There’s no nation on earth better at bombast and brinksmanship than North Korea. And they reserve their best shots for America and South Korea.
CNN reported KCNA’s (the North’s state-run media) story:
KCNA reported that a spokesman from the North Korean Foreign Ministry said, “The DPRK legally stipulates that if the supreme dignity of the DPRK is threatened, it must preemptively annihilate those countries and entities that are directly or indirectly involved in it, by mobilizing all kinds of strike means including the nuclear ones.”
“Should the US dare to show even the slightest sign of attempt to remove our supreme leadership, we will strike a merciless blow at the heart of the US with our powerful nuclear hammer, honed and hardened over time,” the foreign ministry spokesman added.
But now the Norks are closer to backing up their threats with actual bombs and rockets. The State of Hawaii is preparing to publish a “Nuclear Preparedness Guide” for its citizens. Pardon me for being glib about this, but I’m reminded of Chief Martin Brody running up and down the beaches of Amity Island shouting “Get out of the water!”
It’s not particularly good for tourism for visitors to be greeted at the airport in Honolulu with a brochure advising you “how to survive a nuclear detonation.”
The real question here is: do we take the threat seriously, literally, or both?
Any nation that both possesses nuclear weapons and the ability to deliver them to a target must be taken seriously. Period, full stop. So the second question, do we take them at their word–would North Korea really commit suicide by attacking the United States with a weapon of mass destruction?
They’d like us to think so. And if they did do it, the results would be unthinkable. So therefore, we must (mostly) take them at their word. We cannot be asleep at the switch for another Pearl Harbor, this one with a much higher casualty list.
Therefore, we must take the North literally when they threaten our nation with nuclear weapons.
But that doesn’t mean we have to bow to their conditions. The U.S. already had Kim Jong Un in our crosshairs on July 4. We, in all probability, could have taken him out right then, and we let the Norks know it. We’ve also made testing our anti-missile capability a more public event, and though South Korea has suspended deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense System (THAAD), we still have a robust anti-missile program for our own territory.
We don’t need another Cold War to handle North Korea. Our submarines and strategic bombers are more than capable of annihilating them in a counter-strike. Kim must know that any attack on U.S. soil is going to bring a non-proportional response, right? I don’t think he knows it, because we have no NATO in the Sea of Japan–no mutual defense pact or doctrine other than for South Korea.
Maybe it’s time for one. I think the answer is to tell Kim that (1) any attack on any sovereign nation that America considers an ally will be considered an attack on the U.S. itself (similar to NATO Article 5). And (2) any attack on the U.S. will result in removal of his regime by any means necessary.
Further to that, (3) the threat of such an attack on the U.S. or our allies is reason for us to decide, at any given moment, that North Korean leadership, including himself, to be targets of opportunity. We set up a hot line, similar to what the Israelis have with terror leaders (or how NORAD operates), so that President Trump can make the call when Kim’s in the crosshairs again, any time, anywhere, with almost no lag time.
If the Norks want to play nuclear hardball–and actually have a ball to play with–then we should treat them as big boys and deal with them. Either they’ll ratchet down the rhetoric, or we will see very little of Kim Jong Un in the future.
Until we know for sure the Norks actually have deployable weapons, however, I’m still in the “limited strike” camp to show them we mean business. We should go in and take out as much of their capability as possible, and make them play catch-up. Yes, I know, 11 million people in Seoul will be in harm’s way but they’ve been in harm’s way for 64 years.
Either way, whether we stipulate that the North has or will soon have the means to follow through with their threats, or we decide to keep them from getting to that point, the policy of the Monroe Doctrine, applied to our interests in the Far East, should still work.
Backing down in the face of Kim’s threats only encourages him; and the goal of North Korea–don’t forget–is to reunify with the South, with the Kim dynasty ruling one Korea. The Chinese would be fine with this arrangement, so they’re no help. This is one area where America has to act unilaterally, and lead as the world’s super power.
Otherwise, for our friends in South Korea, as Brody said in Jaws, “you’re gonna need a bigger boat.”