it's nukes business running well enough, they will definitely be selling bombs and missiles to some really skeevy folk.

There are also basic ways to deliver a bomb to the US via ships. A nuke going off in a major US harbor is nothing to snort at.
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Old 05-13-2019, 11:44 AM
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North Korea is also still technically at war with South Korea. The US would rather not have the headache of figuring out what to do if a nuclear NK marches on Seoul. It's bad enough that they can flatten Seoul with conventional weapons.
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Old 05-13-2019, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Steven Estes View Post
Why is there fear of North Korea’s nuclear power?
Were North Korea to launch a Nuclear attack on Los Angeles or, I assume, Seoul, the United States would respond with an all out nuclear attack and there would be no North Korea.
This being the case, why is there the fear of North Korean nuclear power?
Well, OK, Little Kim nukes LA and the US turns North Korea into glass...

LA is still a glow-in-the-dark crater. And the rest of the US is downwind of LA. Granted, the US won't be nearly as bad off as North Korea, but it's still gonna suck for California and to a lesser extent the rest of the country.

Sure, it's unlikely but that's not the same as impossible.
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Old 05-13-2019, 12:42 PM
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There's also the issue that "nuking LA" isn't the only possible use of nuclear weapons. We've been so conditioned by decades of the Cold War that people have forgotten this.

One aspect of US power projection is the ability to move an aircraft carrier fleet to basically anywhere in the world, which gives the US the capacity to establish air superiority almost anywhere. Now, imagine a new Korean war starting, and the US has to consider the effects of a NK armed with intermediate range missiles carrying nuclear warheads. How long do you think a carrier fleet that's within range of NK would last?

Last edited by Horatius; 05-13-2019 at 12:43 PM.
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Old 05-13-2019, 12:57 PM
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Currently, the probability of North Korea being able to successfully destroy Los Angeles is fairly low. The probability of them being able to destroy Tokyo is somewhat higher. The probability of them being able to destroy Seoul is very high.

Yes, this would entail the reduction to radioactive kimchee of Pyongyang, all the other cities in NK, all the sites from which a missile could be launched, all the sites from which a missile might be launched, all the sites where somebody lives who can spell "missile", and several others just for good measure. But it wouldn't help.

Kim is either
  • crazy,
  • wants the rest of the world to think he is crazy, or
  • some exciting combination of the above.
I'd prefer not to find out which it is.

Regards,
Shodan
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Old 05-13-2019, 01:11 PM
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There's also the issue that "nuking LA" isn't the only possible use of nuclear weapons. We've been so conditioned by decades of the Cold War that people have forgotten this.

One aspect of US power projection is the ability to move an aircraft carrier fleet to basically anywhere in the world, which gives the US the capacity to establish air superiority almost anywhere. Now, imagine a new Korean war starting, and the US has to consider the effects of a NK armed with intermediate range missiles carrying nuclear warheads. How long do you think a carrier fleet that's within range of NK would last?
I'd be rather surprised if North Korea could hit a carrier strike group maneuvering at sea in wartime with a nuclear missile.
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Old 05-13-2019, 01:22 PM
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The OP is assuming that NK's leadership cares what happens to its population.
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Old 05-13-2019, 01:30 PM
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I'd be rather surprised if North Korea could hit a carrier strike group maneuvering at sea in wartime with a nuclear missile.


And ten years ago, we'd all have been surprised at a discussion of NK actually building working nuclear weapons.

You might be right, but at this point, I'm giving NK the benefit of the doubt that they've earned.
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Old 05-13-2019, 02:01 PM
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Yeah, the North Korean leadership is inherently unstable and unpredictable. Their primary goal is to maintain power in an increasingly unbalanced national polity.

So they could, at some point, do something that appears irrational from the outside if they feel their hold on power is sufficiently threatened. And losing Los Angeles is not made up for by the destruction of NK's ability to also destroy San Diego or Las Vegas or something.
Yes, we assume Putin is sane and Kim is crazy. That's the way the money lies, anyway.
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Old 05-13-2019, 02:02 PM
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The OP is assuming that NK's leadership cares what happens to its population.
I don't think the NK leadership is under any illusions that they will survive starting a nuclear war. They wouldn't.

You are entirely correct that they care very little for their population. But they care very much about holding onto power. That's the point of Kim acting crazy - to plant doubt in the minds of his enemies that he is crazy enough to be willing to die, along with his whole country, rather than give up power.

As well as keeping power by defying the West and keeping the populace in a war mentality.

Regards,
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Old 05-13-2019, 03:03 PM
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Two big problems with a bad actor getting nukes:

1. Nuclear blackmail. Kim doesn't have to fire off a nuke. He just has to threaten to do it unless conditions are met. The danger is that if you do it you just encourage him to make an even bigger demand next time, or if you refuse you run the risk of nuclear war. Nuclear brinksmanship with a sane large power like the Soviet Union is one thing, but nuclear brinksmanship with an insane man who thinks he's a living God and has total control of his government is quite another. In a way, an unstable maniac's only advantage is that you can't count on him to behave rationally, so you don't have much in the way of leverage in hard diplomacy.

2. Proliferation. The North Koreans have been selling nuclear and missile technology to bad people all over the world, including Iran, Pakistan, and no doubt others. North Korea might not launch a missile at the U.S., but they might sell a bomb to Iran, which might then try to smuggle or fly it into Israel or use it against U.S. forces or a U.S. city. They might sell high level waste to a terrorist group for use in radiological bombs. Imagine if suicide bombers had a few ounces of plutonium dust mixed into their bombs. Every suicide attack would turn into a massive radiological clean up.
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Old 05-13-2019, 03:08 PM
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I don't think the NK leadership is under any illusions that they will survive starting a nuclear war. They wouldn't.

You are entirely correct that they care very little for their population. But they care very much about holding onto power. That's the point of Kim acting crazy - to plant doubt in the minds of his enemies that he is crazy enough to be willing to die, along with his whole country, rather than give up power.
Assume Kin Jung Un's kid(s) are safely out of the country and he has 3 months to live. What's to stop him from nuking Seoul?
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Old 05-13-2019, 03:43 PM
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Assume Kin Jung Un's kid(s) are safely out of the country and he has 3 months to live. What's to stop him from nuking Seoul?
There wouldn't be any North Korea for his kids to run. The smart play for him (for various values of "smart") is to convince the world that he doesn't care about that. Because then he can blackmail the world into doing things that will keep him in power - give him aid, treat him as if he were not a nutcase, etc.

Regards,
Shodan
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Old 05-13-2019, 03:52 PM
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[Moderating]

And the factual question here is...?

Moving to GD.
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Old 05-13-2019, 03:56 PM
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Assume Kin Jung Un's kid(s) are safely out of the country and he has 3 months to live. What's to stop him from nuking Seoul?
The generals in his CoC who would execute the order. If the North Koreans have road-mobile ICBMs capable of carrying a multistage device---something which hasn't been proven to exist as a whole, even though the individual parts probably exist---Kim likely doesn't have a direct communication link with the crew in the MZKT-knockoff TEL that'll fuel and launch the damned thing. He has people who can do that for him. Those people are subject to his whim, but they and especially their bosses, might not be as eager for Götterdämmerung as Kim.

The order would probably go over a lot easier if the US and SK were actively in full blown hostilities at the time. Which is a risk of going to overt military action against the North Koreans.

Surprised this sort of question has stayed in GQ this long.

I swear I didn't see Chronos's moving the thread beforehand

Last edited by Gray Ghost; 05-13-2019 at 03:57 PM.
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Old 05-13-2019, 04:09 PM
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Imagine if suicide bombers had a few ounces of plutonium dust mixed into their bombs. Every suicide attack would turn into a massive radiological clean up.
No one needs a nuclear bomb program to make dirty bombs. Medical-grade cobalt, which exists all over the world in things like x-ray and radiotherapy machines, would work just fine. The stuff getting into junkyards accidentally has killed dozens of people around the world and made several radioactive messes to clean up.

Frankly, I'm pleasantly surprised that sort of thing - suicide dirty bombers - hasn't happened.
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Old 05-13-2019, 04:43 PM
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North Korea is also big on exporting it's military tech to other countries. They don't care who buys their missiles as long as it's in a hard currency.

If the DPRK gets it's nukes business running well enough, they will definitely be selling bombs and missiles to some really skeevy folk.

There are also basic ways to deliver a bomb to the US via ships. A nuke going off in a major US harbor is nothing to snort at.
This is a big one. North Korea has tried to help (I believe) Myanmar, Libya, Iran, Pakistan and Syria obtain nuclear weapons and nuclear technology. NK helped Syria build the nuclear plant in Syria that Israel bombed.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myanma...nuclear_issues

https://www.cfr.org/interview/north-...ar-cooperation

https://theconversation.com/will-nor...chnology-83562


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North Korean technicians allegedly assisted the Pakistanis in production of Krytrons, likely sometime in the 1990s. Krytrons are devices used to trigger the detonation of a nuclear device.

Later in the 1990s, North Korea allegedly transferred cylinders of low-enriched uranium hexafluoride (UF6) to Pakistan, where notorious proliferator A.Q. Khan shipped them onward to Libya. UF6 is a gaseous uranium compound that’s needed to create the “highly enriched uranium” used in weapons.
North Korea knows they can push pretty hard and get no consequences due to the damage they can do to other nations. If they fire chemical, biological or nuclear weapons at SK, Japan, the US, etc. it'll cause huge amounts of damage. So North Korea knows it can get away with a ton of crap. one of those things is selling nuclear material on the international market to raise money to keep the regime afloat. However sooner or later this proliferation will mean that nukes get into the hands of a nation or individual who actually intends to use them. I don't think NK would nuke anyone anytime soon, but the technology they sell could result in nukes being used by a 3rd party.
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Old 05-13-2019, 05:00 PM
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I would guess that Pyongyang is aware that if it sells nukes to a foreign nation or terrorist group, and that entity uses aforementioned nuke(s) in an attack on America, and that such a linkage were identifiable, that it would lead to imminently dire consequences for the Kim regime, almost as if Kim himself had launched such a nuke at America.
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Old 05-13-2019, 05:04 PM
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I would guess that Pyongyang is aware that if it sells nukes to a foreign nation or terrorist group, and that entity uses aforementioned nuke(s) in an attack on America, and that such a linkage were identifiable, that it would lead to imminently dire consequences for the Kim regime, almost as if Kim himself had launched such a nuke at America.
But they're already engaging in behavior that will lead to nukes for rogue states with ties to terrorism. I think North Korea knows the damage they can do to foreign nations means they can get away with almost anything.
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Old 05-13-2019, 05:12 PM
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And ten years ago, we'd all have been surprised at a discussion of NK actually building working nuclear weapons.

You might be right, but at this point, I'm giving NK the benefit of the doubt that they've earned.
Good point(s). At least when it comes to military planning, that's exactly the sort of caution we should exercise.
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Old 05-13-2019, 05:44 PM
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I'd be rather surprised if North Korea could hit a carrier strike group maneuvering at sea in wartime with a nuclear missile.
How close would they have to get? The old saying is that close only counts in horseshoes and with nukes. How big a wave would an NK nuke cause and how far would it propagate?
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Old 05-13-2019, 05:48 PM
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Good point(s). At least when it comes to military planning, that's exactly the sort of caution we should exercise.
I dunno. I get they can lob a warhead near a CVN, and, with borrowed terminal guidance systems from the PLA, hit the thing if it's within the basket. But how are they supposed to get a good-enough position on the CVN's location? Ask China? Wouldn't that make China complicit in a warlike act against the US? Is that really a door the Chinese want to open?
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Old 05-13-2019, 05:54 PM
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How close would they have to get? The old saying is that close only counts in horseshoes and with nukes. How big a wave would an NK nuke cause and how far would it propagate?
Max radius for 5 PSI overpressure for a 150 kt warhead, the biggest nuke they've been proven to possess (but not strap to an ICBM and launch), is 3.75 km. 5 PSI is going to break things topside, and my guess is that it'll mission kill what it hits, if not actually sink the ship.

So, get it within a mile or two. Assuming they can even fix the carrier's location that precisely. And not itself get killed by the tens of SM-3 and -6 carried by the carrier's escorts, that are designed for that sort of threat.
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Old 05-13-2019, 07:01 PM
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There's a difference between a mean kid roaming the halls that's not going to slug you because he has enough sense to know that you're going to slug him back, and the mean kid roaming the halls that's so batshit crazy that you have no idea if, when, or why he's going to start slugging.
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Old 05-13-2019, 07:22 PM
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First, the underlying basis of U.S. nuclear policy is a strong emphasis on deterrence (making one's opponent not take an aggressive action because they fear the consequences). Most Americans would not be satisfied with a war in which Los Angeles is destroyed, but so too is Pyongyang. That would seem like a poor trade, so U.S. policy has been to up the threats against our adversaries (such as by rejecting a "no first use" policy) with the goal of making us look so aggressive that our opponent cannot see how they could "win" a nuclear war.

So, with that in mind, there is some debate as to whether North Korea is deterred from using nuclear weapons in the same way that Russia or China may be deterred by our nuclear policies. Just as the average American would probably think that trading Los Angeles for Pyongyang is a bad deal on our end, do North Korean leaders think that it is a good deal on their end?

Or, do they think that if they get in a conventional war with South Korea/the U.S., that they are going to lose horribly anyway, so why not blow up Los Angeles regardless of the consequences?

The bottom line is that there is some debate as to what is needed to deter North Korea from using nuclear weapons. And the fact that we don't know precisely what it does take to deter them makes many people very nervous.
FFS, mate, why would North Korea even consider using nuclear weapons when they know they'd be blown to kingdom come if they began the launch sequence on even one? This notion that North Korea is even remotely interesting in using nuclear weapons in an offensive capacity is ludicrous.

North Korea isn't building a nuclear weapons program in order to use nuclear weapons. They're developing their program so that they have just ANY kind of leverage in getting sanctions lifted so that their strict authoritarian regime can survive.

North Korea wants sanctions lifted because sanctions threatens their regime. They know that they can't fight back against the United States and its allies economically, and they know the moment they start a real hot war, that's the beginning of the end of their country. Sure they can make it messy for their adversaries, but they just want to survive as a regime. The only card they have to play is being the crazy, pistol waving neighbor.

They know that they can scare people with their weapons program, and there are several ways this can unfold. They don't see much value in nuking Los Angeles, but they see a LOT of value in making the average American understand that they *could* nuke Los Angeles if they had a reason to do so. If the North Koreans develop a reliable ICBM nuke capacity that has even a 1/4 chance of taking out Los Angeles, Seattle, SF, or New York...that's a chance that the Pentagon can't just fuck around with anymore.

In other words, if the North Koreans can credibly threaten American cities, then they force the US to negotiate on sanctions, and if they don't negotiate, well then guess what: North Korea will keep firing missiles over Japan's and South Korea's airspace -- cause after all, just what the fuck would America do about it then? That's why the current opportunity to negotiate means something, but it will only mean something if the US understands that it doesn't hold all the cards. If we fail to understand that sanctions are another form of warfare, then North Korea will have no incentive to cooperate and every incentive to be belligerent.
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Old 05-13-2019, 07:27 PM
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This is a big one. North Korea has tried to help (I believe) Myanmar, Libya, Iran, Pakistan and Syria obtain nuclear weapons and nuclear technology. NK helped Syria build the nuclear plant in Syria that Israel bombed.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myanma...nuclear_issues

https://www.cfr.org/interview/north-...ar-cooperation

https://theconversation.com/will-nor...chnology-83562




North Korea knows they can push pretty hard and get no consequences due to the damage they can do to other nations. If they fire chemical, biological or nuclear weapons at SK, Japan, the US, etc. it'll cause huge amounts of damage. So North Korea knows it can get away with a ton of crap. one of those things is selling nuclear material on the international market to raise money to keep the regime afloat. However sooner or later this proliferation will mean that nukes get into the hands of a nation or individual who actually intends to use them. I don't think NK would nuke anyone anytime soon, but the technology they sell could result in nukes being used by a 3rd party.
And yet none of that is even close to the value of knowing that it possesses the power to destroy American cities -- that is some serious power.

The US has had this idea that it can impose "soft" power through sanctions and bring pressure on North Korea while simultaneously not worrying about North Korea as we go off and fight wars we're more interested in waging, like against Muslims. But North Korea, meanwhile, is facing constant pressure to minimize the impact of sanctions so that it can suppress the desire of its people to revolt. With nuclear weapons that can reach US cities, North Korea takes away the luxury that the American military has of forgetting about North Korea. Moreover, it also puts pressure on South Korea and Japan -- do they start their own nuclear weapons programs. Furthermore, the US understands that if South Korea and Japan develop their own indigenous capabilities, there's less dependence on and demand for the US nuclear umbrella, which gives us a foot in the door to the entire region. There's a bigger game to understand here.
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Old 05-13-2019, 08:00 PM
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Max radius for 5 PSI overpressure for a 150 kt warhead, the biggest nuke they've been proven to possess (but not strap to an ICBM and launch), is 3.75 km. 5 PSI is going to break things topside, and my guess is that it'll mission kill what it hits, if not actually sink the ship.

So, get it within a mile or two. Assuming they can even fix the carrier's location that precisely. And not itself get killed by the tens of SM-3 and -6 carried by the carrier's escorts, that are designed for that sort of threat.
5 PSI would do that?
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Old 05-13-2019, 08:38 PM
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the United States would respond with an all out nuclear attack and there would be no North Korea.
That's not as certain as you might think it is. North Korea's senior regime leadership would be almost untouched by a major US nuclear strike. They'd reasonably be expected to be in their numerous nuclear proof bunkers before striking first. Those bunkers are equipped with features like deeply buried fiber optic communications that would enable them to still be able to exercise command and control of their military immediately after being nuked. The second Bush administration started a research program to develop penetrating nuclear warheads to try and address the issue. Part of the reason the Obama administration dropped the program was because it just wasn't technically feasible to target those bunkers no matter how much money we threw at the problem.

Big chunks of the North Korean military would likely survive. They aren't as well protected but their military is significantly dug in to resist heavy conventional strikes. Combined with the hilly to mountainous terrain the effective lethal radius of even nuclear weapons is significantly reduced. Is it worth two nuclear warheads, in case one fails, to dig an artillery battalion or company near the DMZ out of their HARTS (Hardened ARTillery Shelters)? The US would be constrained from using all or most of it's arsenal to try and dig them out. Balance of power issues along with the sheer amount of fallout from needing to dominantly use ground bursts would likely limit the size of a US counterstrike. North Korea has been preparing for a war against a nuclear armed superpower that's dominant in the air. They've been preparing for decades. It shows.

Then there's the softer targets like cities. They are screwed if we dedicate a nuclear weapon to them. We're not in a bilateral situation like the US-Russia commitments to MAD during the Cold War. Those threats against the civilian population were part of a structure to deter use of nuclear weapons in the first place. Even in that situation the justification, within the admittedly frayed notion of proportionality under the laws of war, were primarily about targeting economic centers and key infrastructure.North Korea's larger cities and industrial base are going to take significant punishment. North Korea is more rural and agrarian than other nuclear capable powers though. Targeting nuclear strikes against small farming communities of thousands to tens of thousands is a lot harder to justify even if we just lost the heart of LA. We also start running into the same constraints about sheer numbers of warheads needed to target small dispersed rural communities even if we try. Likely a good chunk of their rural population survives.

A dominantly agrarian nation with a massive military that can withstand a large nuclear strike with most of it's farmers, military, and leadership in place still exists IMO. They would be hurt and hurt badly. The US nuclear arsenal is less of an existential threat to North Korea than it is to say China IMO. North Korea is both better prepared and would be changed less by the loss of it's industrial infrastructure.

Now North Korea would obviously still like to avoid that level of weakening. Their having nuclear weapons that can threaten the US still significantly changes the dynamic on the peninsula. (The ballistic missile capability combined with their chemical program still presents a WMD threat even if they denuclearize.) The cease fire has included more than just the almost annual brinksmanship. There have been numerous overt acts of war that have happened since the cease fire went into place. It's easy to get complacent when trading artillery strikes across the border or sinking naval ships doesn't lead to bigger confrontations. We probably shouldn't. A nuclear North Korea makes miscalculation during those times potentially much more costly.

A nuclear North Korea also introduces another dynamic. The North continues to support reunification, including by force. South Korea has their capital and dominant city, with about 25% of their total population, within heavy artillery range of the DMZ. That presents a tempting strategic target to North Korea if you believe what they say about their own goals. It doesn't necessarily take complete conquest of the peninsula to win. A shorter offensive might be strategically decisive before the US could significantly reinforce. Without nukes that was a higher risk venture. If they didn't win quickly they could reasonably expect to face a credible existential threat to ground conquest when US and world forces intervened. With nukes they have an ace up their sleeves. Conquest of their territory comes with the risk of nuclear attack. That significantly reduces the existential risk of trying to conquer the south conventionally. The benefit stays the same but the potential costs of trying go down while North Korea has nukes.

There's still real risks of failing a conventional offensive. Those are still a basis for not trying. It's hard to see NK nukes as not swaying the risk to benefit calculation for NK in a way that makes conventional war more attractive. That's a reasonable thing to be afraid of IMO.

Last edited by DinoR; 05-13-2019 at 08:39 PM.
  #34  
Old 05-13-2019, 08:46 PM
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5 PSI would do that?
I vaguely remember reading that somewhere about the effects of nuclear weapons, re Operation Wigwam (which was an underwater shot) or Crossroads. It mightve been James Dunnigan's or Larry Bond's attempts to model those effects.

Atomic Archive lists winds from 5 PSI peak overpressure at 163 MPH. That'd break masts and windows, no? Especially since modern warships aren't as heavily armored as their WW2 counterparts. Never mind cooking whatever poor bastard was topside. I don't think less overpressure would do it. Though given the state of repair of USN warships as detailed in the Fitzgerald collision report, maybe less damage would also suffice?
  #35  
Old 05-13-2019, 08:53 PM
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Why is there fear of North Korea’s nuclear power?
Were North Korea to launch a Nuclear attack on Los Angeles or, I assume, Seoul, the United States would respond with an all out nuclear attack and there would be no North Korea.
This being the case, why is there the fear of North Korean nuclear power?
(While it is, I suppose possible in principle that the NK leader is so crazy as to be willing to make this trade, this would seem extraordinarily unlikely.)
Well, there are a few issues with North Korea having nukes that reasonable people can be...nervous, let's say...about. The first one is the regime is inherently unstable. I know that sounds weird, considering it's been the same family ruling them for decades, but the entire foundation is built on sand, and could, at any time, crumble. When you build a cult of personality as they have, and try and wrap it around not just one Great Leader but an entire dynasty, well, eventually things are bound to come apart. And no one wants nukes in the hands of a government flying apart in some sort of nasty civil war. Then you have the fact that the Kim's aren't totally rational, but western standards. The very fact that they have pushed for nukes kind of shows that. They don't need them, after all, not to protect from any sort of realistic external threat. They have actually made the country MORE vulnerable, and more a target for the US. Look at the different ways the US views North Korea and, say, an actual former enemy like Vietnam...or, hell, China, as we fought them at the same time we last fought North Korea. Neither China nor Vietnam are exactly humanitarian democratic nations with great human rights records...arguably, China kills MORE dissidents per capita than North Korea does, and has just as nasty of 're-education camps', yet until the recent trade lash up we were great friends, and we still are. Now, true, China has nukes, but they don't have that many. And Vietnam doesn't have any, yet their US repellent (as well as their China repellent) seems to be working fine without them.

Despite this, North Korea chose to pursue nukes. Not only did the pursue them, they did it in a way to deliberately spark international conflict, even with their erstwhile friend China, but continued nuclear testing. And then they decided to ramp things up by doing ICBM tests over their various neighbors as well. Why? There are a lot of reasons, but if you boil it down, those aren't exactly rational acts from a western perspective. So, it's hard to say what North Korea might do if things start to come apart. If the Kim family is directly threatened with extinction, or even if the North Korean communist elites are, it's difficult to say if they might or might not go out in a blaze of glory. The trouble is, whether we appease them or we don't, the threat is the same. If we were to lift sanctions tomorrow and open up trade just like in China, there are no guarantees that the Kim family and communist elites still won't be threatened in the future if their house of cards comes apart. Which I think is only a matter of time at this point. Starving the regime of resources is probably the best move, IMHO anyway...but basically, there aren't any good moves at this point, just less bad ones. When they got nukes (thanks to China and basically no one willing to go to war to prevent them from doing so) it lit the fuse. The regime will go down at some point, just like all totalitarian regimes eventually do. All we can do is hope when the music stops no cities go up in fire. Thus, that uncertainty spawns fear.

The chances of North Korea going tits up is, IMHO, close to 100%. The chance that before they go down someone will push a button and nuke, say, a city in South Korea or Japan are less than 10%...again, IMHO. The chance they would do this against a US city are even less...and the chance that it would work, even if they did try it are even less. But it's still non-zero. Much greater chance than, when the CCP finally goes down THEY will launch a nuke...or when the USSR went down one of them would.
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  #36  
Old 05-13-2019, 09:15 PM
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That's not as certain as you might think it is. North Korea's senior regime leadership would be almost untouched by a major US nuclear strike. They'd reasonably be expected to be in their numerous nuclear proof bunkers before striking first. Those bunkers are equipped with features like deeply buried fiber optic communications that would enable them to still be able to exercise command and control of their military immediately after being nuked. The second Bush administration started a research program to develop penetrating nuclear warheads to try and address the issue. Part of the reason the Obama administration dropped the program was because it just wasn't technically feasible to target those bunkers no matter how much money we threw at the problem...
There's a lot to unpack in your excellent post, but I just wanted to address this first point for now. While North Koreans are renowned for their ability to dig, are their C3I bunkers really invulnerable to a ground burst nuke with a JDAM kit? A B83 can be dialed up to 1.2 megatons of yield, can be laid down with CEP under 10 ft. Per Glasstone by way of NUKEMAP, 3000 PSI radius is 350 m from point zero. The crater'll be 100 m deep ish, and 420 m across, and it will leave one hell of a mess. I haven't checked, but I'd expect significant fallout in Vladivostok, or Harbin, or Seoul, depending on the winds.

What they are invulnerable to is any small, earth-penetrating warhead that won't leave radiological catastrophe in neighboring countries.
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Old 05-13-2019, 09:32 PM
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There's a lot to unpack in your excellent post, but I just wanted to address this first point for now. While North Koreans are renowned for their ability to dig, are their C3I bunkers really invulnerable to a ground burst nuke with a JDAM kit? A B83 can be dialed up to 1.2 megatons of yield, can be laid down with CEP under 10 ft. Per Glasstone by way of NUKEMAP, 3000 PSI radius is 350 m from point zero. The crater'll be 100 m deep ish, and 420 m across, and it will leave one hell of a mess. I haven't checked, but I'd expect significant fallout in Vladivostok, or Harbin, or Seoul, depending on the winds.

What they are invulnerable to is any small, earth-penetrating warhead that won't leave radiological catastrophe in neighboring countries.
There is also the fact that they can't exactly stay in them forever. And yet they would have too, as it wouldn't be only nukes (I'm actually skeptical it would be nukes at all, except maybe the capital and some of their military bases and rocket complexes), as there would also be a major invasion, probably from all sides, and no matter how nuclear proof their bunkers are, eventually they would be dug out and the Kimmy v3.0 would either be shot trying to escape or dragged off to a similar fate to Saddam. And he wouldn't be alone...my guess is most if not all of the NK communist elite would also be posing for gun fire or swinging on their own ropes.

I'm also skeptical that the NK leadership really cares so little for their people that they would be willing to see literally millions of them die for nothing. Sure, kill a few 100k a year themselves for fun and profit, but not their whole civilization burned down in this level of humanitarian disaster (which doesn't even need nukes to happen).
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  #38  
Old 05-13-2019, 09:39 PM
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That's not as certain as you might think it is. North Korea's senior regime leadership would be almost untouched by a major US nuclear strike. They'd reasonably be expected to be in their numerous nuclear proof bunkers before striking first. Those bunkers are equipped with features like deeply buried fiber optic communications that would enable them to still be able to exercise command and control of their military immediately after being nuked. The second Bush administration started a research program to develop penetrating nuclear warheads to try and address the issue. Part of the reason the Obama administration dropped the program was because it just wasn't technically feasible to target those bunkers no matter how much money we threw at the problem.

Big chunks of the North Korean military would likely survive. They aren't as well protected but their military is significantly dug in to resist heavy conventional strikes. Combined with the hilly to mountainous terrain the effective lethal radius of even nuclear weapons is significantly reduced. Is it worth two nuclear warheads, in case one fails, to dig an artillery battalion or company near the DMZ out of their HARTS (Hardened ARTillery Shelters)? The US would be constrained from using all or most of it's arsenal to try and dig them out. Balance of power issues along with the sheer amount of fallout from needing to dominantly use ground bursts would likely limit the size of a US counterstrike. North Korea has been preparing for a war against a nuclear armed superpower that's dominant in the air. They've been preparing for decades. It shows.

Then there's the softer targets like cities. They are screwed if we dedicate a nuclear weapon to them. We're not in a bilateral situation like the US-Russia commitments to MAD during the Cold War. Those threats against the civilian population were part of a structure to deter use of nuclear weapons in the first place. Even in that situation the justification, within the admittedly frayed notion of proportionality under the laws of war, were primarily about targeting economic centers and key infrastructure.North Korea's larger cities and industrial base are going to take significant punishment. North Korea is more rural and agrarian than other nuclear capable powers though. Targeting nuclear strikes against small farming communities of thousands to tens of thousands is a lot harder to justify even if we just lost the heart of LA. We also start running into the same constraints about sheer numbers of warheads needed to target small dispersed rural communities even if we try. Likely a good chunk of their rural population survives.

A dominantly agrarian nation with a massive military that can withstand a large nuclear strike with most of it's farmers, military, and leadership in place still exists IMO. They would be hurt and hurt badly. The US nuclear arsenal is less of an existential threat to North Korea than it is to say China IMO. North Korea is both better prepared and would be changed less by the loss of it's industrial infrastructure.

Now North Korea would obviously still like to avoid that level of weakening. Their having nuclear weapons that can threaten the US still significantly changes the dynamic on the peninsula. (The ballistic missile capability combined with their chemical program still presents a WMD threat even if they denuclearize.) The cease fire has included more than just the almost annual brinksmanship. There have been numerous overt acts of war that have happened since the cease fire went into place. It's easy to get complacent when trading artillery strikes across the border or sinking naval ships doesn't lead to bigger confrontations. We probably shouldn't. A nuclear North Korea makes miscalculation during those times potentially much more costly.

A nuclear North Korea also introduces another dynamic. The North continues to support reunification, including by force. South Korea has their capital and dominant city, with about 25% of their total population, within heavy artillery range of the DMZ. That presents a tempting strategic target to North Korea if you believe what they say about their own goals. It doesn't necessarily take complete conquest of the peninsula to win. A shorter offensive might be strategically decisive before the US could significantly reinforce. Without nukes that was a higher risk venture. If they didn't win quickly they could reasonably expect to face a credible existential threat to ground conquest when US and world forces intervened. With nukes they have an ace up their sleeves. Conquest of their territory comes with the risk of nuclear attack. That significantly reduces the existential risk of trying to conquer the south conventionally. The benefit stays the same but the potential costs of trying go down while North Korea has nukes.

There's still real risks of failing a conventional offensive. Those are still a basis for not trying. It's hard to see NK nukes as not swaying the risk to benefit calculation for NK in a way that makes conventional war more attractive. That's a reasonable thing to be afraid of IMO.
This is fantastical shit. Yes, they could survive underground, but they wouldn't have a country to govern or rule. They're not so insane as to believe this is how they want to go out. If they're sitting underground while millions of their civilians are getting slaughtered, it's game over and even they know that. The nukes aren't about actual military capabilities in an actual war - they don't want an actual war. They want to make us imagine what would happen to us if we were dumb enough to launch a "preemptive" strike. And they want to use that fear against us while destabilizing a region - that's the one card they have. They can scare Japan. They can scare South Korea. They can scare China into believing there might be a messy war in their backyard. That collective fear might be enough to get them some sanctions relief and maybe even some very small measure of normalized relations with the outside world. It's not war that the want; it's acceptance of their regime.

Last edited by asahi; 05-13-2019 at 09:39 PM.
  #39  
Old 05-13-2019, 10:07 PM
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Originally Posted by DinoR View Post
That's not as certain as you might think it is. North Korea's senior regime leadership would be almost untouched by a major US nuclear strike. They'd reasonably be expected to be in their numerous nuclear proof bunkers before striking first. Those bunkers are equipped with features like deeply buried fiber optic communications that would enable them to still be able to exercise command and control of their military immediately after being nuked. ....

A dominantly agrarian nation with a massive military that can withstand a large nuclear strike with most of it's farmers, military, and leadership in place still exists IMO. They would be hurt and hurt badly. The US nuclear arsenal is less of an existential threat to North Korea than it is to say China IMO. North Korea is both better prepared and would be changed less by the loss of it's industrial infrastructure.

....
And of course the Nk "experts" will tell Kim anything he wants to hear. "Yes, oh magnificent one, you will be totally safe and just the excess population will be destroyed, your glorious nation will arise even stronger!"
  #40  
Old 05-13-2019, 10:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Gray Ghost View Post
There's a lot to unpack in your excellent post, but I just wanted to address this first point for now. While North Koreans are renowned for their ability to dig, are their C3I bunkers really invulnerable to a ground burst nuke with a JDAM kit? A B83 can be dialed up to 1.2 megatons of yield, can be laid down with CEP under 10 ft. Per Glasstone by way of NUKEMAP, 3000 PSI radius is 350 m from point zero. The crater'll be 100 m deep ish, and 420 m across, and it will leave one hell of a mess. I haven't checked, but I'd expect significant fallout in Vladivostok, or Harbin, or Seoul, depending on the winds.

What they are invulnerable to is any small, earth-penetrating warhead that won't leave radiological catastrophe in neighboring countries.
It doesn't matter. What matters is what Kim wants to hear and thus what Kim will be told.
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