From Hamish de Bretton Gordon in Washington D.C.
What price a pre-emptive strike to destroy North Korea’s nuclear and chemical weapons? Answer – high, very high. But recent events have brought the possibility closer.
The trajectory and time of flight of the latest Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) tested by North Korea last week puts all of us here in Washington DC at risk.
I am not alone in believing that Kim Jong Un has the capability to fit a half-tonne warhead to this missile — be it nuclear or the deadly nerve agent VX.
Many in the US believe that a nuclear strike is likely and there have been calls for US service families to be moved from South Korea.
A North Korean attack on the mainland is no longer something that can be left to chance. A half-tone Hydrogen Bomb yielding 100 Kilo tonnes would flatten DC. A similar size VX chemical warhead could kill thousands.
However, it is likely that an ICBM fired at DC would be taken out by US military defensive capabilities. But what about other cities in the US and elsewhere?
Kim Jong Un has already threatened South Korea, Japan, Australia and the UK. The latter two are probably easier targets as they don’t have sophisticated missile defence systems to protect them.
But — London aside — they do not present such compelling targets as do Washington, New York or LA.
Many inside and outside the US are pushing for restraint, relying on Kim Jong Un and his generals being rational and wanting to be at peace with the US.
In my opinion, this is wishful thinking. The shooting of a border guard trying to escape North Korea last week is not unlike how the Soviet Union behaved during the Cold War, Undoubtedly, Kim Jong Un likes and desires to be a main player in global politics — which perversely his nuclear capability now affords.
It is the West’s fault that he is now in this position. We underestimated his nuclear capabilities and were weak on both nuclear and chemical proliferation — which are the norm after the invisible red line was broken by Assad in 2013.
This is a salutary lesson for the UN Security Council: if you are weak on nuclear and chemical weapons it can bite you very hard.
The assumption that Kim Jong Un is willing to behave like a rational adult is questionable. Is killing a near relative with VX in a foreign country the act of a rational man? Is provoking the President of the US into a first strike option which would kill many in North Korea and lead to the demise and probably death of Kim Jong Un a rational move? I think not. The presumption that he is rational, has a desire for self-preservation and, places the needs of his people first is flawed and should not be the basis of a strategy for dealing with North Korea.
Undoubtedly, China holds more sway than the US or the UN Security Council. They are the ones who can choke off North Korea’s economy, which might be enough to prevent a nuclear war. But it might also might be enough to start one.
Every sane person wants to avoid confrontation with North Korea, as it is likely to turn nuclear. We have seen with chemical weapons in Syria that unless you confront them head on and enforce a zero tolerance of proliferation — the Red Line — every rogue state, despot and terrorist will use them. They are very effective and Kim Jong Un knows.
President Trump needs to be ready with first strike military options in the event that all diplomacy fails. And we all need to strongly enforce counter-proliferation policies in future, which sadly have lapsed since the end of the cold War. We must do better than simply pay them lip service.