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Hysteria Over North Korea’s Nukes February 17, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Asia, Foreign Policy, North/South Korea.
Tags: , , , , , ,
Published on Sunday, February 17, 2013 by EricMargolis.com

by Eric Margolis

Are we about to be vaporized by North Korea’s nuclear weapons? Given all the hysteria this week over its third underground nuclear test, one would certainly think so.


North Korean soldiers and civilians in Pyongyang celebrate the success of the country’s third nuclear test. (Photograph: Xinhua/Landov/Barcroft Media)

In reality, we are not about to be nuked by the North’s new boyish leader, Kim Jong-un. But, like many heads of small nations, he really does get a big kick out of making the big boys go crazy.

The late Muammar Qadaffi and Saddam Hussein also used to enjoy this dangerous sport. But unlike young Kim, they didn’t have 4-6 operational nuclear weapons – a lesson not lost on North Korea.

While everyone was fulminating against the wicked North Koreans, there was barely any mention of US-South Korean-Australian war games near North Korea that Pyongyang claimed were training for a US-led invasion. Semi-annual US-led war games almost always cause North Korea to fire missiles and beat the war drums.

What’s clear is that North Korea is making steady progress in developing a smaller nuclear warhead capable of fitting into a nose cone, and developing a new long-ranged missile that may one day be able to strike North America.

However, North Korea’s third nuclear test was less than half the explosive power of the bombs dropped in 1945 on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States.

But Pyongyang’s description of a “smaller and lighter device” set off alarm bells in the Pentagon. Shortly before, in response to new US-led sanctions against North Korea after it launched a satellite into orbit, Pyongyang threatened to target the United States with its missiles.

That, so far, is empty talk. North Korea does not yet have a reliable, accurate ICBM that can threaten the US. It lacks assurance the miniaturized nuclear warheads it is believed developing can withstand the high g-forces and heat of missile flight and re-entry – or that they will detonate.

North Korea’s relatively crude medium and long-ranged missiles are inaccurate and unreliable. Most require hours of liquid fuelling, making them sitting ducks for US pre-emptive attack. The North is also fast using up its supply of bomb-grade nuclear material.

North Korea lacks the ability to inflict a crippling blow on the US mainland. By contrast, the US Pacific 7th Fleet carries enough nuclear weapons to vaporize North Korea in a few minutes.

This latest uproar over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons must be seen in context of the bitter rivalry between North and South Korea. Typical example: in the Demilitarized Zone dividing them, South Korea put its flag on a high tower. The North immediately built a flag tower 50% higher.

North Korea says it is the only authentic Korea; the South, claims Pyongyang, is a US colony garrisoned by 28,000 US troops. In fact, the North greatly fears that the economically powerful South will swallow it up. Neither Japan nor China want to see a united Korea, so they give covert or overt aid to Pyongyang while officially scolding it for nuclear tests.

Meanwhile, the same nuclear powers that denounce North Korea for building a nuclear arsenal are themselves in direct violation of the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Under the treaty, the US, Britain, France, the Soviet Union and China all pledged to quickly eliminate all of their nuclear weapons.

They never have.

India, Pakistan and Israel all have built nuclear arsenals. South Korea was on the way to producing nuclear weapons until forced to abandon the secret project by the United States. Japan is estimated to be able to assemble a nuclear device in only 90 days.

In 1994, the Clinton administration and North Korea signed a deal to end the North’s nuclear production in exchange for food and oil. But the deal was derailed in 2002 by neocons in the Bush administration who feared North Korea’s nuclear know-how and missiles might be sold to Israel’s foes in the Mideast. So back the US and North Korea went to their little Cold War.

© 2013 Eric Margolis
Eric Margolis

Columnist and author Eric Margolis is a veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East, Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq. His latest book is American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World




  • saskatchistani6 hours ago

    The CBC was full of stories about the “threat” from North Korea last week; and no, not on comedy shows such as “This is That,” but on the real, serious news.

    It is funny, in a macabre sort of way, how North Korea, which isn’t about to attack anyone, is given the Public Enemy Number One treatment while Israel, which has a huge nuclear arsenal, and which has attacked every one of its neighbours, is treated as a meek, harmless victim by the media.

  • WJM516 hours ago

    North Korea is a sad, sad place. And the fact that the Korean war has never actually ended doesn’t help things, either. More sanctions are just going to mean more people starved to death and less advancement, if that is possible. It’s time to try something different, because the situation just isn’t going to get any better with the current approach.

    For us to be afraid of a country we could wipe off the face of the planet in less than half an hour is just pathetic. It will, unfortunately, but used to build up even more weaponry and to keep blustering about our safety, and more and more people will actually believe it. And so the insanity continues.

  • WTF?6 hours ago

    Eric’s assessment is spot-on.

    What he forgets to mention is that war-based hysteria minted for domestic consumption is one of the US’ largest exports.

  • SJRyan15 hours ago

    North Korea’s Nukes are a clear and present danger. Question is to what and to who? NK is a material threat to capital invested in SK and those who own it. With reward comes risk. Investment in the Orient has paid handsome returns. Capital has been drawn into the east like Napoleon’s troops were drawn into Russia (same as Hitler’s troops). This is now the winter of capitalist’s discontent. How do plutocrats back away slowly with their money?

    The threat of war is more an issue than war itself. Blackmail is forever. China is at odds with Japan and there is talk of war. Not likely but, the Chinese people have boycotted Japanese goods. Sun Tzu says, ‘the greatest general is the one who wins the war without firing shots’. China has effectively closed its consumer market to Japan.

    How will the US confront an ever more aggressive Chinese navy when the US has so much capital invested in China? The greater threat is financial and not of war itself. What if the Chinese people boycott American products when the sable rattling and bravado peaks. More blackmail.

    China itself is a time-boom. What will happen to capital invested in China, and production, the day 1.3 billion Chinese find out that 1% of Chinese own 70% of China’s wealth and that their revolution has failed? Just how long can China keep information from their people in this age of technology?

    These threats will benefit the middle class in America. As the world becomes a less safe place to invest capital it will return to the safety of US shores.

  • gardenernorcal4 hours ago

    If they wish to pollute their part of the world who are we to stop them. What are we going to do “nuke” them?

  • Shantiananda4 hours ago

    North Korea,I would argue, is a horrible place, but that is not what concerns the war mongers as they could care less about this brutal regime. It could be wiped out overnight. That is a red herring. By making North Korea the axis of evil along with Iran, it is the proverbial boogey man that the international banking 1% and the MIC need to supply their faithless deceit and hypocrisy for the war industry.

    When you hear words like: peace with honor; peaceful deterrent; protecting the homeland; freedom is not free; support the troops; thank you for your service; and so many other Orwellian sound bites….you can be sure there will never be any peace.



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