Aggressive Chinese military actions are in the news today; their support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, updates to their own nuclear weapons programs, and shipments of anti-aircraft missiles to Serbia. And we dare not take our eye off of China, no doubt about that.
Speaking of taking one’s eye off the ball, you may recall President Obama calling out Mitt Romney during the run-up to the 2012 Presidential Election. Romney had called Russia “without question, our number one geopolitical foe” earlier that year. Obama snidely remarked to Romney during the debate that year, “… the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because the Cold War has been over for 20 years.” Wow. That didn’t age well, did it?
We have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, as the saying goes. These days we have to be able to watch China, and Russia, and Iran, and Syria, and Venezuela, and … and North Korea.
North Korea is a nuclear power with an estimated arsenal of more than three dozen nuclear weapons (est. 2020) and sufficient production capacity to produce another half dozen additional nuclear weapons each year.
North Korea’s “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-un is far less stable than Russia’s Putin. He’s watching now as the world is allowing Putin to brutalize Ukraine. He has nuclear weapons, just like Putin. He’s watching NATO and the Western world back down from fear of those nuclear weapons.
North Korea’s largest nuclear weapon is estimated to have a yield of only around 50 kilotons, or about three times as powerful as the weapon that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. And while that’s fairly small as nuclear weapons go, is still powerful enough to destroy most of Colorado Springs in a single blast.
Their long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles are able to range more than 6,000 miles, and perhaps as far as 8,000 miles. But that’s more than sufficient to reach any target in Japan (only between 500-1,000 miles away), Alaska (3,700 miles away), or Hawaii (4,800 miles away). It’s still in question whether they’re able to successfully mate a nuclear warhead with such a missile. That’s no easy technical feat. And guidance systems and general accuracy are yet additional questions. But how accurate do you really have to be with nuclear weapons?
However, their short-range capability is not in question. All of South Korea and Japan, our greatest allies in the region, are most certainly within the accurate range of North Korean ballistic missiles, with both conventional or nuclear warheads.
The capital city of South Korea, Seoul, is a densely packed city of nearly 10 million people and lies barely 20 miles from the border with North Korea. The detonation of even a small nuclear weapon anywhere in the Seoul metropolitan area would result in the instant death of a million South Koreans.
South Korea has just shed its Liberal President Moon Jae-in for new blood; Yoon Suk-yeol from the conservative People Power Party, and his inauguration is set for May 10th. As the change of leadership in South Korea approaches, the verbal sparring between North and South Korea has intensified. South Korea has made statements about new, more accurate weapons capable of striking “any target in North Korea”. In response, North Korea says it will strike with nuclear weapons if South Korea attacks.
This past Wednesday, the incoming South Korean administration under President Yoon visited Washington DC and reportedly opened talks to bring U.S. nuclear bombers and submarines back to South Korea, according to presidential aides after a meeting with American National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
The stronger America is on that infamous “world stage” the more likely it is that our adversaries will think twice before acting, maybe move a little slower, and maybe miss their ‘best chance’ to act. The sorts of dictators we face around the world respect and fear the ‘Strong Man’ leader. But right now, the face America is showing to the world is the face of a weak man, a tired, worn-out, old man. A man who loses his place delivering the simplest public address even with the help of a teleprompter. A man slowly sliding into dementia.