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  (Source: Reuters)
North Korea also promises traditional assault on South Korea

It's been an at times bizarre, at other times alarming last couple of weeks for U.S. and North Korean relations.  With North Korea's economy in shambles, the nation's young dictator Kim Jong-un, much like his father, has turned to dire threats against the U.S., despite a professed love for American culture.  The love/hate relationship between Jung-un and America took an alarming turn this week when North Korea threw out a decades long armistice with its democratic southern neighbor.

I. We Will Nuke You

Now North Korea has gone a step farther, with the nation's foreign minister telling the state-run KCNA news agency, "Since the United States is about to ignite a nuclear war, we will be exercising our right to preemptive nuclear attack against the headquarters of the aggressor in order to protect our supreme interest."

It is unclear whether the North was referring to the capital city of South Korea, Seoul, or to the U.S. capital, Washington D.C.  North Korea labels the South a breakaway state and "puppet" regime of the U.S.  It never formally made peace with the U.S. and South Korea following the Korean War of 1950-1953.  But until this week a protective armistice remained in place.

North Korea has made some progress on its nuclear weapons program.  In December, North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile, which it used to launch a satellite into space.  It is thought to have designed the rocket with the help of Iran, another state hostile the U.S. who is reportedly pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program.  Reuters reports that Iranian observers were on hand at the test.

North Korea's military
North Korea's military, seen here in a training exercise, claims it has decided to nuke the U.S. or its allies in a "preemptive strike". [Image Source: KCNA]

The U.S. quickly moved before the UN to place sanctions on the North after that test.  China, which typically is supportive of North Korea, a major trade partner, agreed to some sanctions.  In response to those sanctions, North Korea defiantly conducted its third major nuclear test on Feb. 12.

According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, February's nuclear test measured "approximately several kilotons" while the first North Korean nuclear test in 2006 was under 1 kiloton and the second in 2009 was about 2-7 kilotons.  Those bombs would likely be capable of causing significant damage if they reached a populated area, but are smaller than the 16- and 21-kiloton explosives that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (respectively) at the close of WWII.

Since WWII, there has been no nuclear act of war.

Experts expressed doubt that North Korea would be able to successfully use its newly acquired intercontinental ballistic missile technology to hurl a small warhead around the globe at the U.S. capital, approximately 6,890 miles away.

II. China Finally Backs Tough Sanctions Against North Korea's Ruling Elite

In the wake of the recent nuclear test the U.S. urged China to agree to tougher sanctions.  China, whose state media has lashed out at North Korea's seemingly psychotic behavior in recent months, eventually agreed.

The latest sanctions hit close to home for North Korea's dictator and other members of the nation's military ruling elite.  Under the new sanctions China and others who trade with North Korea can no longer define what constitutes a luxury item; many items such as yachts, racing cars, luxury automobiles, and certain types of jewelry are now explicitly banned.  That means that the lavish lifestyle long enjoyed by the ruling elite while their people starved could be coming to an end.

North Korea soldiers
North Korea also promises a traditional attack on its southern neighbor. [Image Source: KCNA]

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice comments, "These sanctions will bite and bite hard."

And China's  U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong concurs, saying his nation wants to see "full implementation" of the strict new punishments.

North Korea
As ally China loses patience with North Korea and backs sanctions, the North's leaders inch their fingers toward the trigger button. [Image Source: CNN]

But like a child whose toy is taken away, North Korea appears to be on the verge of a violent and self-destructive outburst, despite China pleading with it to behave itself.  North Korea claims that routine military exercises by South Korea and the U.S. military in recent weeks are part of a secret plan to fire nuclear missiles at its cities later this year.

As the KCNA comment alludes to, it's using that accusation as a justification for scrapping the long-standing armistice.  Now the only thing up in the air is whether it will back its posturing with force.

III. President Obama, South Korea Tell North Korea Not to Try Anything Stupid

President Barack Obama said that if North Korea was to try to launch a nuke that the U.S. would employ its own nuclear weapons (the so-called "nuclear umbrella) and/or its missile defense program to respond.  South Korea and Japan, the U.S.'s closest allies in the region are mobilizing their strike capability in anticipation for a potential attack from North Korea.

Obama upset
President Obama threatened to retaliate against North Korea should it attack.
[Image Source: Matt Ortega/Flickr]

With Chinese support of its unruly neighbor waning, perhaps North Korea's last and closest ally is Russia.  Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin this week urged the U.S. to act carefully, commenting, "Let's keep our minds cool and keep focused on the need for the only possible rational course of action, and that is returning to six-party talks."

North Korea has a long history of belligerence and bellicose rhetoric with the South, but it's never resorted to full blown war, since the armistice.  Despite the armistice in 2010 the North sunk a South Korean naval ship, killing 46 sailors and bombed and island killing another two South Korean soldiers.

But there are some signs that South Korean and U.S. leadership believe North Korea to be on the verge of actually backing up its threats this time around.  Typically the South never responds to threats, but in a rare response the military warned the North that it would respond resoundingly to any attack, including with action to eliminate the leadership of the North.

The U.S. and South Korea are expected to continue their wargames in the region through April.  If the North is to follow through with its threats of nuclear and/or traditional attacks on the U.S. and its allies, it's expected to come before the end of April.

IV. Rodman Says North Korean Dictator is Simply Misunderstood

If there was one moment of levity in the tension of the last few weeks it's been former NBA superstar champion Dennis Rodman's bizarre trip to North Korea.  Kim Jong-un oddly idolizes Mr. Rodman.  And for his part Mr. Rodman called the dictator his "friend" after his recent visit to the hostile state.

Mr. Rodman has since gave several interviews:


In an interview with ABC News Mr. Rodman -- wearing a suit decorated in graphics of hundred dollar bills -- is asked if he was aware of North Korea's threat to "destroy" the U.S. and the fact that the nation imprisons nearly 200,000 of its own people in political prison camps.  Rodman responds, "I don't condone that.... I hate that he's doing that."

But he still insists that Kim Jong-un was a "good leader" in a way, "a great guy", "very humble", and that he considered the leader "a friend".  Rodman accuses the U.S.'s high incarceration rate as being similar to North Korea's prison camps.

He also delivers a (supposed) message from Kim Jong-un to President Obama, stating, "He wants Obama to do one thing, call him... He said, ‘If you can, Dennis – I don’t want [to] do war. I don’t want to do war.’"

Mr. Rodman tells Americans (and the interviewer George Stephanopoulos), "Don't hate me.  Don't hate me."

Source: North Korea



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RE: Nothing they haven't said before
By Spookster on 3/7/2013 5:59:08 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
The only way they would attack the U.S. with a nuclear device would be to carry it into the country and detonate it. Good luck with that.


Thousands of illegal immigrants and drug runners from Mexico and other countries enter the US undetected every day so I wouldn't simply dismiss NK from being able to carry a nuclear device into the country.


RE: Nothing they haven't said before
By tayb on 3/7/2013 6:13:57 PM , Rating: 2
Marijuana isn't easily detectable. Nuclear weapons are very easy to detect. These things aren't small. We're talking devices that would need to be trucked into the country in the back of an 18-wheeler.


RE: Nothing they haven't said before
By Spookster on 3/7/2013 6:26:59 PM , Rating: 2
That's being naive. Unless we have nuclear material detectors that can accurately cover every square mile of the country 24/7 then no. I'm not talking about them walking through a border control point. Drug runners are high tech these days and use submersibles to bring their cargo in underwater to any point along the thousands of miles of our shorelines. Illegal immigrants have large elaborate tunnel systems which drug runners also use.


RE: Nothing they haven't said before
By Reclaimer77 on 3/7/13, Rating: -1
RE: Nothing they haven't said before
By Spookster on 3/7/2013 7:16:56 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah no. The DNDO doesn't have that capability as of yet.

http://www.dhs.gov/news/2012/07/17/written-testimo...


RE: Nothing they haven't said before
By Reclaimer77 on 3/7/2013 7:33:18 PM , Rating: 1
That's what they want you, and our enemies, to think. You seriously think all of our capabilities are common knowledge on the Internet sitting there for all to Google?? Come on!


RE: Nothing they haven't said before
By Lord 666 on 3/7/2013 7:53:38 PM , Rating: 3
Plus, its the CIA and other agencies bringing in the bulk of the drugs either directly or indirectly through cartel assistance. Who do you think made crack?

The ones that get caught are the sacrificial lambs.


By Spookster on 3/7/2013 10:19:44 PM , Rating: 3
Same thing to you. You know they have pills to help you with this condition of yours.


By Spookster on 3/7/2013 10:18:59 PM , Rating: 1
You know they have pills to help you with this condition of yours.


RE: Nothing they haven't said before
By 1prophet on 3/8/2013 9:27:01 AM , Rating: 1
That's the same type of arrogant bravado tough guy mentality that somehow the USA can't be touched that allowed 19 with box cutters to bring this country to its knees on 2001.


By theapparition on 3/8/2013 10:34:06 AM , Rating: 3
They didn't bring the country to it's knees. What are you smoking?

They managed to kill over 3000 innocent civilians and bring down some buildings. Hurt the country economically. Yes, terrible tragedy, but in the grand scheme of things, didn't inherently affect America at all.


RE: Nothing they haven't said before
By Reclaimer77 on 3/8/2013 7:39:43 PM , Rating: 2
Believing we have capabilities that are kept secret, is some kind of "arrogant bravado"? Notice I didn't say we couldn't be nuked. But yes, I believe we have classified forms of detection. What's the problem with that? Stfu with your 911 crap.


By mindless1 on 3/13/2013 12:32:10 PM , Rating: 2
and I believe it is quite possible to shield a truck enough that it won't be detected from space even if they otherwise had the capability.


RE: Nothing they haven't said before
By Samus on 3/8/2013 12:10:13 AM , Rating: 4
a small nuclear weapon gives off the radiation signature comparable to a rack of bananas at the grocery store. It can also be fitted to the trunk of a crown Vic taxi cab.

negotiations must be successful we have too many other problems right now in this country.


By e36Jeff on 3/10/2013 10:13:59 PM , Rating: 2
The issue is that if they have one that small, they don't need to sneak it across the border, they can just strap it on an ICBM and fire away. The type of bomb tech that they are currently at is below Fat Man and Little Boy, both of which were around 5 tons, and fairly easily detectible with existing technology.

With that level of tech, the most likely, and most realistic, method of attack wouldn't be across a border, but on a ship at pulling up to a major dock. You don't even bother trying to get into a city with the bomb, you just pull up to the dock and pull the trigger. Even if the casualties are low compared to setting something off in the heart of NYC, if you did this to the Port of Los Angeles, the economic impact woud be massive, and you would shut down the docks for a very, very long time.


RE: Nothing they haven't said before
By ritualm on 3/8/13, Rating: -1
By inighthawki on 3/8/2013 2:10:44 AM , Rating: 5
Perhaps you should also think twice, saying you cannot do something doesn't prove you can and just don't want people to know.


RE: Nothing they haven't said before
By marvdmartian on 3/8/2013 8:15:10 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, the size of the weapon depends entirely on the yield of the weapon, and the sophistication of the design.

While the original atomic bombs were ~13 to ~21 kilotons in size, a "backpack" (or "suitcase") nuke, which is quite a bit smaller, can yield approximately 6 kilotons.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backpack_nuke

And while a 6 kiloton weapon likely wouldn't completely devastate a city like LA, Chicago or NYC, it would make it pretty much unliveable for quite a few decades into the future! The psychological effect on the American populace would be much greater, though.

From the size of the weapon shown in the Wikipedia page, I'm betting you could cross the border in a 4x4 heavy duty truck, with enough lead around it to keep it from being "seen" by any technology they might have out in the middle of the desert, where the "coyotes" bring the illegal immigrants across the border.


RE: Nothing they haven't said before
By Exterous on 3/8/2013 8:53:57 AM , Rating: 2
The originals were also 10-12 feet long and weighed ~10,000 lbs. It required about 40 years of sophisticated development which required massive investments of time, education and money to make man portable nuclear weapons - which I doubt North Korea can currently match. While I certainly don't know for sure given the time and effort expended to achieve such small yields I think NK is a ways away from being able to field a 'backpack' nuke


By mindless1 on 3/13/2013 12:37:22 PM , Rating: 2
If they were the first to develop them I'd say that's true, but given the advantage of prior development by other countries to copy, the timetable should be accelerated and for all we know they may have bought a few and have them lying around ready to use.


By gwem557 on 3/8/2013 5:38:22 PM , Rating: 3
The sophistication required to construct a portable nuke is so far beyond NK's technological capability, that it's laughable. NK isn't going to be 'walking' a nuke into the US or anywhere else anytime soon.

They'd have to get one from Russia. And nukes are EMINENTLY identifiable by their isotopes, so we'd know where one originated, and that'd start wwIII. Russia knows this, and so won't be selling them any. This is a moot conversation.


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