North Korea threatens war, maybe today or tomorrow

North Korea has threatened to nuke Hawaii, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas.  Now the Stalinist regime is saying that war could break out “today or tomorrow.”  We have heard threats from North Korea before–though not like these–and we always dismiss them on the grounds that North Korea’s leadership is certifiably insane.  That’s supposed to make us feel better?  A lunatic with nuclear weapons is the worst kind.  “Mutually-assured destruction” is not a deterrent for a lunatic.  Another reason not to worry is that North Korea is a failed state in desperate poverty.  That an adversary is “desperate” is no consolation, since there is always the option of going out in a blaze of glory.  There is also that whole face-saving thing so important, I am told, to Koreans that makes it harder to back down.

We can feel better knowing that experts say the country does not have the technical capability to launch missiles that will reach all that far.  Let’s hope the experts are right this time.  We have sent ships and anti-missile technology to our allies and  military bases in the region.  China is even moving military units to its borders with North Korea, not knowing what the new “dear leader” Kim Jong-Un might do.

From Jung Ha-Won:

North Korea dramatically escalated its warlike rhetoric on Thursday, warning that it had authorised plans for nuclear strikes on targets in the United States.

“The moment of explosion is approaching fast,” the North Korean military said, warning that war could break out “today or tomorrow”.

Pyongyang’s latest pronouncement came as Washington scrambled to reinforce its Pacific missile defences, preparing to send ground-based interceptors to Guam and dispatching two Aegis class destroyers to the region.

Tension was also high on the North’s heavily-fortified border with South Korea, after Kim Jong-Un’s isolated regime barred South Koreans from entering a Seoul-funded joint industrial park on its side of the frontier.

In a statement published by the state KCNA news agency, the Korean People’s Army general staff warned Washington that US threats would be “smashed by… cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means”.

“The merciless operation of our revolutionary armed forces in this regard has been finally examined and ratified,” the statement said.

Last month, North Korea threatened a “pre-emptive” nuclear strike against the United States, and last week its supreme army command ordered strategic rocket units to combat status.

But, while Pyongyang has successfully carried out test nuclear detonations, most experts think it is not yet capable of mounting a device on a ballistic missile capable of striking US bases or territory.

Mounting tension in the region could however trigger incidents on the tense and heavily-militarised border between North and South Korea.

There was no immediate American reaction to the North’s latest statement, but US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Pyongyang represented a “real and clear danger” to the United States and to its allies South Korea and Japan.

“They have nuclear capacity now, they have missile delivery capacity now,” Hagel said after a strategy speech at the National Defense University. “We take those threats seriously, we have to take those threats seriously.”

via AFP: N. Korea approves nuclear strike on United States.

UPDATE:  North Korea has moved its missile launchers to its east coast, which is getting the attention of the U.S. and its allies.  See this.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • fjsteve

    Yes, saving face is terribly important and the aggressive timeline that leaves NK so little room to save face is what seems different this time. Sure, it could be a desperate cry for attention. It could be a bargaining tactic with China, who is sending military to the border not to strike NK but to keep the refugees from flooding in. But, whatever their reasoning, desperation and nuclear weaponry are a horrible combination and a stupid political move could set off a whole series of very, very bad decisions.

  • Pete

    Austin, Texas?

  • Tom Hering

    Austin, Texas? (@ 2)

    Samsung Semiconductor, I guess. America’s largest chip production plant and Samsung’s biggest outside South Korea.

  • NavyChaps

    From a realpolitik perspective, Kim Jong Un may be crazy like a fox. Consider the typical routine between North Korea and the U.S. over the past two presidencies. They act bellicose, the U.S. gives in and offers concessions, they go on about their way. KJU looks over at our current lineup (Hegel, Kerry, Biden, Obama) and thinks to himself, “I can get whatever I want because THESE guys won’t do anything.” Heck even our starting pitcher in the region ADM Locklear (PACOM Commander) thinks that climate change is the greatest threat (as opposed to NK and the possibililty of the proliferation of their nukes to Iran, China’s overt actions in Japanese and Philippine waters). KJU is probably right — they won’t do anything. He may be the most clear-thinking person in the mix.

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Rev. Paul T. McCain

    It is obvious that this posturing and threatening is intended for the consumption of the North Koreans. Their new “dear leader” is a young, inexperienced, baby-faced young man and he needs to project power and authority and construct around himself an aura of divinity that his father and grandfather used to control and manipulate the brutal totalitarian state that is North Korea.

    Unfortunately, when you play with matches you will get burned, and the concern now is that a miscalculation will lead to a brutal attack on South Korea and the death of many civilians. The N. Korea army is too malnourished to be effective more than a few weeks, but during that time, incredible damage can and will be done.

    In the event of a full scale ground war, the KorCom forces will be obliterated by overwhelming fire superiority of the S. Korean and US military.

  • Tom Hering

    So, NavyChaps, to score points against the current administration, you make the argument that Kim Jong Un is, in a way, admirable. At a time when he’s threatening us directly. You’re such a patriot. 8-)

  • NavyChaps

    Tom, I know you’re a fanboy, but you didn’t read my post. I’m arguing that from Dear Leader’s perspective there is no chance that the current adminstration is going to hold a harder line than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. Or maybe you’ve drunk enough fanboy koolaid that you think so?

  • http://www.docsdining.blogspot.com Jason

    Does Rehoboam come to mind for anyone when we look at what is going on in NK? Youthful folly?

  • Kirk

    @7 And yet Kim Jong Un has taken things just about as far as any N. Korean ever has and Obama hasn’t made any concessions…

  • Kirk

    That being, any N. Korean in recent memory

  • Joe

    NavyChaps – If that is NK assesment they are dead wrong. I am not a fan of Obama but rhetoric aside his actual foreign policy is pretty much the same as W’s. Even Obama’s drawn downs in Iraq and the ‘Stan are really just the conclusions to the operations – not a dramatic change of policy.

    Gitmo – still open
    Drone killing – on the rise
    Military intervention in other countries without clear reasons or objectives – still going strong (see Libya, and stay tuned for Syria (many people think we are already smuggling weapons to the rebels))
    Undefined war against terrorism that can be used to justify dang near anything including killing US Citizens – still going strong
    Attempts to find a two state solution for Israel (also a Bush policy and the right policy) – still going strong

    Other than pissing of the Brits, and being a little more express about our fight not being with Islam but with people who “pervet” Islam, there really is no qualitative difference between the two on foreign policy.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ the Old Adam

    This is what happens when you let evil regimes get the Bomb.

  • Robin

    I guess we should make Dennis Rodman our embassador to North Korea. He said it was such a lovely country…

  • http://theoldadam.com/ the Old Adam

    Rodman reminds me of the idiot leftists that praised the Soviet Union back in the 50′s, including the New York Times. And the idiot leftists who look up to Castro, and that dead (thank God)Chavez guy.

  • NavyChaps

    Joe @ 11 — that is really my point regarding NK. President Obama has continued the approach of Presidents Clinton and Bush regarding North Korea – which is to say, concessions. If Dear Leader really ramps things up (though how much more can he go?), do you or anyone else think that President Obama will take a harder line and respond militarily? Pre-emptively? Why wouldn’t Dear Leader assume that the current administration would be even less inclined to respond?

    The NorKor’s have 500K artillery rounds waiting to be shot toward the South. They can destroy Seoul within minutes. Millions will die. And that is without the use of nukes. What would our response be if they attack? What about our treaty obligations? Are we going to get bogged down in Korea…again? Or will we go big? And if they DO use nukes? Does anyone here think that President Obama would authorize the use of nukes?

    Unfortunately the President is doubly trapped by his predecessors’ actions/inaction toward NK and his own philosophy regarding the use of military force. Does anyone honestly see a path out of this mess other than the one I’ve laid out – namely, concessions?

  • Kirk

    @15 So, wait, are you saying concessions are a bad thing or a good thing. Because before, you seemed to imply that Obama’s weakness would lead the US to conceding (whatever that means) to NK. Now you’re saying that if we don’t concede, millions in Seoul will die. Or are you just laying out your reasons for criticizing Obama regardless of what he does?

  • NavyChaps

    Kirk, you are as much a fanboy as Tom. If you actually read my post, you would have seen my criticism of the last two presidents regarding their approach to NK. President Bush had it right when he declared them part of the Axis of Evil. They are. And then we backed off of that, gave in, and NK has been as bad an actor as they ever have been. The question now is whether there is any strength of will within the current administration to change that trajectory.

    Concessions alone are not a bad thing. But they have to be tied to actual reforms and changes within that benighted hermit kingdom otherwise we are just encouraging further bad behavior. If at any point Kim Jong Un comes to believe that President Obama will in fact destroy them all, he will back down. But that has to be a credible threat. Otherwise we are simply foolish parents who threaten to withhold the goodies from our spoiled brat child but never actually follow through.

    I’m at least looking at reality. You fanboys can rah rah the President all you want, but what do you want him to do? I know. You’re a fanboy and it doesn’t matter what he does – you WON’T criticize it.

  • Joe

    Given Obama’s actual track record, I think a preemptive strike is not at all out of the question. This notion that Obama is weak-willed when it comes to using military force is baffling to me. I think it is possible that we will take of the nuke delivery missile that N. Korea just moved to the est coast and attempt to take out as much artillery as possible.

    Given that China has sent troops to its boarder, I think we are getting enough singles that China will not do anything if we do preemptively strike.

    I am not really sure what the right answer is in this situation. We’ve played N.K. game for 20 years now and it has not yielded anything other than a nuclear-armed N.K. …

  • Dr Luther in the 21st Century

    Everybody is a fanboy. There now that is out of the system.

    I am not sure what to make of the current rhetoric. In some ways it does seem to be similar to the saber rattling of the past to get food and medical supplies. In other ways it has a more dire tone to it. It makes me wonder if the days of buying peace in the region with humanitarian supplies is over. I can’t say. It seems to be a very touchy situation and we are wise to be circumspect in responding. If we increase troop readiness and numbers we could in our attempt to stave off conflict start a conflict. Yet if we do nothing the NK may see their chance and the civilian casualty numbers maybe worse. So what do we do?

    Personally, I don’t think anybody will know what the right answer is until the historians argue about it 50 years from now. I don’t mind backing off and easing various humanitarian restrictions, I am just not sure it is going to work.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    NavyChaps; given that Seoul is 25 miles from the border and the typical range of field artillery is 15 miles or less, and can only be fired at a certain rate without melting the barrel, I’m guessing that the hazard to the capital from field artillery is a bit overstated. Not that there is no hazard to the capital, but I’m thinking that when the artillery are wound up to about 43 degrees and the truck of ammunition is brought near, it just might be possible to give the artillerymen and rocketeers a rude surprise.

  • DonS

    North Korea’s overwhelming ground force could inflict very substantial damage to our troops on the border. I question how long they could sustain an attack in the long run, but there is no question that our troops in South Korea are at grave risk if an attack is initiated.

    As for long-range missiles, they don’t have to be accurate. If they are aimed at Los Angeles and hit Santa Barbara or even Redding instead, it is still a disaster. This is the very reason why we need a robust anti-missile defense — Star Wars, if you will.

    Most likely, this is yet another play for concessions, as has been said above. And, we are already softening our stance toward N. Korea to attempt to defuse tensions. So, it will likely work. The point is, though, that a madman has nuclear weapons, and insists that he is not afraid to use them.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist

    Bike:
    I thought maximum distance was achieved at 45 degrees? Am I wrong, or is 43 degrees an inside baseball thing? No experience with mortars, but I did have a mean potato launcher as a kid…

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    Air resistance, Doc. And that’s just what I remember from a computer simulation back in college, and so I’m not going to quibble over 43 vs. 45 degrees. Maybe it’s time to break out the old potato gun and the can of Aqua Net?

    And I have to joke here as well that maybe the North Koreans want to target Austin because they’re die-hard Aggies or Sooners…..and judging by the jokes I’ve heard and the pictures I’ve seen, I’m thinking “Aggies.” :^)

    (just kidding, A&M fans!)

  • tODD

    NavyChaps said (@15):

    President Obama has continued the approach of Presidents Clinton and Bush regarding North Korea – which is to say, concessions.

    I was unaware of this. What concessions has Obama made, specifically?

    On the other hand, I can think of several concessions President Bush made to North Korea. So unless you can substantiate your claim about Obama’s concessions, it would appear that, empirically, Obama is taking a notably harder line than Bush did.

    I’m arguing that from Dear Leader’s perspective there is no chance that the current adminstration is going to hold a harder line than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton.

    You claim to have knowledge of Kim’s “perspective”, but, frankly, it appears to be your own ideas that you’re expressing here.

    By the way, if you’d prefer not to engage my questions here, I’ll just go ahead and label myself a “fanboy” (of whatever, doesn’t matter), if it makes it easier for you.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    @ bike This Aggie wouldn’t mind ;) but I would at least like the chance to get the students from Concordia Austin out of town first.

  • tODD

    From the article:

    Hawaii, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas

    All liberal areas. You’ll note that Kim isn’t threatening to nuke Provo. Coincidence?

    Oh, and North Korea went nuclear under Republican President George W. Bush. Again, coincidence?

    Finally, a commenter here who normally posts conservative arguments now claims to be able to speak from “Dear Leader’s perspective”, and yet all he does is lambast America’s President. How many coincidences are you going to believe?

  • BW

    It’s impossible to know what Kim Jong-Un is thinking. Does he want the US to launch a pre-emptive strike? Is he posturing to get more aid? Or maybe he really does want to strike first? Kim Jong-Un himself has to know he can’t win a war against the US. I know that North Korea has learned that giving up WMDs, like Libya did, was foolish in their eyes because it eventually allowed the West to intervene in the civil war, so I’d have to believe that Kim knows that using up his only nukes will leave him “exposed.”

    I really don’t think Pres. Obama is doing anything differently than Bush or Clinton. Sure his rhetoric on foreign policy is different but he intervened in Libya, I believe the US provided logistical support for the French in Mali, it sure seems like the US is helping arm rebels in Syria, and he’s expanded the use of drones to uncomfortable levels. The US government will certainly protect American troops and civilians and their families in South Korea and Japan.

    I also disagree with the notion that the US has to stop “evil” regimes from getting nuclear weapons. Who, exactly all has an “evil” regime? How does the US stop them? Pakistan and India both have nukes and they hate each other. But they haven’t used their WMDs. I wouldn’t exactly call Pakistan’s government stable. So how do we classify a regime as one that shouldn’t have WMDs?

  • P.C.

    The question is not necessarily whether or not the U.S. will preemptively strike long range missile launching sites or other high value targets but whether or not the South Koreans will counterattack if the North Koreans shell a ROK island near the border or attack/sink a ship as they did recently. Will the South Koreans counterattack unilaterally? And if they do what will be North Korea’s response to being challenged?

    By the way, North Korean rockets and artillery (with a rocket assisted projectile (RAP) round) ARE within striking range of Seoul its suburbs, and the Inchon airport.

  • NavyChaps

    tODD, I would have thought that you might actually have read my post.

    Once again… I believe that President Bush’s interaction with NK was a FAILURE. As was President Clinton’s before him. All that is history now. My belief is that in the present, the Child Dear Leader will follow the incredibly successful playbook of his father and push the same buttons; and that the present president will fail like his predecessors and buy off NK once again with further concessions. Given the history, why wouldn’t KJU attempt to do so? He’s not stupid and he needs to find some way to maintain his power — there aren’t many options. And then we’ll have to go through this whole thing again in a few months/years because that which is rewarded gets repeated. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. And in the end, our ability to isolate bad actors, build confidence in our allies, and encourage those on the fence is undermined. Like it or not, (most of) the world looks to the U.S. as a preserver of freedom – especially when theirs is at risk.

    My FEAR is that KJU will go “too far” — and THEN what will happen? What is “too far” for President Obama? Is there any tripwire that would cause him to authorize preemptive military action? Will President Obama honor the treaty with South Korea if/when they go to war against the North? I hope and pray so (even as I pray for our President). And to be clear, having spoken with a number of survivors of Chosin, I’d just as soon NOT go to war.

    What is a “good” outcome at this point? Other than KJU disappearing off the world stage, I don’t see one. There are some that are less bad though. If we can find a COA that offers the ability for KJU to “claim victory” while not actually giving him anything of consequence, that would be best. But for that to happen, he has to be convinced that President Obama has the willingness to do more than just talk. Peace through strength still works.

  • kempin04

    I was just at the Incheon airport. Did you know it is on an island? Plus, the bathrooms are totally awesome.

  • NavyChaps

    And to be clear, my “best” COA above doesn’t “solve” the problem either. It only kicks the can down the road a bit more with the hope that we can solve it later. But KJU can claim a real victory in that he obtains something of value without giving up anything, then we’ve only made things worse.

    By the way, from KJU’s perspective, there is a history with President Obama. When North Korea attacked South Korea in November 2010, the President was instrumental in preventing SK from going to war. Though the WH condemned the attack, the only real reaction was to hold back our ally. Does that shape KJU’s view regarding our President’s willingness to use force? I don’t know for sure. But it certainly should be a significant data point.

  • tODD

    NavyChaps (@29), there appears to be no basis for your suggesting that I didn’t read your post. Is this just something you toss out, like “fanboy”, when you disagree with someone?

    I get that you don’t think Clinton or Bush II’s policies were successful with regard to North Korea.

    But you’re also not merely equating Obama with those two, but clearly suggesting that he is objectively worse than them:

    …there is no chance that the current adminstration is going to hold a harder line than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. (@7)

    Why wouldn’t Dear Leader assume that the current administration would be even less inclined to respond? (@15)

    The problem is that you have offered no evidence for your assertion (@15) that Obama has actually “continued” with “concessions”. You are merely assuming that he will, and that assumption is the entirety of your argument here. Meanwhile, we are more than four years into the Obama administration. It certainly didn’t take that long for Bush to make his some of his concessions to North Korea.

    So what has Obama done that you are criticizing him for vis-a-vis North Korea? All you’ve offered is that he prevented South Korea from going to war. Is that a “concession”?

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    tODD; if the NoKors are going for liberal cities, what about Portland and San Francisco, not to mention Berkeley and Boulder? :^)

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    PC; thank you for the clarification on NK’s artillery. Now the question is whether “in range” equates to “able to really launch all those projectiles” without attracting some detrimental love and attention. I’m guessing there are plans afoot to be something of a disruption.

  • Abby

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