The news that North Korea had apparently carried out its sixth nuclear test rattled a lot of people’s Labor Day weekend. Okay, it rattled MY Labor Day weekend.
What was even more unnerving is that the device they tested wasn’t the run-of-the-mill nuclear warhead that they’d popped off five times before, but a thermonuclear warhead, the dreaded hydrogen bomb that can level cities and kill six figures in seconds.
Between the sheer destruction such weapons can cause, the vague threats of the Trump Administration (when asked if he was planning to launch a first strike against Kim Jong Un’s regime, the president merely demurred “we’ll see”) and the shrill yelling of North Korea’s “pink lady” announcing the test, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking we’re just one opened nuclear football away from all being turned to dust.
We’re not. As I’ve said before, humanity has had these weapons for over 70 years, and despite many brushes with mass death, we’ve managed to keep the lid to Pandora’s Box closed. And even though both Kim and Trump are the very definition of erratic, I’m not buying iodine tablets and burying gold in my backyard.
And neither should you. Here’s why:
If we believe Kim’s claims (and there’s no reason not), the regime has miniaturized these warheads to the point where they can be mounted on missiles.
We haven’t seen the whole package put together, but we’ve seen all the parts on their own, and it’s not likely Kim would have tested such a warhead without knowing he’s got more in his pocket and that they work.
And to be sure, this is not good for the world. It puts a number of cities at the risk of being quickly hit by a bomb with five times the killing power of the bomb that hit Nagasaki.
But Kim having a hydrogen bomb doesn’t really change much. It makes him more dangerous, but he was already dangerous. And it doesn’t change the motivation for why North Korea has spent two decades developing nuclear weapons.
Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, saw what the world looked like after the collapse of his benefactor, the Soviet Union. He was the leader of a small, poor, backwards country surrounded by enemies. With the USSR in his corner, the threat of invasion and re-unification by South Korea was mitigated.
But with the Soviet Union gone, North Korea suddenly became a massive target. So Kim went on the offense, hiring former Soviet nuclear engineers and embarking on a program to build the weapons that would guarantee his own survival.
His son picked up the nuclear torch, and has taken the North’s nuclear program to a level nearly equal to the Western devils oppressing him with sanctions.
From this point forward, every missile North Korea fires isn’t a test, it’s a drill. They know the missiles work. Now, they’re demonstrating to the west that we need to stop pretending that North Korea’s wild claims aren’t dead on the money.
Launch multiple missiles in a coordinated salvo? We can do that. Move a large missile in the dead of night, erect it, and launch it to a fixed point? We can do that. Hit targets at a variety of ranges with different systems? We can do that.
Kim’s weapons development program has all but guaranteed that the U.S., China, and South Korea won’t touch him. The risk is too high.
But he can’t touch them either, not without signing his own death notice. While Kim might have hydrogen bomb tipped missiles to go with his poison gas, his thousands of cannons pointed at Seoul, and his million-man cannon fodder army; he’s still surrounded by more powerful enemies. And anything he can do, they can do better.
A Hwasong-14 launched from North Korea’s coast could level Seoul, devastate Tokyo, or possibly turn Honolulu to glass. But Kim wouldn’t live to pop celebratory champagne. And despite the popular theory that Kim is “crazy,” he’s not. He’s brutal, cold, calculating, avaricious, etc. But he’s got 20 million people who think he’s a god king, and a military full of toadies who write down his every word. That’s a pretty good thing he’s got going.
Popping off that missile ensures it would end. It’s the same reason why America and the Soviet Union always stepped back from the edge of nuclear holocaust. Nobody could win then, and he can’t win now. He knows it, and we know it.
So yes, it’s possible that Kim could pull some SPECTRE-esque turn and hold the world hostage with his h-bombs. He could demand American troops leave South Korea, and force the issue of unification. But he could have done that before this weekend. His guns could have killed thousands in Seoul with a short bombardment, and demanded U.S. withdraw, or he’d turn the tap of shells back on.
With this sixth test, Kim Jong Un bought himself a bright shiny new house. He’s not going to burn it down while he’s sitting in the living room.