For years, North Korea has been desperately trying to prove they’re a first-class nuclear power.
They test their bombs, shoot off their missiles and rattle their cage, demanding the world – especially the United States – pay attention to them.
Most of their tests are duds. The bombs don’t go off, the missiles careen into the sea or blow up on the launch pad.
But they’re getting better. And stronger. And it’s not a matter of if, but when the totalitarian regime is strong enough and smart enough to build a weapon capable of hitting the United States. They already could likely wipe out the 40 million residents of Seoul with such an attack.
So President Donald Trump – like every president before him – is grappling with how to deal with “the crazy fat kid,” as Sen. John McCain calls him. Trump’s strategy seems to be different than his predecessors. He has said that the United States is prepared to take unilateral action to keep North Korea from becoming more of a threat than they already are.
Kim Jong-Un’s reaction has been to ramp up their bluster and threats, promising to wipe America, South Korea and Japan off the face of the map if provoked.
America has a vast array of intelligence and missile defenses stretching around the globe. So here’s what might happen if the North does decide to “attack first.”
We are ready to strike first: The U.S. and South Korean military have pre-emptive plans of attack in a situation where it is clear that a North Korean nuclear attack appears imminent.
South Korea has a three-stage defense system. The first, clled the “Kill Chain” is a pre-emptive strike that detects signs of an impending nuclear missile launch and strikes the sites with cruise missiles.
The Daily Caller: What Would Happen If Kim Jong-Un Launched A Nuclear Strike?
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Global Security: OPLAN 5015 [Operation Plans]
Wired: North Korea Probably Can’t Strike The US Yet – But It’s Still Plenty Scary
Included in this is the joint U.S. and Korean Operations Plan 5015. It is suspected to call for preemptive strikes on the North’s critical military facilities, weapons and leadership.
The United States could also take out the missiles right at launch. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last year that the U.S. could move to “take out launch capabilities on the launchpad” if North Korea appeared poised to launch a nuclear armed-missile.
What if the nuclear weapons are already airborne? We have plans for that as well.
The second stage in the three-stage defense system is the “Korea Air and Missile Defensen” system, which is designed to intercept incoming missiles. We are also bolstering these defenses by adding additional missile batteries to South Korea.
The Navy also has a number of Aegis destroyers off the waters of South Korea. They can track multiple missiles simultaneously and intercept enemy projectiles.
But there are gaps. The South is particularly vulnerable to a submarine-launched ballistic missile, which the North tested – successfully – last year.
What if North Korea is successful and actually bombs South Korea, Japan or the United States? America could certainly turn Pyongyang into a very large and very deep crater. But do we really want to kill a million innocent people? The Daily Caller spoke with Bruce Klingner, who specializes in Korean and Japanese affairs as the senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation.
“U.S. nuclear strategy is evolving away from an automatic ‘they use nukes, we use nukes, we take out every city they have’ response,” Klingner told TheDCNF, adding that if North Korea launches a nuclear strike, “it may not be an automatic nuclear response if we can accomplish our objectives through other means.”
Who would they bomb? While they routinely threaten the United States, the most likely answer is Tokyo or Seoul. The North Koreans have threatened to turn both cities into “seas of flames.” And they are considerably closer than the United States.
Would North Korea really launch a nuclear weapon? Experts say they would only if they genuinely think an invasion or attack is imminent or if the regime is threatened. If Kim Jong-Un is going out anyway, he’d likely take his entire nation with him. He has already shown no moral compunction to treating them like human beings.