Here’s the options: 1) North Korea is bluffing and they don’t have nukes; 2) They’re not and they do.
Let’s take 2) first.
If you reckon those are exaggerations, fine – they are from biased South Korean sources. These are fact. Two years ago, North Korea fired a missile into the Sea of Japan. On August 31st 1998, they managed to fire a missile OVER Japan, which landed in the Pacific. North Korea certainly – at the very least – has missiles capable of reaching anywhere in Japan.
(More North Korean missile info here.)
Japan is, for a fact, North Korea’s most likely target other than their cousins to the south. Not only is there a historical dislike for the Japanese in the Korean peninsula as a whole (WWII and all that), but Japan is effectively the staging post for the United States in the region, thanks to sizable US military bases in the country, so would need to be hit quickly to prevent US retaliation. North Korea was also beaten by Japan in the football the other day. (You may laugh, but Pyongyang officially announced that Japan was the North’s sworn enemy before the match…)
If North Korea nuked Tokyo, what (apart from biker gangs and psychic mutant children charging around a post-Metropolis dystopian cityscape) would happen? Well, think what happened after 11th September 2001, when just two buildings in New York were destroyed. Multiply that by a couple of hundred (at least). Beyond the tens of thousands, probably millions of deaths, there would be instant global economic meltdown. Tokyo, with London and New York, is one of the major epicentres of world commerce and finance. With it gone, we’d all be screwed.
But they wouldn’t do that, right? That’s what you’re thinking. The whole point of an independent nuclear deterrent is that it means you can’t get pushed around by the other nuclear powers any more. That’s why Britain got one, that’s why France got one, and that’s why both India and Pakistan got one. Heck, it’s even why the USSR got one.
No one would actually be stupid enough to deploy nukes in an age where everyone’s got ’em, because that leads to Mutually Assured Destruction (the wonderfully-acronymed MAD) – that’s what you’re thinking. North Korea nukes Japan, the US is obliged by treaty instantly to nuke North Korea. And the US has rather more warheads lying around. The north of the peninsula would be melted into a pretty sheet of shiny black glass. It simply doesn’t make sense.
Well, you see, the thing about “MAD” is that it’s major flaw is that all it takes is someone who actually IS mad for it all to fall apart. The North Korean leadership are hardly known for the loving care and attention they spend on their citizens. They’re hardly known for doing their best to keep them alive. What makes you think the leadership wouldn’t just retreat into a bunker miles underground, nuke Tokyo and watch the world descend into economic chaos? They’re communists, after all. They actually WANT the destruction of the current capitalist system. If you buy your Cold War propaganda, they would be more than willing to sacrifice their fellow countrymen for the greater good of the global revolution.
But what about 1)? What if they’re bluffing?
If so, they’re actually very cunning. It works like this:
Everyone knows North Korea has been building its missile programme. Everyone knows they’re a bit crazy. Everyone knows they’re part of the “Axis of Evil”.
The Axis of Evil was Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Iraq is now out of the picture, and was found to have none of the Weapons of Mass Destruction that were claimed.
Iran is currently facing the brunt of the diplomatic pressure from the West, just as Iraq did before it. The difference? Iran actually HAS a nuclear programme, albeit one they claim to be for non-military purposes.
So, if the only other remaining member of the Axis of Evil suddenly stands up and says “HEY! WE’VE GOT WMDs! LOOK AT US! WOO!”, the world – and specifically the United States, really should stand up and start doing something.
After all, if the Bush administration and Blair government were TRULY convinced that Saddam had WMDs, yet were still willing to sacrifice their brave troops on the battlefield with insufficient protection against chemical and biological attack (rather than the far safer option of simply bombing the shit out of the place), surely they’ll have no qualms about invading North Korea to rid that country of its WMDs either? Because, let’s face it, not to do so having set the precedent of Iraq would not only be hypocritical, but if North Korea ACTUALLY has nukes, it would also be utterly irresponsible.
Now, having made this announcement, North Korea knows that the US has only two options. First, make a show of diplomatic efforts (which have never worked in the northern regime’s history) followed by invading – just like Iraq. Second, effectively ignore it, and focus on the Middle East.
It’s a catch-22 for the US:
1) If they attack North Korea, the constitutionally pacifist and economically vital Japan will almost certainly be attacked in retaliation (either with nukes or conventional missiles), plus the already overstretched US military risks getting bogged down in ANOTHER war of attrition in South East Asia to go with the one they’ve still got in Iraq.
2) If they don’t attack North Korea, then any accusations that US foreign policy isn’t “anti-WMD” or “anti-dictator” so much as “anti-Muslim” really cannot be shaken off. In other words, this announcement could, indirectly, lead to yet more Islamic fundamentalist / al Quaida militancy, as lack of action will be seen as proof of the United States’ “crusade” against Islam.
As I say, Fuck…