The North Korea Thread


Well, what is “the public?” Certainly a subset of the public elected our fearless leader. In general, the president is elected by the public, with the understanding that not everyone in the public agrees with the decision.

Of course, it’s arguable a minority of the actual public elected this guy, so your point is pretty solid anyhow.


No matter how you look at it, there are way too many shitgibbons.


Indeed. One is too many, and we seem to have whole tribes.


Karako says yes. “The system has demonstrated a lot of capability. … You’ve seen the Patriot being put to good use on a weekly and monthly basis in the ongoing Yemen missile war.” Patriot missiles, operated by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf region, have intercepted more than 100 ballistic missiles since 2015, according to U.S. contractor Raytheon.

THAAD, in its current configuration, has had success in each of its 15 tests, Karako said. “That’s about as good as you can get.” The ground-based system, or GMD, has tested successfully fewer times — in 10 of 18 intercept tests — but those included earlier tests with configurations that no longer exist, he said, and the Missile Defense Agency deconstructs every failure to fix the problems.

“It’s not effective, not only because the success rate has been so poor in flight-intercept tests, but because those tests are scripted for success.” — Philip Coyle
But Philip Coyle, a senior science fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, gives the program an “F.” The failure rate of missile tests is more like 60 percent since 2002, he said. “It’s not effective, not only because the success rate has been so poor in flight-intercept tests, but because those tests are scripted for success.”

Coyle said the Pentagon doesn’t want to see its tests fail, which would make the system look bad. “I would hate to think what the success rate would be if they weren’t scripted for success,” he said.

Short answer: Maybe.
Long answer: Maaaaaybe.


Real world answer: No.


The Hwasong-15 is considerably larger than the Hwasong-14, and initial calculations indicate the new missile could deliver a moderately-sized nuclear weapon to any city on the US mainland. The Hwasong-15 is also large and powerful enough to carry simple decoys or other countermeasures designed to challenge America’s existing national missile defense (NMD) system.


Eh. I think it’s more a “If we get lucky!”

Of course, when considering this is nuclear war being discussed, that’s not exactly a confidence level to be pleased with.


That’s the rub, ain’t it? It’s not sufficient to be successful at levels that would be great in a conventional scenario. It’s really an all or nothing proposition. And because it’ won’t/can;'t be “nothing,” if there’s more than a handful (or even one or two) targets, the whole thing boils down to psychology. Would Kim Jong Un actually nuke us, knowing how much he’d risk in retaliation?

Well, maybe. For one, he’s not stupid. He realizes that as much as we’d want to/need to retaliate, we couldn’t just nuke North Korea with abandon. The Chinese would not stand for it, no matter the provocation, and would we risk a war with China over something like this? Maybe, maybe not. For another, there’s South Korea to think about. Depending on the context, as in, whether any attack on the US was accompanied by an attack on the ROK, it’s possible, or at least plausible, that Pyongyang could still maintain its blackmail power in terms of threatened destruction of Seoul at least.

So, it’s really kind of scary. You can construct plausible scenarios where the North might feel the risk is worth it. No matter how remote those chains of events might be, the fact that it’s not a simple calculation of risk/reward is not comforting.


What does NK gain? They wipe out 1 city then get turned to glass.


Well, if you put yourself in NK’s shoes, that may mean they are aiming for deterrence and not mass murder. Although when you listen to some of the political formations in Japan, I hope the highpower in NK aren’t half as insane.

More than a standard nuke (although its psychological impact can’t be negated), a much more likely scenario for NK trolling would be an EMP nuke?


Alternatively, they could try to nuke a carrier group. How would the US respond, then?


IMO that would be pessimal for North Korea. The US with Trump at the helm would consider its annoying moral chains broken by the use of a nuke in war, and would destroy Pyongyang and all NK military forces, while NK wouldn’t have gotten any serious revenge on anyone, neither the US nor South Korea.


This is where I think it gets dangerous. Admittedly, with Trump in the White House, any rationality in our response might well go out the window. But some things still bug me. While China might simply bitch and moan about a limited nuclear retaliation against NK, there is the possibility that they would absolutely not accept a US nuclear strike on North Korea. Now, they could not physically stop such a strike, but they could well say they’d retaliate in kind. Why would Beijing risk nuclear conflict? Because they view the survival (or at least the non-destruction) of NK as an existential priority. To them, both the prospect of tens of millions of refugees or the prospect of a Western-allied, free-market and free-expression society of the power of South Korea right on their border are anathema. I really think the Chinese aspect to all this gets underplayed sometimes.

The other thing is that any nuclear retaliation would have to be somewhat proportional, if only because you wouldn’t want fallout and what-not drifting down to South Korea, or north to China. So while glassing Pyongyang per se might be in the cards, taking out all of the NK military before they could wax Seoul–and face it, if they actually lob a nuke at Guam or something, munch less LA, do you think they’d quail at dropping one on their neighbor?

Yeah, I tend to agree that the North Koreans aren’t dumb enough to start something like this; as you point out, one very likely outcome is all bad for them. But there is enough doubt to make the situation even more scary. To me the scariest aspect is that Pyongyang can indeed craft scenarios where they escape with acceptable losses…One of those is that the US responds with massive conventional force (to avoid international or Chinese wrath, etc.), and that would probably play into the North Korean leaderships hands, in that it would justify their paranoia, and reinforce their propaganda.

In any event, the most likely situation is that they don’t do anything drastic. Unfortunately, the odds are longer against US not doing anything drastic, at this point.


I think there is no chance that NK ICBM could hit a mobile target like a carrier group. Not to mention that wargead would have to get through a bunch of Aegis-equipped destroyers and cruiser.

I’m fairly optimistic that we’d be able to stop a lone NK missile or two, given the very impressive result the Israeli have had with Iron Dome, and even the Saudi have been pretty effective with old Patriot system.

Like Wombat, I have real doubts that US would respond to a North Korean nuclear denotation on a military target or even someplace like Guam with a massive nuclear response. There would be too much pressure from China to limit to something like taking out Pyongyang or a few military bases.

(Of course, only a fool would attempt to predict what Donald Trump would do, he is completely chaotic.).

I think a North Korean strike is unlikely in any event. But I can’t imagine that would risk it unless they were very confident it work. Which is why I think we need to start shooting down their all their ICBM tests aimed in the direction of US territories or their allies.


If NK does for some reason initiate a nuclear attack against us which would provoke immediate US response, I expect 100% that China is poised to instantly invade and take over and LOUDLY announce they have done so and that any retaliation against the NK lands is now an attack against the thousands of Chinese occupiers. We would get a show trial and new Chinese-receivership government puppet in NK, and we will never get to fire a bullet back in anger. They will never allow a situation where we are justified and allowed to drop nukes just outside their borders.


You are very optimistic about a navy that has repeatedly allowed all manner of security violations and attacks in recent years, from terrorists in rowboats to all manner of self-inflicted disaster. I tend to agree an ICBM is not going to hit a carrier group, but a nuclear mine could easily do so if it’s planted in their way in advance. Of course that would be an idiotic move on Pyongyang’s part, but it’s not impossible.


I still think that no matter how developed their missile program becomes, the North Koreans are just rattling their sabers like a panhandler rattles a coin around in his upturned hat. If they actually wanted to commit to war, they would have attacked Seoul with all their dialed-in artillery when Trump was visiting there.


Yes, I don’t think they want war. I think they don’t care if a war happens, because most consequences in their calculus work out well enough for the regime. The people of North Korea, not so much, but when has the ruling dynasty in Pyongyang given a shit about that? But they get way too much leverage, attention, and bribery by threats; they would have no real incentive to kill the goose laying the golden eggs by actually going to war, even though they probably don’t fear it much.


Eh, I don’t think this is the case. Around any and everything happening with NK, lately, the talk is always around the Chinese response to it, or the Chinese response to what we said or did. EDIT:Oops, looks like G.W. Bush has the record at 4 visits to China. Obama did so three times. Trump has already visited once. State department visits are more frequent as well. China is very much talked about and, I feel anyway, not underplayed at ALL in this particular topic amongst US diplomacy and military goals.

No doubt about it, this has been studied for a very long time. Summary: China would be fucked. Any fallout would heavily blanket China, post-event.

I agree that I don’t think EITHER side will do anything drastic. What I see playing out is gradual acceptance of a post-nuclear armed NK, and them having a much bigger bargaining chip to sabre rattle when they need assistance for something domestically, or when they determine the time is right to leverage lighter trade restrictions with other countries, perhaps not the US. EDIT: By this I do not mean the US will accept it, rather that they are now nuclear capable, and that must be taken under more consideration in military strategy as well as UN sanctions.


I hear ya, but I still believe that there is a serious gap between what professionals in the diplomatic and intelligence community (assuming we have any left now) understand about China and what the politicos in power feel (most of them don’t actually understand much of anything). That is, sure, we communicate with China, but I see little evidence that the higher echelons of the US government really understands the depth of Chinese commitment to some of their national goals and priorities.

As for the long term, I think what you describe is a logical extrapolation of what has gone before. One kicker though is the growing feeling in many circles in the USA that this situation can’t go on forever, that it needs to be “solved” sooner rather than later. I tend to agree with you that we should view it more like we viewed the USSR, and wait for time to take its probably inevitable course, but there are disturbing signs in Washington that folks are not going to have that kind of forbearance or patience.