Seoul (GPA) – Tomorrow is the moment of Truth for one of President Donald Trump’s biggest foreign policy bluffs so far. The question is, would he really go through with his threats on North Korea given the likely cost?
A lot of commentators are speculating that Trump is preparing to bomb North Korea if they test a nuclear weapon tomorrow, for the birthday of Kim Il Sung. While it is probable that Pyongyang will test another weapon tomorrow – since a threat has never stopped them before – the world is wondering whether Trump will respond as promised.
There are multiple reasons that something seemingly simple like “targeted strikes” on North Korea are actually vastly more complicated. There is going to be a huge price tomorrow if Trump decides to attack Pyongyang and their facilities.
Despite receiving an ultimatum from the US, this has never stopped Pyongyang from doing what they want before. The fact that for every warning they’ve received by the West they’ve gotten, North Korea carries on as they please should show they will be willing to retaliate should something happen tomorrow.
Pyongyang has multiple options, which they’ll probably use all of if hit by US bombs tomorrow. Let’s take a look at some of the possible costs that could await Trump, should he make the wrong choice.
Trump may be trying to stop the DPRK’s next nuclear test but that doesn’t change the fact that North Korea already is a nuclear power. Some outlets have been speculating the use of the 2nd largest non-nuclear bomb in the US arsenal yesterday in Afghanistan is possibly in preparation to take out Pyongyang’s complex spiderweb of underground nuclear and military facilities.
The first problem here is that the bomb used in Afghanistan was to take out hand dug tunnels in the dirt made by the Islamic State. North Korea isn’t working on such a basic defense system.
While it’s well known that when the North Korean military isn’t on full parade it operates primarily underground. The US military says they have these tunnels essentially completely mapped out, but should we really trust an organization that constantly gives bad intelligence to be 100% sure in the case of a potential nuclear disaster?
North Korea also has smaller truck mounted nuclear weapons that are constantly on the move. These missiles would only take about an hour to prepare, roll out of the tunnels and aim at a neighbor like South Korea or Japan. If not wiped out in the initial US salvo, it’s likely Pyongyang could order at least one of these missiles off. There’s also another potential first strike capability possessed by the North; submarines.
North Korea’s Nuclear Submarines
North Korea has several deployed nuclear capable submarines as of the latest reports by western intelligence. The riskiest part about this is that the US isn’t completely sure where they all are.
Like all the options that will be listed in this piece, it’s unlikely they’d make it to the US. This still places key US allies in the region at incredible risk. If the submarines aren’t hit immediately following the launch of a US operation, Japan or South Korea could again be on the wrong end of a nuclear weapon.
The DPRK also has a host of conventional weapons that may be a last resort in the event of a western attack but would still do incredible damage. The most familiar to Trump is probably the chemical weapons.
North Korean Chemical Stockpile
We already know North Korea has chemical stockpiles. Kim Jong Un is alleged to have had his half brother taken out in Malaysia with a deadly and rare strain of VX nerve agent. The DPRK also has more chemical agents stockpiled in case of an event like the one Trump is planning.
North Korea also has a massive stockpile of more conventional chemical weapons such as mustard gas and more run of the mill nerve gases like sarin. These chemicals could easily be targeted at South Korea’s capital, Seoul in the event of one last attack if the government in the DPRK were falling. North Korean troops train extensively in fighting in toxic conditions for a situation just like this.
It’s possible that this gas could also be delivered in Japan by way of ballistic missiles. However, it’s most likely that the majority would end up in Seoul since North Korea also has another major last ditch offensive asset: artillery.
North Korea has the Most Artillery Pieces on Earth
While artillery is no longer an effective tool in the arsenals of western nations, North Korea still has plenty of it. The majority of their artillery pieces are aimed at Seoul, once again, for just such an event as Trump is threatening.
The north has enough artillery aimed at Seoul to possibly level the capital in a short period of time. Many of the pieces are camouflaged and dig in so it’s unlikely that even with a massive attack led by the US, it’s unlikely it would all be taken out.
The artillery also has potential to be a delivery system of the aforementioned chemical weapons. Whether the North chooses to use conventional or chemical ammunition from these pieces, the number of rounds they’d be able to lay into Seoul in the first hour is around 500,000.
North Korea knows that if they do come under fire that any attacks they make will be their last. That said, Kim Jong Un knows that if he’s going out he has the potential to take tens of thousands to millions of lives in the process.
Around sixty percent of North Korea’s military assets are near their border with South Korea. This means that another last ditch tactic by the North will be a massive flow of troops over the border and into Seoul which will also result in massive deaths.
There’s also one asset to account for that isn’t located in North Korea; the People’s Republic of China.
China’s Interest in North Korea
There are around 30,000 US troops stationed in South Korea. Can you guess the one thing China doesn’t want if their allies in Pyongyang fall? If you guessed 30,000 US troops on their border, you’re right.
China also doesn’t want a massive flow of refugees that would inevitably pour across their border.
There’s the further issue of what comes after the government in North Korea is gone. China isn’t going to want a US puppet directly on their border. If this ends up looking like this is the intention of the US, there’s a good chance China will intervene. This basically means we’ll have the second Korean War on our hands with a direct confrontation between the two world powers except China has long since grown into that role since the last face off between their military and the West.
Trump has ratcheted up tensions and put himself in a corner where it will be extremely hard to back down from striking North Korea, should they test a new nuclear device tomorrow. Kim also has never been one to be dissuaded by western saber rattling, so it’s hard to believe Trump’s threats will stop whatever he has planned.
As stated, a war in Korea has the potential to trigger millions of deaths and destroy multiple economies. This conflict could also lead to World War Three if China ends up feeling threatened. There may be some cheerleaders for this showdown in the US but trusting the man who makes moves like dropping a giant bomb for show, or firing tomahawks into Syria with no long term plan probably isn’t a good idea.