Saturday, August 24, 2019

A Serious and Imminent Threat

One question I have had about North Korea's nuclear program is whether they have nuclear devices or nuclear weapons. I'm still not sure.

This is from Japanese assessment of North Korea's nuclear program:

Japan has upgraded its estimate of North Korea’s nuclear weapons capability in an upcoming annual Defence White Paper, saying it seems Pyongyang has achieved the miniaturization of warheads, the Yomiuri newspaper said in an unsourced report on Wednesday. ...

The report, to be approved at a Cabinet meeting in mid-September, will maintain the assessment that North Korea’s military activities pose a “serious and imminent threat”, the Yomiuri said.

The story says that for years America has believed North Korea "likely produced miniaturized nuclear warheads."

But even if true now or then, that isn't quite the same as saying North Korea has been able to put those miniaturized warheads on a reliable missile with confidence the warhead will explode.

So I still don't know if North Korea actually has nuclear weapons or nuclear devices that require thousands of technicians and hundreds of scientists to detonate after months of preparation.

I will say that our strategy of reaching out to North Korea to talk kind of requires that North Korea does not have actual nuclear weapons. Because the threat of attacking North Korea is one aspect of our pressure campaign. Once North Korea has actual nuclear weapons, the strike option gets "problematic," as the kids like to say these days.

Still, the report will say the threat is "imminent" rather than actual, making it sound like North Korea has not achieved a nuclear-armed reliable missile. Not yet, anyway.

UPDATE: North Korea announced a "newly developed super-large multiple rocket launcher."

I assume the size implies greater range. If so, this is about a conventional or gas threat to Seoul.

All the talk of North Korea's artillery threat to Seoul neglects that the vast majority can't bombard Seoul unless the North Korean army--which has rotted since the collapse of the USSR--advances across the DMZ and brings their shorter-range pieces within range--which are easier to target on the move and emplaced in the open. North Korea has relatively few types of artillery that can reach Seoul from where they are dug in now.