You Should Know

You Should Know

How Serious Is the North Korea Nuclear Threat?

Last week, North Korea launched its largest and most powerful missile yet, the Hwasong-15. Here’s what you should know about the North Korean nuclear threat and the consequences of a preemptive strike by the United States.

How Serious Is the North Korea Nuclear Threat?

North Korea launched its largest and most powerful missile yet, the Hwasong-15, on November 29. Here’s what you should know about the North Korean nuclear threat and the consequences of a preemptive strike by the United States.

 

North Korea has conducted six tests of nuclear weapons since 2006. The most recent occurred in September 2017. Each test has been bigger than the last, based on seismic activity detected in surrounding countries.
On November 29, North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that has an estimated range of 8,100 miles if launched on a normal trajectory. That would bring all of the United States into range.
In response to these tests, the Trump administration has sought to further isolate North Korea, urging other countries to cut ties. The United States has passed unilateral sanctions, relisted North Korea as a State Sponsor of Terror, and spearheaded new sanctions through the UN Security Council.
Trump officials and surrogates also continue to warn of war with North Korea. The consequences of a preemptive strike by the United States on North Korea, however, could be catastrophic for US allies South Korea and Japan.
North Korea has roughly 8,000 artillery pieces trained on Seoul, a city of 25 million when counting its immediate surrounding areas. Estimates suggest there could be as many as 300,000 South Korean casualties in the opening days of a conflict.
Japan also is in range of North Korea’s missiles. A strike on Tokyo, which North Korea has suggested as a possibility, would add an additional untold number of casualties in a city of over nine million.
Yet, it is unlikely that North Korea would launch an unprovoked nuclear attack on the United States or its allies.
The narrative of Kim Jong Un as a madman is misleading. North Korea has a strategy, even if many may not understand or agree with it. The regime prizes survival. An unprovoked attack would be suicidal.
At the same time, it is now highly unlikely that North Korea will denuclearize, and it is unclear if North Korea is interested in diplomatic talks.
In addition to further isolating North Korea and seeking dialogue if the opportunity arises, the United States must continue to engage China, both to win support for stricter enforcement of sanctions and to better understand Chinese intentions if conflict does break out on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea does pose a threat to the United States, but it is not an existential threat. Just as the United States has successfully deterred other threats, it can do the same with North Korea while providing security for its allies.
To learn more about how the United States is dealing with a North Korean threat that is here to stay:
To learn more about how the United States is dealing with a North Korean threat that is here to stay:

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