During the day Tuesday January 30, the media was buzzing with the prediction that President Donald Trump would unleash an “eye opener” about North Korea that would dominate the headlines January 31, as part of his State of the Union Speech. .
So, here we are, post SOTU (which ran 80 minutes) on “February 0” with tensions escalating again, but back to where they were.
I had hoped Trump would talk specifically about missile defense (my Jan. 11 posting) and infrastructure security, maybe even with a frank warning to individual Americans about resuming attention to Civil Defense preparedness. After all, I’ve tweeted him a few times about this. No such luck.
He is right in saying that the military needs to be fully funded (not just month-to-month, to get around shutdown threats) and that the U.S. needs to “rebuild” its nuclear deterrence. But that’s not the bombshell for the media. That’s a given. I give him credit for saying “hopefully never having to use it.”
(Go to 1.18.46)
He did say, “North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland. We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from happening.”
What if pressure is not enough?
Trump trotted out the physical horrors undergone by Otto Warmbier (his parents were there) and then defector Ji Seong-Ho, who was in the audience. Trump minced no words in graphic descriptions of their injuries and invasions of bodily sanctity. I guess this was the “eye opener”, a little bit of verbal violence porn. Likewise, he had earlier given graphic descriptions of combat wounds and rescues in liberating Mosul from ISIS.
But, as some observers like Ezra Klein and Zach Beauchamp on Vox pointed out (essay and tweet), Trump talked about Kim Jong Un as someone who must be removed, very much the way George W. Bush had talked about Saddam Hussein. The problem is that this time Kim Jong Un’s WMD’s could affect the American homeland, as well as South Korea and Japan. The president seemed oblivious to this big distinction.
Then there is the entire flap over the well vetted intended appointment to ambassador to South Korea, Victor D. Cha, Georgetown University professor, over his objection to an administration “bloody nose” first strike on North Korea, as outlined in the Washington Post. Cha responded by explaining his views in an op-ed in the Washington Post yesterday, just before the speech. Cha did not explore the possibility that such an attack could be largely a microwave E1-level EMP attack designed “only” to take out computers and command and control in the country (which probably could not penetrate into its hidden mountain bases anyway).
CNN picked up on the story early January 31, as Will Ripley (the “no chest hair” comment to boys on a North Korean beach) reported that North Korea plans a huge military parade February 8 just as the Winter Olympics starts. Dozens of Hwasong-15’s would be displayed, although we suspect many or most of them could be fake. This would “scare the hell” out of ordinary Americans concerned about saving their own skins.
President Trump apparently believes (if I connect the dots) that he has a few short months or weeks to launch a preventive first strike war now, before North Korea has the credible ability to hit the continental US (especially New York, Washington, and Mar a Lago). That is what sounds so scary. But, of course, Trump is bargaining away the lives of people in South Korea and Japan (including Americans), even if DPRK claims its missiles are pointed only at the U.S., out of spite. Furthermore, we have to keep in mind claims by Woolsey and others that Kim Jong Un could launch at least an E1-level EMP strike over parts of the US now. While Trump correctly talked about the horrible conditions for most civilians in North Korea (eating dirt), he seems insensitive to the idea that most civilian Americans have a lot to lose personally (me) to war, pretty much like Miss Scarlet. (See my Jan. 4 posting).
Furthermore, some DIA assessments late last summer indicated that North Korea had probably succeeding in miniaturizing the smaller fission weapons on its missiles, even if doing this on ah H-15 with a hydrogen bomb is much harder.
Of course, I’ve noted that some of these predictions attract conservative news outlets more than mainstream, leaving one open to fake news concerns (Dec. 22), and I can add that Oak Ridge and National Academy of Sciences have been publishing peer-reviewed technical papers on this problem since maybe 2009, with the media “too sinful to notice”. And we can’t forget that North Korea, despite the sanctions, seems to have plenty of underground connections to other rogue and terror groups (who employ their workers so that workers can send hard currency back home). That raises the ante on conventional terrorism, especially nuclear-related (like dirty bomb threats), as well as possibly biological vectors (ABC had done a Nightline special on anthrax as a terror weapon back in 1999, two years before 9/11). Taylor Wilson’s page on nuclear security at borders sounds relevant.
The period right after the Winter Olympics could become critical very quickly. Will Ripley expects another missile test, perhaps right after the Olympics. The game changer would be if North Korea really detonates anything at re-entry (or in orbit). A detonation could endanger undersea cables. Trump should constructively consider shooting down any missile that gets more than a certain distance from North Korea. Several shoot-downs could destabilize the regime.
(Posted: Wednesday, January 31, 2018 at 10 AM)