With Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) launches with ranges well over 4000 kms, claims of a successful test of an H Bomb, and threats to attack US territory and others, is this an extravagant North Korean bluff, or something we need to take very seriously?
Whatever we think of Kim Jong Un, it should be noted that, thus far, he has done exactly what he said he would do, except yet attack the US.
The International Community have appeared somewhat complacent over the N Korea nuclear capabilities hitherto, despite the claims by their ‘glorious leader’ Kim Jong Un. Until relatively recently we mostly believed his nuclear threat was an Atomic device and his missile capability was not ICBM, and old with short range and a limited payload.
Now it seems he may have an A bomb of a size, possibly yielding 20 KT (20,000 tonnes of TNT equivalent), which could be fitted to an ICBM with a range of 4000Kms plus. This brings Guam, Japan and many others in range. It is the many others which really worry me. Guam, Seoul, and Japan have effective missile defence systems and the ’others’ do not. There is some mythological speculation that these missile defence systems might trigger a nuclear reaction – this they will not. For a Fission device, the A Bomb or a Fusion device, the H Bomb, a chain reaction is required at around 500ft to detonate the device. THAADS and other missile defence systems work at much higher altitudes before this can happen.
Though N Korea’s apparent possession of an A bomb is a concern, an H Bomb is an altogether more terrifying prospect. A 20KT A-bomb would demolish several blocks in a major city. A similar size H-bomb could yield 1000KTs and devastate a whole city. However, the science and technical capability to produce an H Bomb is also significantly more challenging. Nevertheless, on current performance N Korea could achieve this relatively soon, if not prevented by diplomatic or military means. In comparison the WW2 bomb recently found in Germany was a mere 1.5 Tonnes but required nearly 60,000 people to be evacuated from Frankfurt whilst is was made safe.
No paths at the moment appear effective or attractive. Given that, can the International community accept a nuclear capable N Korea?
One should not forget it is the N Koreans who built the Syrian Regime nuclear capability which was eventually destroyed by Israeli jets in 2005. One should not forget also, that only recently the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) intercepted two N Korean ships destined for the Syrian Regime containing chemical weapons and the wherewithal to make more; and they murdered Kim Jong Nam in Kuala Lumpa with the deadly nerve agent VX, of which they apparently have 5000 tonnes more.
Whatever the motivation is for Kim Jong Un to have a nuclear capability, be it credibility on the world stage, or expansion, it cannot be allowed to persist. For one thing, his ability to give other despots and terrorists WMD leads to the horrific prospect of ISIS acquiring these weapons in return for much needed hard cash; they [ISIS] would have no scruples in using it and possibly more difficult for the US et al to interdict than the current crisis.
There appear to be no good solutions, but if diplomacy fails, which must be given a good run by all, especially Russia and China, there must be a plan to destroy this capability militarily for the sake of humankind and future generations.
We need to take this threat very seriously indeed – it will not go away overnight if we sleep on it.