North Korean Nuclear Blackmail is Coming
Tim Walker
Tim Walker • Aug 19

North Korean Nuclear Blackmail is Coming

By Tim Walker

Tim is a retired Army Intelligence Officer and no works as a DIA contractor in South Korea.  Tim has previously spent 15 years in the Navy. He has had many deployments including Bosnia, Kosovo, and counter-narcotics in South and Central America, Iraq, Afghanistan, the diamond wars in West Africa and over a decade in South Korea.  

North Korea will introduce the world to nuclear blackmail unless they are forcibly disarmed. No matter the price, or amount of time provided, the government will not give up its nuclear weapons arsenal. In negotiations on disarmament, apparent engagement in the discussions is only deception and a delaying tactic. For example, North Korea has reneged on every negotiated deal from Agreed Framework I (Clinton) and II (Bush) to the Leap Day Agreement (Obama). Indeed, North Korea often states that nuclear-armed states are not invaded like Iraq or Afghanistan were. 

Achieving nuclear deterrence against the US has been a long-held dream of the Kim dynastic regime.

Achieving nuclear deterrence against the US has been a long-held dream of the Kim dynastic regime.  The first tangible steps towards this began with the construction of the Yongbyon reactor complex in 1994. When North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung, died that same year after signing Agreed Framework I with President Clinton, his son Kim Jong Il continued a clandestine uranium enrichment path that was discovered under the Bush Administration. North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006 fizzled but revealed their long term intent. Kim Jong Il’s youngest son, Kim Jong Un, has largely perfected the last mile to nuclear deterrence. After assuming the title of Supreme Leader, he subsequently tested five nuclear warheads, each one bigger than the last. The most recent test in 2017 was even believed to be a hydrogen bomb, with a 140-160 KT yield. He now has both the warheads and ICBM’s to deliver them although he would need to test those missiles further to have complete confidence they will work.

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Planned Evil

Using two bar girls to kill your unarmed half-brother with VX nerve agent in an international airport surrounded by innocent civilians is insidious at best. However, this was not a spontaneous attack; the North Korean government tested that.  How did they know it would work?  How did they calibrate the dosage? How much VX can you put on a skinny bar girl for an undetermined amount of time without killing her?  And how much can you limit their exposure while also using a high enough dosage to kill an obese male target?  How many women in prison camps were test subjects?  They probably had to expose numerous women of the same approximate age and size with various levels of VX, then measure how long it took them to die or at least begin losing control of their nervous system and collapse in uncontrolled convulsions.  

While listing other acts committed by the North Korean government is too long for this article, I will name the other I consider the most prominent: the bombing of Korean Air 858 in November 1987.  North Korean intelligence planted a bomb on Korean Air 858, which detonated over the Andaman Sea and killed 115 passengers.  This attack was intended to ruin the Summer Olympics planned for Seoul in 1988 by scaring away potential attendees.

Deterrence

North Korea is not a normal country.  It is characterised by zero tolerance for dissent, public executions of disloyal citizens, intentional starvation and deprivation to punish or enforce loyalty to the regime, political prison camps three times the size of Washington, DC (216 sq miles), rape, torture, infanticide, forced abortions, and many other infringements of human rights. Moreover, they turned their cyber units into bank robbers; rather than conduct simple ransomware attacks to extort individuals, they carry out sophisticated attacks on financial institutions across the world.  The 2016 robbery against the Central Bank of Bangladesh, totaling $81 million, is among the more prominent cases of this activity. 

An additional example is the Sony Studios planned movie release ‘The Interview’ in 2014. The film is a satire featuring an actor portraying Kim Jong Un in a fairly unflattering way.  The North Koreans took the issue to the UN Security Council, demanded they stop the release of this movie and accused the US of crimes against humanity.  Meanwhile, North Korean cyber units penetrated Sony Studios and released employee pay, emails, and personal information, as well as movie scripts and unreleased movies.  Theaters that screened ‘The Interview’ received terrorist threats, and unfortunately they worked.  Sony cancelled the release as theaters backed out and sold a digital-only version for individual download. Given this modus operandi, consider what might happen if they could act with complete impunity.

A North Korean monument
Military Balance

North Korea has up to 70 nuclear warheads.  Right now, they have a very small number of missiles with the range to hit the continental US.  At present, the combined US missile defense capabilities can probably handle the small number of North Korean missiles should they ever launch a nuclear attack.  But if we do nothing, 5, 10, or 20 years from now North Korea could have dozens of missiles that are MIRV’d (multiple independent reentry vehicles) and MARV’d (maneuver reentry vehicles).  One day, they will realize they have enough.  When they do, they have a strong incentive to begin selling their nuclear missiles.  North Korea has zero compunction about doing business with rogue states or terrorists.  Their long-established relationship with Syria and Iran, their subsequent ties to Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and others illustrates this.  If they sold or transferred a nuclear warhead to a terrorist group, the most likely target will be Europe or Israel, not the US.  Getting a nuke to the US would simply be so much harder.  We have seen in the last decade a vastly greater terrorism threat in Europe, based on the ISIS attacks in France, Germany, and the UK.  Brussels, Munich, Paris, and London are at much higher risk than any US city.

Hatred for Japan

Korean history stretches back about 5,000 years.  The peninsula is surrounded by ‘elephants’: China, Russia, and Japan. During nearly its entire history, Korea has been invaded and occupied by one of those 3 ‘elephants’ on a seemingly rotational basis.  The most recent ‘rotation’ of sorts was Japan from 1905-1945 until the South was liberated at the end of World War II. Before Japan, it was Russia who lost control following the Russo-Japanese War in 1905.  While some hardline conservatives in Japan have tried to whitewash their history in the last few years, few outside of Japan doubt that they attempted cultural genocide during the occupation from 1910 (when they formally annexed Korea) through 1945.  Koreans had to change their names to Japanese names, could not speak Korean, had their land seized, cultural artifacts stolen, worked in slave labor conditions for the Imperial Army’s war effort, and forcibly conscripted ‘comfort women’ for military-run brothels.

Koreans in both the North and South revile Japan to this day; the occupation and annexation are still in living memory.  While the threat to Europe is high, threatening Japan with another nuclear attack is equally plausible.  Nuclear blackmail against Japan could be highly effective, and there is motivation among the government and population to do so.

Solution

I advocate that the US destroy North Korea’s nuclear capacity unilaterally if necessary.  Time is not on our side as their arsenal grows.  In my next article, I will detail how I believe we can accomplish this without a costly invasion and subsequent occupation.  Furthermore, we can force China’s hand and make them choose the lesser of two evils.  In the end they could play an important role in disarming North Korea and unseating the Kim regime.

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Tim Walker
Tim Walker

Retired Army Intelligence officer now working as a DIA contractor in South Korea. The author previously spent 15 yrs in the Navy. Deployments include Bosnia, Kosovo, counter-narcotics in South and Central America, Iraq, Afghanistan, the diamond wars in West Africa and over a decade in South Korea.

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