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2017 Addendum

The big news for American Independence Day, the 4th July (5th in OZ) is that North Korea has launched a rocket that travelled vertically to reach an altitude of 2,802km (1,731 miles). It flew for 39 minutes before hitting a target in the sea 933km away.  It is being styled an ICBM  (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) as its range is projected to be sufficient to reach: northern Australia; Alaska and western Canada, Pakistan and even Finland in addition of course to: China, Russia, Japan, India and other neighbours.  Yet I'm not so sure as the journalists that this is all.  I'm not a rocket scientist but I have a basic grasp of the physics and this rocket now seems capable of achieving Earth orbit.  In that event it could presumably place one or more nuclear warheads into orbit, thereby threatening any city on the planet.   Remember that it was the Russians putting Yuri Gagarin into orbit and returning him to land alive in 1961 that scared the pants off J F Kennedy and changed him from a space sceptic, during his election campaign, to an advocate overnight.  Suddenly Washington, and Hyannis Port, were within range of a Russian bomb. 

If accurately reported this launch could put North Korea into the same club as India, France, China, Russia, the US and the UK (ICBMs only).  A couple of other countries have a nuclear weapon (Pakistan and Israel) but no missile capable of reaching earth orbit. An unstable leader in any of these 'club members' poses a threat to every country on the planet.  But although this worried us a lot when I was a student in the 1960's, like Kubrick's Dr Strangelove, we've learned to 'stop worrying and love the bomb'. This is largely because of MAD - mutually assured destruction.  So, strangely, I find I'm not too worried.  Like the South Koreans, who live with these threats every day, I trust that Kim Jong-un's primary motivation is his own survival.  So I'm inclined to believe that this is what he says it is, a reaction to the imminent (or allegedly imminent) threat of attack by the US.  It's a tool primarily intended to shore up his domestic position as 'beloved leader' and also to give North Korea and entry badge to the international nuclear club and to stop the US threatening him with war games off his coast and with Presidential 'tweets'.

As I mentioned in 2016 (above) Kim Jong-un has always been able to attack Seoul, more or less at will, and has been able to 'nuke' Tokyo for several years now.  Yet he hasn't because of MAD.  On the other hand, the sanctions and the insults continue - despite all his bomb and rocket tests and bellicose posturing - so he keeps 'upping the ante'.   It might be a good idea not to push him to the point of actually declaring his hand by demonstrating his nuclear capability on Hiroshima or Nagasaki or on Washington DC. And to regularly reaffirm the consequences were he to do this.  Unfortunately it seems that to date President Trump has been the least predictable player in this particular game of poker.

Meanwhile in South Korea the corruption issues, alluded to above, came to a head last year and the country now has a new President, Moon Jae-in, elected earlier this year after the impeachment of his predecessor, Park Geun-hye.  Moon Jae-in is on the record, during his campaign at least, as wanting to renew reconciliation talks with the North and last month suspended plans to site US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) interceptor missiles in the South.  According to USA Today: "...the Pentagon rushed to put {these} in place before the impeachment of his more hawkish predecessor."  In a clear attempt to make them a fait accompli, the system was declared partially operational a week before Moon Jae-in was elected.  Four batteries remain in place but are now in limbo until exposed to a future environmental impact analysis, followed by a parliamentary debate.

Might rapprochement with the North be renewed?  Will the 'chaebol' reassert their manipulative hegemony over the Korean body politic?  And where is Michael Richard Pompeo, the new Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, in all this?

Only time will tell.

 

Comments  

# Leslie Farkash 2017-07-24 13:56
Very good article Richard.

Whilst Dr. Strangelove is still a very scary prospect I have moved on to seeking motives and agendas that motivate military action ("And it is not that they envy our freedoms") that are far more likely to create conflict than the actions of a so called madman or Rogue State.

I had been scratching my head as to what is prompting all the sabre rattling, in and around the Korean Peninsular and you may have hit the nail on the head. An under the radar Korean Reunification plan/attempt.

That would make so much sense as to why China is being threatened, why all the nuclear posturing, lifting of Japans rearmament restrictions and the exposure of South Korea's corruption riddled government. In that light it has the makings of a reunified Vietnam.
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