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The Game With North Korea: Nuclear Roulette Has No Winners

World  (tags: america, asia, children, china, conflict, ethics, government, humanrights, Korea, politics, violence, war )

- 1841 days ago -
From an objective perspective, each country has the capability to cause the other (or its troops or allies) horrific damage. While they are pounding on their chests and demonstrating that they are, in fact, crazy enough to use nuclear weapons, -->

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Kit B (276)
Wednesday April 3, 2013, 4:41 pm
Photo: Christopher Ebdon / Flickr)

The United States and North Korea are playing a dangerous game of nuclear roulette. The United States is taking actions that threaten North Korea, such as conducting war games with US ally South Korea, including practice bombing runs that send nuclear-capable B-2 bombers from Missouri to the Korean Peninsula. The North Koreans, in turn, are blustering, declaring they are in a state of war with South Korea, which, technically, is true, since a truce and not a peace agreement ended the Korean War in 1953. North Korean leaders have also cancelled the military hotline it maintains with Seoul to coordinate movement between the countries' borders and are threatening nuclear attacks on the United States, its troops and its allies.

North Korea withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003 and has since tested nuclear devices on three occasions (2006, 2009 and earlier this year). It has also tested medium- and long-range missiles and is developing capabilities to threaten the United States and its allies with nuclear weapons. The United States has responded to the North Korean tests by holding talks with other countries in Northeast Asia and putting increasingly stringent sanctions on North Korea. The United States also continues to regularly test its long-range, nuclear-capable missiles from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Tensions in Northeast Asia continue to rise.

Nuclear threats are an integral part of nuclear deterrence. For nuclear deterrence to work effectively, it is necessary for an opponent to believe a nuclear threat is real. When the United States joins South Korea in playing war games with nuclear-capable aircraft on the Korean Peninsula, the message of threat is clear to the North Korean leaders. Equally clear is the message North Korea sends to the United States with its nuclear tests and bluster: North Korea has a nuclear capability that could cause unacceptable harm to the United States, its troops and its allies.

From an objective perspective, each country has the capability to cause the other (or its troops or allies) horrific damage. While they are pounding on their chests and demonstrating that they are, in fact, crazy enough to use nuclear weapons, they are engaged in a drama that hopes to dissuade the other side from actually doing so. Both countries should take note of this.

The dangerous game of nuclear roulette is built into the nuclear deterrence paradigm. Each time the hammer of the gun is cocked and the gun is pointed at the other side's head, the barrel of the opponent's gun is also pointed at one's own head. An accident or miscalculation during a time of tension could trigger a nuclear holocaust.

Yes, of course the United States is the stronger of the two countries and would fare better, perhaps far better, in a nuclear war, but that isn't good enough. Yes, North Korea could be destroyed as a functioning country, but at what cost? In addition to the terrible cost in lives of North Koreans, the United States and its allies would also pay a heavy price: first, in the deaths of US troops stationed in the Northeast Asian region; second, in the deaths and devastation of US allies, South Korea and Japan, and possibly of the United States itself; and third, in the United States' loss of stature and credibility for having engaged in nuclear warfare that destroyed the lives of potentially millions of innocent North Koreans.

Nuclear roulette has no winners. It is a game that no country should be playing. But the leaders of countries with nuclear weapons tend to believe these weapons make their own country more secure. They do not. They risk everything we hold dear, all we love and they undermine our collective sense of decency. The only way out of the nuclear roulette dilemma is to unload the gun and assure that it cannot be used again by any side.

We can do far better than we are doing. For the short term, the US should stop conducting provocative war games in the region and instead offer some diplomatic carrots rather than sticks. The US would go far to defuse a dangerous situation by again offering to support North Korea in providing food and energy for its people. For the longer term, the US should lead the way forward by using its convening power to commence negotiations for a new treaty, a global Nuclear Weapons Convention, to achieve the phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons.

By: David Krieger | Truthout | Op Ed |

David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. His latest book is ZERO: The Case for Nuclear Weapons Abolition.

Lois Jordan (63)
Wednesday April 3, 2013, 5:43 pm
Noted (I think). Thanks, Kit. This is the best article I've read so far regarding this...and I agree with the author. I'm not sure about the timing. The US and S. Korea play "wargames" at various times of the year....I think there's one big one at the same time every year. So, these particular "maneuvers" could've been in place for awhile...but N. Korea knows this, too. Kim, Jr. is just picking up where his daddy left off, which has been a tradition of whoever is in power there. It would be interesting to go back every time a new ruler took his place in the North, and see if it was common for him to do "muscle flexing" for a period of time.....

Angelika R (143)
Wednesday April 3, 2013, 5:55 pm
I couldn't agree more with that last paragraph! This is indeed an extremely dangerous game being played out and what makes it extra dangerous is the fact you are dealing here with a young, completely inexperienced, completely unpredictable! leader of whom little to nothing is actually known. Overall little is known about this remote very closed up country. You simply don't play or mess with such an enemy!
Thx Kit.

JL A (281)
Wednesday April 3, 2013, 6:21 pm
Remember the Cuban Missile Crisis and all the 'false' alarms with the USSR last century? Children who grew up in those years still have nightmares and fears because of it.

Kit B (276)
Wednesday April 3, 2013, 8:26 pm

I was about 13 or 14 in those years. I don't have nightmares about that, though I sure did. In San Antonio, we knew for sure we were a target. With 2 SAC bases, 1 TAC base, Fort Sam and Kelly Security, just to name a few reasons to hit SA. Could we win a land war with North Korea? Been there lost that.

lee e (114)
Wednesday April 3, 2013, 8:28 pm
After our sanctions year after year - decade upon decade - we have garnered a wee bit of Karmic feed back - it's inevitable - what have we wrought? - My answer is a nation that has been totally devastated by our actions, and have taken everything from their own people to bring about revenge - while we have sat back and allowed the deaths of so many hundreds of thousands - only to let ourselves "forget" them because we have managed to destroy their legitimacy -- shame on us - but more - how can we possibly take this "childish" behavior that we created as real? A question Dr. Frankenstein had to answer - after much mayhem - we are not innocent in the creation of this monster, and it's childish and ignorant behavior!

pam w (139)
Wednesday April 3, 2013, 10:26 pm
This young man reminds me so much of George W. Bush....two post-adolescents, trying to impress the world with their MANLINESS after their fathers were ''in charge."

Since we're dealing with a child, we need to show strength...which is why I support President Obama and our military as they remind the fool of what he'll suffer as the result of his posturing.

Past Member (0)
Thursday April 4, 2013, 5:13 am
I agree with Pam. We have to show this young idiot what we have and I support our President and our military in what they have to do to either diffuse the situation or take the idiot down. Thanks Kit

Past Member (0)
Thursday April 4, 2013, 6:06 am
Pam, are you shore it's nat Saddam Hussein? I would have thought people would learn that bluffing doesn't always work.

Theodore Shayne (56)
Thursday April 4, 2013, 9:51 am
What's the matterNumby, you need some street cred? This is an age old ploy. Much ado about nothing.

Gene Jacobson (290)
Thursday April 4, 2013, 11:19 am
"We can do far better than we are doing. For the short term, the US should stop conducting provocative war games in the region and instead offer some diplomatic carrots rather than sticks. The US would go far to defuse a dangerous situation by again offering to support North Korea in providing food and energy for its people."

The US conducts joint "games" with many of its allies. It is part of the bluster of a testosterone-crazed world. These "games" are played out every day on playgrounds around the world. This IS the male way of fluffing our plumage. And one of the reasons I believe a shift in the traditional power roles from male dominated to female dominated leadership is inevitable AND necessary. When you play this close to the edge of a cliff, you can hardly be surprised if it crumbles and you fall. Yet, this is modern, no, this is male diplomacy. We needn't conduct these games, there is no imminent threat that would create the need for the collaboration these games establish between militaries of the participating countries. NK talks, that is all they can do, all they will do.

This reminds me of a cartoon from the Reagan years when Libya was the bad guy. Four panels. First showed Reagan looking at a curled snake, second he pokes it with a stick, third it rattles at him, fourth he beats it senseless with that stick with the comment, "he provoked me". That is not diplomacy, that is idiocy and the human race ought be beyond this kind of thing by now, hardly a civilized way to behave, on either side. Sure we could turn NK into a smoking sheet of glass, but at what freaking cost? They have fences to keep their people IN, not others out. We would annihilate the poor hostages in that country, which is about all of them but for the military and Kim, the fall out cannot be contained and would blanket the South, parts of China, Russia and Japan. THEN what happens? We say, oops? This world at the brink of nuclear war stage must be dismantled, permanently. That won't happen while men still hold the reins of power all over the world, it will happen when the gender balance changes, which will happen, is beginning now and will continue. When men go back to playing with trucks and leave the world to the care of women, we'll find peace. Until then, expect nonsense like this to continue to be the lead story on the nightly news and hope no one is stupid enough to actually fire one of those horrible weapons at anyone else.

Munro Tapper (80)
Thursday April 4, 2013, 11:22 am
What is the ratio between people engaged in destroying the planet and all living beings and people engaged in any other pursuit?

Angelika R (143)
Thursday April 4, 2013, 12:04 pm
How right Gene is can already be witnessed when you look at SK's new woman leader who is despite the alledged danger, which they've heard for decades, still supporting the North with food aids!

Kit B (276)
Thursday April 4, 2013, 12:20 pm

I wish it were all that easy. We can ship food to North Korea, what is done with that food or medical shipments is another thing. Some in the past are sold to other countries, or if kept in country is one more tool for the elite to use to gain more "loyalty" from hungry people. Nothing is as easy as we wish. Pam is closer to what we see as outsiders looking in. A very young man that takes his walking orders from a group of older "hard line" generals who have no desire to change any thing. Repressed people, that have no outside information, each part of their day is controlled and timed and clocked. This all top down filtered propaganda. The people of North Korea have lived like this, isolated from the world, for generations now.

I do see this as mostly saber rattling to gain some international attention.

This would be a nuclear war, some of their missiles could get our shores and the whole thing would be tragic, and a waste of lives. It just might bring this world closer than ever to all out nuclear war.

Craig Zimmerman (86)
Thursday April 4, 2013, 1:55 pm
The only long-term solution to the constant threats from North Korea is the removal of the Kim dictatorship that has tormented the Korean Peninsula for 60 years.

Craig Zimmerman (86)
Thursday April 4, 2013, 2:01 pm
The United States did not lose the Korean War. President Truman made a decision to not engage the Chinese who then (and now) supported the North Korean communist government.

Jaime Alves (52)
Thursday April 4, 2013, 3:02 pm
Noted, thanks.!

ilja c (48)
Thursday April 4, 2013, 3:25 pm
Excellent article. Thank you.

Marilyn K (50)
Thursday April 4, 2013, 3:48 pm
Noted! I agree with Kit as it appears that this leader is saber rattling. All those in command in North Korea seem to be very anxious to be known as a world power to be reckoned with and make a move that will change life as we all know it.

Birgit W (160)
Thursday April 4, 2013, 4:29 pm
Don't underestimate crazy leaders.

Winn A (179)
Thursday April 4, 2013, 5:12 pm
I don't think we are dealing with a leader that has all his oars in the water. How do you reach a leader who is not mentally well?

Bryna Pizzo (139)
Thursday April 4, 2013, 5:32 pm
Thank you for the great article. We have to change our approach to dealing with North Korea. N, P

Fiona O (566)
Thursday April 4, 2013, 6:47 pm
Hard to say thanks, Miss Kitty, when you article scares me.

Robert Tomlinson (62)
Thursday April 4, 2013, 7:04 pm
Thanks for this post, Kit. These are indeed perilous times. We just have to be happy that these characters are not in charge of Russia's arsenal.

Dee C (229)
Thursday April 4, 2013, 8:19 pm
"I have seen war. I have see war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the woundedÖ I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyedÖ I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives.
I hate war."

Yes it is scary..just the very thought of it all.breaks my heart just thinking about it..The outcome in it could not be good..And what has any one truly gained from it..
Just so sad..
Thanks Kit..

Kit B (276)
Thursday April 4, 2013, 8:34 pm

I you read history and biographies than you know that those who lead in war, those who had the onerous task of sending others to war, are those most opposed to war. Nothing good could can come of this, though I do agree it would be wonderful to have people of North Korea freed from the generations now, of tyranny.

Susanne R (234)
Thursday April 4, 2013, 11:25 pm
While I agree with the author of this article, there are two important pieces of information that haven't been introduced: a) the level of capability of North Korea's missiles; and b) the proven capability of the anti-missile systems being used by the U.S. and other major powers. Like everyone else, I shudder at the thought of a nuclear strike anywhere on this planet but, for practical purposes, I think these points should be considered.

(a) Regarding the capability of North Korea's missiles: (The Washington Post, in an article dated April 3, 2013)

"North Korea has redeployed some of its missiles to the countryís eastern coast, a provocation and implicit warning that it just might carry through on some of its recent threats.

How far can those missiles actually reach? We canít say for sure because we donít know what kind of missiles they are. But there appear to be two most likely possibilities: either itís the Musudan missiles, as the South Korean military says, or itís the KN-08, as reported in the Japanese press, or its both. Fortunately, neither is particularly scary for the United States."

The article goes on to state:

"The Musudan, though tested, is not thought to be particularly accurate. Still, it could cause some terrible mayhem in South Korea or even Japan if it were launched.

What about the range of the KN-08? Well, hereís the thing about that: It sure looks like an intercontinental ballistic missile, and North Korea claims it can reach about 6,000 miles, which puts Los Angeles in range, except that no one knows if it works because itís never been tested. And that means it probably canít hit squat at long range, if it can even take off.

New ICBM models arenít like iPhones; you donít just take them out of the box and expect them to function properly. They have to be rigorously, painstakingly tested. Markus Schiller, an expert in the North Korean military, told Global Security Newswire that it was ďtotally impossibleĒ for the KN-08 to be operational without tests. Even countries that have successfully built and launched ICMBs before, which North Korea has not, wouldnít expect a new model to work perfectly on the first try. The KN-08 was just unveiled last April in a military parade in Pyongyang and has never been test-launched. Analysts arenít even sure that itís real."

(b) Regarding the proven capability of anti-missile systems : (From, April 3, 2013)

"If North Korea were to launch a ballistic missile at the United States, the Aegis air-defense missile system designed and built by Lockheed Martin Corp. for ships could detect and strike it down within minutes.

Not just hit the missile, but destroy the warhead and determine whether the threat was conventional explosives or chemical, biological, or nuclear in nature.

For 40 years, Lockheed Martin in Moorestown has been the Navy's contractor for the Aegis system, which uses radar, sensors, and computers to detect, track, and guide weapons that can intercept enemy threats.

Since the first Aegis ship, the USS Ticonderoga, was commissioned by the Navy in 1983, the government and industry have updated Aegis technology. The latest $100 million contract to develop a next-generation system was announced Thursday in Moorestown.

The combat system has been outfitted on 84 U.S. Navy ships and 16 vessels used by the naval forces of Japan, Norway, Spain, and the Republic of South Korea. Australia is building the ships.

Though the Aegis technology is constantly tested by the Navy and is poised for deployment - should Iran fire a missile into Israel, or if North Korea launches an air attack against Japan - it has not yet been needed to intercept a hostile ballistic missile."
I hope that the deterrence theory continues to be an effective military strategy. I'm not a big fan of the military-industrial complex, but I am grateful that they're able to deal with the devastating effects of the technologies they sell.

Ancil S (175)
Friday April 5, 2013, 12:54 am
In war,no one wins. There are only losers.

David Johnson (13)
Friday April 5, 2013, 8:45 am
I have read with interest many of the comments left here. Some I agre with, some I don't. The simple truth is,that as @Ancil S. said "in war no one wiins. There are only losers." I must applaud President Obama's restraint so far.But how many times must N. Korea poke the stick at us before there is a reaction? The Kim family has been a brutal dictatorship for three generations. The population is near starvation, Yet the governemnt seemingly doesn't care about that. This military posturing is bound to cause some sort of conflict with the United States. Kims appears to be a buffoon, but I don't think we should dismiss him out of hand.
A state of war technically still exists.Maybe its time to push this foolish Kim out of power. But then what?
If China is so influential, then maybe it's time for them to step up and slap Kim down.....

Kit B (276)
Friday April 5, 2013, 9:09 am

From the article Susanne offered: "If North Korea were to launch a ballistic missile at the United States, the Aegis air-defense missile system designed and built by Lockheed Martin Corp. for ships could detect and strike it down within minutes.

Not just hit the missile, but destroy the warhead and determine whether the threat was conventional explosives or chemical, biological, or nuclear in nature."

I hope that gadget works as well as the buzz offered to sell it to the Pentagon.

Klaus Peters (14)
Friday April 5, 2013, 9:27 am
This yearly war game exercise on the doorstep of North Korea is totally unnecessary and unproductive, this is just muscle flexing by the US. How would the US feel if China and North Korea would have joint war game manoeuvres off the coast of California?! Well, I remember Cuba, the USA was jumping up and down!
In this case, we are dealing with an inexperienced young leader, who desperately wants to make a mark on this world, no matter what. His country is bankrupt, his people are starving, but spends all the stateís money on armament, a madman, beware. This would not be the first time Uncle Sam got bitten on his butt by a mosquito, Vietnam. They only had crude home made weapons.
These annual war games are just that, a game. A game that costs the USA billions which would be better spent at home. Not to mention the pollution of the environment and the waste of oil resources in order to impress the world. (This will never be mentioned). I guess motor vehicles will get the blame for the pollution and the waste of petroleum fuel and will foot the GAME bill at the pump, worldwide.
I guess politicians cannot live without war, intimidation and blatant lies to line their pockets and especially those of their war industry mates. The people pay for it and with their lives.

Susanne R (234)
Friday April 5, 2013, 9:29 am
I hear you, Kit! The article DID sound like an advertisement for Lockheed Martin, and that's why I pointed out that I'm not a fan of the military-industrial complex --they provide both the poison and the antidote, which provides them with an endless supply of customers-- but anti-missile technology has been around for 50+ years, so I hope it's been perfected by this point.

Let's hope this goes nowhere. Thanks for generating so much discussion regarding matters of such importance!

Kit B (276)
Friday April 5, 2013, 9:40 am

@Susanne: "they provide both the poison and the antidote, which provides them with an endless supply of customers--" Seems that could be the "health industrial complex", the"food industrial complex", leave a blank to fill-in your observations.

I have learned over the years that when something is motivated by pursuit of the dollar, it will leave damage in it's wake. I too have no choice but to hope that is not just a flashy, expensive system that will fissile when put to use. Though the tests have proven it to be relatively accurate, "relatively" is hardly comforting when one or strikes could take millions of lives.

Kim and his general are fools. We do walk a perilous road these days.

Kathryn Niell (112)
Friday April 5, 2013, 11:57 am
I don't fiind nuclear roulette a game at all. Both sides need to stand down and reach some meaningful compromise to solve the underlying issues. I believe most sane people are opposed to war of any nature these days. We should have learned wars' futility over the eons that we have been waging them.

Angelika R (143)
Friday April 5, 2013, 8:09 pm
I think it is just important right now to keep cool, tolerate some more threats in words from them and wait til that military joint exercise is over.
Read this: there are some good points in that view.

Angelika R (143)
Saturday April 6, 2013, 8:36 am
absolutely, Ros. I do think that all this current word war has a LOT to do with the female leaders surrounding the idiot kid there. Challenging them to check out reactions is one of his main games I think and by that incidently also provocing all others, firstly the US.
I think there is no more behind it all than another, long predicted nuclear test and this time he pre-announced it long ahead at least. They probably are not so sure themselves about its outcome so they pass out warnings.

I actually find it pretty disgusting, unnecessary and irresponsible how the media is playing this big, raising probably unnecessary fear among people or even provocing inappropriate actions! But of course this has always been their favorite topic for coverage, contributing to warmongering. A shame!
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