Nuclear Capable North Korea – Are the Risks Becoming Uncontrollable?

Most experts have converged on the belief that North Korea (DPRK) now has (a) the ability to produce nuclear warheads, (b) the ability to produce carrier systems (medium and long-range rockets), and, (c) the willingness – under certain circumstances, to use these weapons. No one is delighted by this, not even also China, which always carefully weighs the options of a DPRK collapsing- due to serious sanctions or a military strike against having the nukes available. In Asia, there are conflicting assessments, as there are in Western capitals.

The options include:

— accepting the DPRK as a member of the nuclear club, even without the safeguards of formal restraint;

— sending a clear signal, such as crippling sanctions and/or a nuclear strike;

— muddling through, in the manner of the last 15 years of policy, with the result we described above.

What’s your take?

-Klaus Segbers

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Nuclear Capable North Korea – Are the Risks Becoming Uncontrollable?
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Nuclear Capable North Korea – Are the Risks Becoming Uncontrollable?
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Now that North Korea has successfully tested their long range ballistic missiles and detonated a hydrogen bomb, it is gradually being accepted by experts that North Korea has become nuclear capable. Are the risks becoming uncontrollable?
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  1. Alexei Voskressenski 4 days ago

    At first there is no 100% proofs that DPRK has a long range and not a medium range ballistic missile and the quality of the warhead that enables it to be delivered intercontinentally. Even if this is so, we must admit that DPRK is progressing at quick pace and can have these capabilities in the near future. That makes viable a Russian and Chinese proposal to discuss the situation on a 6-party round-table. The next question if DPRK will agree to discuss, what may be an exchange of concessions to make a Korean peninsula a nuclear-free zone at the same time giving DPRK a guarantee against an American preemptive strike or an external attempt to change the regime.

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  2. Stefan Engert 4 days ago

    North Korea`s (NK) desire for nuclear weapons is the most dangerous (traditional) security challenge in the Asian region. The situation has escalated in a way that a military intervention – even a preemptive nuclear strike – seems to have become the most likely option and something that is increasingly presented as a policy “without any alternative”. It is not that the US has not used other conflict management tools to solve the conflict. Yet, as long as China does not fully commit itself to the sanctions regime, this option remains ineffective – at least until now. What is also clear is that Pyongyang will not give up on its nukes as it views the program as the ultimate safeguard against a possible US intervention (regime security) – the Iraqi example of 2003 is telling in that respect. And this is where we go round in circles. India, Pakistan and Israel also developed nuclear capabilities “illegally”; so what’s the problem with NK? Compared to the other cases mentioned above, it is only a problem if one assumes that NK is a predatory state and that Pyongyang will meet its aggressive words with deeds e.g. by attacking the US, South Korea and / or Japan. As long as this is not de facto the case, I suggest increasing the effectiveness of the sanctions regime by bringing China to return to the negotiating table. Any other policy is likely to end in war too quickly. Politics is the art of the feasible and war is not the continuation of politics by other means.

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  3. Dmitri Mitin 4 days ago

    Ritualistic posturing and protestations aside, the policy of muddling amounts to a de facto acceptance of nuclear and missile-ready DPRK. It is also the least risky and most obvious logic for responding to the maturing warhead and delivery capabilities of North Korea. Frustratingly, “more of the same” approach is reactive, incapable of reversing Pyongyang’s capabilities, and, arguably, not sufficient for curtailing further improvements in weapons design. But it is the best of the bleak options that we have in dealing with the North. It is reasonable to assume that DPRK would not disarm under diplomatic and economic duress, while forced disarmament is not a serious proposition. Threats of crippling sanctions or unleashing “fire and fury” for continuing provocations lack credibility. We are thus stuck with containment, the oscillating sanctions regime, attempts at triangular diplomacy via China, but, above all, deterrence. A threat of retaliation will not rule out North Korea’s brinkmanship, but should be enough for keeping it at bay.

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  4. Shen Dingli 1 day ago

    There have been three assumptions in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear weapons development. First, we are able to contain it, one way or another. Second, along this line, proper sanctions could reverse North Korea’s nuclear development. Third, as North Korean leader could be irresponsible, we could not accept a nuclear DPRK.

    What about all of them false? First, so far we have surely all overestimated our will and capacity to contain DPRK’s nuclear ambition. Second, we have all underestimated DPRK’s will and capacity to endure all possible international sanctions. I am pretty sure that even if the world, primarily China, cuts all links to Pyongyang, the DPRK would, rather than reverse its nuclear path, only add more nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to its strategic arsenal.

    Therefore, all are left with no choice but live with a nuclear North Korea. Since there is no realistic option of military preemption against the DPRK without generating an even more unacceptable harm on any first attacker, such choice is automatically closed. Then, as sanctions would never work, whatever formality they may take, how could one not to try to live with a nuclear DPRK?

    The third assumption, that a nuclear DORK may be irresponsible, is neither necessary right nor wrong. Understanding the DPRK is kind of surrealist in the world, the ultimate purpose of its nuclear development is logically to defend its regime survival. If this is true, the DPRK would not necessarily be irresponsible in initiating a nuclear first strike, which commits itself a suicide through delivering a nuclear damage against others.

    As a conclusion, living with a nuclear DPRK, while politically pretending not to accept it. Meantime, engaging the regime to shape it with proper sense of responsibility, especially through nuclear self-restrain.

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2 Comments

  1. Hossein 4 days ago

    I have studied the North Korean regime and its nuclear program in the last 3 years carefully. what is now clear for me is that they wont stop their nuclear and missile program until their security is assured and North Korea is accepted as a military power. The main problem is that Korean peninsula is still in war condition. still no peace agreement after more than 7 decades. The sanctions never work as they did not for Islamic Republic of Iran. The US and other powers have to come to the conclusion that, they should respect other nations and their conditions. You cant put nuclear warheads targeting a nation, refuse to sign a peace agreement and expect them to do nothing. Every body knows that the very first need of a country is security and for North Korea, their military program (sungun) has become their security assurance. The only solution for the Korean crisis is mutual respect and negotiation. If the US wants to do the same to North Korea as they did to Libya or try to collapse the regime, it would be a mere dream. A second Korean War would result in World War 3. Even the successful regime collapse theory would be a great disaster and the whole region would be affected. I conclude :
    1. The old cease fire should become a permanent and actual peace agreement.
    2.North Korea should be accepted as a normal member of international society.
    3. The US should prove its reliability. it has proven the reverse in previous negotiation with North Korea and now in JCPOA.
    4. The six party talks should be resumed as soon as possible.

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  2. majid torkaman 4 days ago

    there are so much to talk about when it comes to NK. the history of this outrages conflict shows that under different administration in US we experienced policies that couldn’t leash Kim Jong-il and now Kim Jong-un. yet there is less than few hope that US under Trump could lead a mature policy in order to decrease tensions and then start to deal with the fact that the Kim Jong-un doesn’t tweet and nor read his tweets in a way that he think.
    Kim is probably aware of US ultimate goal in korean peninsula and they’re not willing to get along with US, given the fact that he describe his regime’s identity with being anti-us nuclear power.

    At this complicated situation we have to think out of box and put aside the obsolete options. as Putin correctly mentioned that North Korea would rather ‘eat grass’ than give up nukes, so sending signals, such as crippling sanctions and or a nuclear strike have not been useful signals.

    The option is to give proper options to NK which require US to stop the deployment of a missile shield in South Korea and end military exercises with the country and move the way for multilateral talks with NK.

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