On Friday morning, we brought you “North Korea: ‘We Will Go To War’ With ‘Gang Of Cruel Robbers’ In US.”
That post was our effort to provide a bit of perspective for those curious as to whether the threat from Pyongyang is as “grave” as it’s being made out to be in the media (and on Trump’s Twitter feed).
To be sure, you don’t exactly want delusional children playing around with nukes, but one of the important things to remember about Kim Jong-Un is that he has a narrative he needs to perpetuate. He, like his ancestors, is seen as something of a god by many North Koreans and in order to keep the illusion alive, he needs to continually remind his people that Pyongyang is engaged in an epic struggle with Washington.
That “struggle” is of course not epic – indeed it doesn’t exist. So all Donald Trump is doing by playing along is making Kim’s fantasy a reality and in doing so, bolstering Kim’s image among North Koreans (if not in the eyes of his inner circle, whose members are subject to execution by anti-aircraft gun at the first sign of sleepiness).
And while our contention is that Kim’s regime does not in fact pose a threat in terms of nuking the US mainland or firing “sarin-tipped” projectiles at Japan, Pyongyang could well do some damage if it wanted to.
In the interest of giving you an idea of just what kind of damage, we present a few visuals and excerpts from Stratfor who notes that “North Korea has a hefty arsenal of short- and medium-range missiles that it could launch at nearby targets, including U.S. military facilities elsewhere in the region.”
Simply put, Kim’s “No Dong” is “presumed operational.”
A US operation could involve cruise missiles as well as fixed-wing aircraft conducting strikes against various facilities across North Korea. Prime targets include the nuclear reactor or uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon, as well as North Korean nuclear scientists. Should the United States plan more extensive strikes aimed at disabling all elements of the North Korean nuclear program, it may also deploy special operations forces to go after underground facilities that airstrikes couldn’t easily or reliably destroy. But the broader the target set, the greater the risk of retaliation. North Korea has a hefty arsenal of short- and medium-range missiles that it could launch at nearby targets, including U.S. military facilities elsewhere in the region. Pyongyang’s conventional artillery, moreover, could also do significant damage to northern areas of South Korea, reaching as far as the country’s capital. U.S. military planners would likely view this kind of escalation as an unacceptable risk.
The United States will base its decision about whether and how to strike North Korea in large part on the kind of reaction it anticipates from Pyongyang. North Korea has many reasons to mount a credible retaliation to any action taken against it, not only to maintain the appearance of a powerful actor on the global stage but also to ensure domestic stability. A weak response from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s administration could undermine its legitimacy among the country’s public or perhaps prompt a palace coup. At the same time, however, Pyongyang understands that a significant retaliation would meet with a commensurate response, which could cripple North Korea’s military capabilities.
If the United States determines the country is unlikely to take that kind of chance, it will have little else standing in the way of a military strike. Short of that scenario, however, Washington may still be willing to assume the risks of a limited retaliation. The United States could consider the launch of a small number of missiles that might be intercepted, for example, or incursions by North Korean special operations forces into South Korean territory to be acceptable consequences. Even low-level naval skirmishes may not be considered too great a repercussion. Still, anticipating the scale of North Korea’s response is a daunting and treacherous gamble.