Is It Time To Worry About North Korea?

News brings word that the North Koreans finally had a successful missile test, launching what some think was an ICBM, 600 miles into the sea. As is always the case with these stories, the news will be mostly wrong and the “experts” will be saying whatever pays them the most money. All that is known is that it was their most successful missile test to this point. Whether it means more is hard to know, but it could be big.

The North Koreans seem to think it is a big deal. They wheeled out a famous granny to announce the news on state TV. Professional North Korea watchers put a lot of emphasis on this sort of symbolism, but it could simply be counter-signalling. The Norks know the habits of the US media better than Americans, so you can be sure they do things like this, knowing it will trigger a predictable response from the so-called experts in the media.

Whatever the real internal thinking in Pyongyang, they are making an effort to let the world know it was a big breakthrough and they are ebullient about it. National pride is to be expected, but in the context of North Korea, their boasting is assumed to be something more than just a little flag waving. The question no one can answer is whether the boasting is for internal consumption or directed at their neighbors in Asia, including the US.

It would be good news if the Norks were simply poking a finger in the eye of the US and China by continuing on with a pointless missile program. That’s a manageable problem as it would suggest the regime is stable and coherent. There is no good result for the regime in a war with the US. If the Norks are sane and stable, then they will understand this and eventually settle for some sort of cash payment to settle down and play nice for a while.

On the other hand, if this act is aimed at internal elements, then it could suggest the regime is not stable or not acting rationally. No one really knows if Kim Jong-un is mentally stable. Many of the things he has done can be interpreted as either the result of immaturity or insanity. It is rare for a family dynasty to make it past two generations before producing a lunatic or a loser. This Kim was not the first option, so no one knows.

One indication that things may not be good inside the regime is the death of the American student, Otto Warmbier. The kid was either killed on purpose or killed by accident. If it was on purpose, it was done in such a ham-handed way to suggest the shot callers are either amateurs or careless. If it was an accident, it could mean the regime is not in full control of the state apparatus. Kim’s old man would not have made this sort of mistake.

The prior Kim would have had the show trial, but with an eye on using the hostage as a bargaining chip. A nice Jewish boy from a small town is a very good bargaining chip. In prior cases, the regime would grab a US citizen of Korean decent and then release them in a few months. The whole point of the game was usually to get someone back we had grabbed as a spy or that the South Koreans were holding for espionage.

The Warmbier case was bungled from the start and then was bungled further when they killed him in prison. No one believes it was an accident. The US is downplaying the obvious, but Trump now has a bloody shirt to wave around if things get ugly and he decides to pre-emptively attack the Norks. As Derb pointed out the other day, the US cannot tolerate anyone killing our people. Otto Warmbier must be avenged.

This is a massive blunder by the Norks, and coupled with his missile tests, it strongly suggests that either Kim is a nut or he is reckless. If he is a modern day Caligula, then he will not get better at diplomacy. He will get more provocative and unstable and eventually do something that requires action from the US. Imagine a missile test where it lands on Japan or Taiwan. That’s not too far fetched even under ideal conditions.

There is a worse possibility. The killing of Warmbier could be the result of intrigue and turmoil within the regime. These provocative tests are part of an effort by the Kim faction to assert authority over the other factions. Authoritarian regimes are always subject to factionalism and palace intrigue. Strong rulers have subtle ways of dealing with trouble makers, while weak rulers rely of ostentatious displays to intimidate threats.

The good news is that unlike the Middle East, the US has had eyes and ears on the Norks for a long time. In all probability, we have been able to monitor their internal communications for decades. There’s also the fact that the Chinese have an interest in maintaining peace on their border and keeping on good terms with Trump. As much as the swells like to call Trump an oaf, his saber rattling over trade is a great lever in this case.

There’s also the fact that Trump is not surrounded by warmongers looking for a reason to pick a fight. The provocations by the North Koreans can be ignored for now, but also dealt with by more subtle means. The Norks need access to the global banking system and that’s controlled by the US. It’s hard to sell weapons and drugs when you have to do all your dealings in cash. The Bush administration figured this out 20 years ago.

Even so, having a nuclear armed lunatic is never a good result. Even if Kim is not an Asian Caligula, general instability can be very dangerous. Regardless of the cause, the Warmbier case strongly suggests that the current regime in North Korea lacks the professionalism and skill of prior regimes. If they can bungle a simple job like grabbing a hostage and then negotiating his release, they can bungle anything.

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Glenfilthie
Glenfilthie
Member
3 years ago

I suspect a lone lunatic is going to cross Kim’s path soon, with fatal results. The Chinese and Americans will be shocked and horrified, and will condem the violence and keep the Norks in their thoughts and prayers.

Member
3 years ago

Bloomberg adds that South Korea and the U.S. conducted a joint ballistic-missile drill around 7am on Wednesday, shooting rockets into the Sea of Japan, to warn against North Korea’s continued provocation of ballistic-missile tests, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. The drill reportedly showed S.Korea, U.S. can hit N.Korea’s leadership in “contingencies.”

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-07-04/us-condemns-nkorea-icbm-test-new-escalation-conducts-own-ballistic-drill-aimed-strik

Al from da Nort
Al from da Nort
Reply to  nrer
3 years ago

Intersting bit of misdirection going on here along with the obvious signaling. Why use a high trajectory vehicle that’s practically guaranteed to be detected by whatever radar the Norks have_? The question answers itself. But N. K. is one giant radar shadow at low altitude given its highly mountainous terrain. So a simultaneous, synchronized cruise missile strike from multiple directions is the obvious choice if you’re serious. Could be nuclear or conventional. The only chance at detection would be IR from a satellite in synchronous orbit seeing the initial launch through any clouds. Once the birds are flying up the… Read more »

bilejones
Member
Reply to  Al from da Nort
3 years ago

The thieves in DC are far more concerned about exaggerating the “threat” from the Norks than doing anything about it.

Over the past thirty years various Sorks have proposed less aggressive postures toward the north but were bought off with trade deals and other bennies, at the cost, of course, of American Jobs,

The enemy is not the Norks, it’s the DC’s.

Anonymous White Male
Anonymous White Male
3 years ago

“No one really knows is Kim Jong-un is mentally stable”. Would you consider Merkel mentally stable? Would you consider Hillary Clinton mentally stable? Would you consider King Salman mentally stable? Would you consider Raul Castro mentally stable? Do you consider Jacob Zuma mentally stable? I think we assume these individuals are mentally stable because we believe they are surrounded by others that are. But, why have we had this narrative that the leaders of North Korea are insane for 3 generations now? Does performing some action which we interpret as illogical and then getting rewarded for it by foreign aid… Read more »

Epaminondas
Member
Reply to  Anonymous White Male
3 years ago

Sociopaths are attracted to politics and religion. They always have been.

Rod Horner
Rod Horner
3 years ago

North Korea isn’t a mutual problem for China and America. North Korea exists and indeed, persists, at the behest of Chinese assistance. They are best understood as a loose proxy regime for Beijing, in much the same way that many mid-eastern dictators are or were loose proxies for Imperial America/Israel. It’s quite a leap to assume that China wants or has any interest in doing something about the Norks because that would be, in essence, handing a freebie to the America, Japan, and South Korea. Nothing about a ballistic missile test or nuclear armament is irrational or illogical when one… Read more »

James LePore
Member
3 years ago

Is Beijing inept? Are China’s leaders fools? Or is Kim their stalking horse? I think the latter. Why they are challenging us like this I don’t know. It’s obvious though that they see us as an obstacle in their path to complete hegemony in the Pacific Rim. Russia is with China on this. Putin made a transparent offer today: withdraw our military and he’ll get Kim to stop being an asshole. I say don’t take the bait. Build up our military in general and in the area. Give China and Russia the finger. They’ll eventually put a leash on Kim.

Epaminondas
Member
Reply to  James LePore
3 years ago

Explain to me why we need to do the heavy lifting in Asia. Should this not be the prime responsibility of S. Korea, Taiwan, and Japan? If not, why not?

James LePore
Member
Reply to  Epaminondas
3 years ago

They have no military to speak of. Should we encourage and help pay for a build up? That’s a tough decision. Excluding Taiwan, I think we should. (Arming Taiwan would be like the Russians or Chinese arming Cuba, so lets not go there). The Chinese haven’t forgotten what Japan did to them in WW2 so the pot would definitely get stirred.

bilejones
Member
Reply to  James LePore
3 years ago

” Why they are challenging us like this”

What sort of deranged neocon piece of crap thinks the US has any business on the the Korean peninsula?

Member
3 years ago

“When all options are exhausted and this question remains, China will become the visible enemy enabler that must be confronted to avoid war.

That, my friends, is leverage.

That is also, why Trump has needed to speak so warmly about China.

China has always been the target.

Sun Tzu

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”

~Sun Tzu

Or, put another way:

Move slowly, carefully — and then strike like the fastest animal on the planet!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 20, 2013”

https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2017/07/04/secretary-rex-tillerson-issues-statement-on-north-korea-icbm-test/#more-135314

TomA
TomA
3 years ago

There are many nations with economies teetering on the brink of collapse, and North Korea is likely nearing a break point. Something has to give, and perhaps they are gambling on a bailout via blackmail; but either way, they are playing their hand badly. We need to stop acting like we’re scared because we can swing a huge stick compared to their pissant bravado. Speak softly and drive the final nail into their coffin economy.

Teapartydoc
Member
3 years ago

If Trump just wiped their biggest cities off the map one night and the world woke up to find that there was a new frontier to colonize I don’t think anyone would bat an eye.

karl hungus
karl hungus
Reply to  Teapartydoc
3 years ago

do it but don’t explain it to the press.

Member
3 years ago

I remain unconvinced that this annoying little peckerwood poses any threat to the US and its allies in the region. Most of the North Korean “army” would be dead from starvation after about 10 days of open conflict. Worse, for them, is a US that would go straight for decapitation over a prolonged invasion. Kill the death cult leaders, and the death cult collapses. This is all about trying to shake loose concessions from the US. For China, it’s a proxy war to test US resolve towards our allies, Japan and South Korea. For Putin, its energy deals and pipelines.… Read more »

Joey Junger
Joey Junger
3 years ago

I can’t speak to whether or not Americans will tolerate the death of an American abroad, considering how fractured this nation is. To paraphrase Mark Steyn, “We’re not a house divided; we can’t even agree on what the house is.” Exhibit A is the recent ruling by the judicial dictatorship of the 9th circuit court. Kim Jong-Un could probably get citizenship in America before someone like Tommy Robinson could swing it. I do remember that when Michael Fay was caned in Singapore for vandalism, the embassy received a flood of letters from sympathetic Americans who thought the kid got what… Read more »

Bill Jones
Bill Jones
Reply to  Joey Junger
3 years ago

And just why do you think some foreign phucker like Steyn should define America?

Joey Junger
Joey Junger
Reply to  Bill Jones
3 years ago

I don’t think he’s defining America. I think he’s making an observation. I tend to ignore those who think we should spend all our time worrying about “international opinion” of America (especially when Europe is collapsing), but since Alexis de Tocqueville’s time it has always been illuminating to see America through the eyes of a foreign observer (if you think Steyn’s a “phucker” (sic), more power to you, I guess.

bilejones
Member
Reply to  Joey Junger
3 years ago

So why did the alien use the word “We”?

Joey Junger
Joey Junger
Reply to  bilejones
3 years ago

He didn’t. I used the word “paraphrase.”

Al from da Nort
Al from da Nort
Reply to  Joey Junger
3 years ago

Well, if there is a common thread between the Michael Fay case in Singapore and the Otto Warmbier case in N.K., it’s authoritarian regimes demonstrating ‘no favoritism for foreigners’. But there’s a big difference between corporal (5 strokes of the cain for Fay after sentencing in court based on incontrovertible evidence) and careless capital punishment for Warmbier. Plus, like Z Man says, the contrast is between competence in the Fay case and incompetence in the Warmbier case. The more interesting aspect of the Fay case was the clear demonstration of Cloud idiocy in the person of none other than The… Read more »

james wilson
james wilson
Reply to  Joey Junger
3 years ago

There may be a general lack of outrage at the murder of Warmbier due to the general suspicion that he was Darwined out. I have more respect for someone who died in an extreme sport than someone who thought he was being edgy walking through that monkey cage.

Member
3 years ago

Crazy leaders? Was Alexander of Macedon crazy?What of Genghis? Or Tamerlane? Which other ancient or more recent historic disturbers might merit a diagnosis? Not to mention various religious figures.

Joey Junger
Joey Junger
Reply to  Rurik
3 years ago

Speculating on the mental state of a leader isn’t really necessary when you’re talking about a horse-mounted raider society that is constantly on the move and constantly killing everything in its way. The leader of North Korea is playing brinkmanship games along his border with projectiles with a range many exponents greater than the most advance siege tools/catapults in previous eras. There’s a difference between a ruler and a conqueror, like the difference between a man who runs around stabbing everyone he sees with a butcher knife versus someone with a grenade who’s trapped with you in an elevator who… Read more »

Tax Slave
Tax Slave
3 years ago

All wrong Z man. “Rabbi High Comma” says the Jooooos! control NORK and they’ll give Lil Kim the green light to nuke only after they leave Jew York.

gust
gust
3 years ago

Off topic Z, the 2 Kevins had your fellow Bodymorian on:

Grace & Steel Ep. 84 – James Lafond, Notes from Underground

Co-host Kevin Michael Grace speaks with author and blogger James Lafond, “Baltimore’s Violence Guy,” about life in a city on the edge of collapse.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkoZ3qYSZUM

Shownotes: http://2kevins.com/archives/1160

Tim Newman
3 years ago

As is always the case with these stories, the news will be mostly wrong and the “experts” will be saying whatever pays them the most money.

I love this sort of cynicism, it’s why I keep coming back!

Trent Denton
Trent Denton
3 years ago

I think we can all agree that it is instances like these it is unfortunate that Mr. Obama is no longer president. In times of crises what is needed is leadership from a cool calm collected diplomat not someone so hard bin skinned they threatened the objective media.

Ron
Ron
3 years ago

Kimmie Poo won’t quit until he pushes the red button in earnest. Ignoring him would be the best option, but he will only fire more bottle rockets to garner attention. Responding to him only feeds his paranoia. Sooner or later, he have to put up or shut up, short of someone in his entourage putting a bullet in the back of his head, and leading a coup. If Kimmie Poo does sent his army across the DMZ, I worry about the US has the will to fight to the finish him off. Our military has the capability, but even with… Read more »

Bill Jones
Bill Jones
3 years ago

The Americans, of course, have had nuclear armed lunatics for decades.

Nori
Nori
3 years ago

We’re dealing with Asian minds,and they do not think quite like Westerners. Reminds me of the ancient game of Go,started in China,and immensely popular in Japan and Korea as well. We may be witnessing a yosu-miru move,a probe. To see how things stand,and how the opponent responds.
Whoa! Fat is a stone on the board,he’s being played.

Allan
Allan
Reply to  Nori
3 years ago

Yes, a probe. Or a stunt to shake loose a care package from Japan to strengthen the DPRK regime against its domestic enemies. Or something else. Notice also that DPRK has rocket technology sufficient to put a payload (about 200kg) into orbit. In short, they are capable of escape speed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 They have launched also a ballistic missle with a range >4000 km. So what is a little ballistic trajectory with a range of about 1000 km and max altitude of about 2500 km? If they had placed a target out at sea and delivered the payload to within a… Read more »

Allan
Allan
Reply to  Allan
3 years ago

Correction: orbital speed, not escape speed

SamlAdams
SamlAdams
3 years ago

Since this one was shot on a vertical trajectory, should not be that difficult to model out the offensive ballistic trajectories and calculate theoretical maximum range. Depending on where we are with capability, now might be a time to do a boost phase intercept of his next missile experiment.

Allan
Allan
Reply to  SamlAdams
3 years ago

The Arrow 3 is said to cost from $2m to $3m per unit.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow_3

Member
Reply to  SamlAdams
3 years ago

I think we’re worried about what happens (politically) if we miss…what that would do to our allies’ confidence in us, and the last thing the Missile Defense Program needs is more doubters. The Norks are behaving like a crazy guy with a gun locked in his house trying to keep the police at bay. The police mainly don’t want to hurt the guy, and aren’t interested in getting their own people killed over the crazy guy. So, they apply the screws and wait him out. Every so often, he shoots a few bullets through the windows to get some concessions… Read more »

Member
3 years ago

Crazy people can be very calculating. Crazy doesn’t mean erratic, necessarily. To wit: they’re shooting these rockets essentially strait up in the air, and landing them in the Sea of Japan. The PRK knows enough about American nuclear protocols to know that launching these rockets “at” AK or HI poses the risk of a retaliatory strike that spins out of control. If they put one too close to Tokyo or Honolulu, they risk the US deciding it cannot wait to determine the PRK’s intent, and we have enough nukes floating around the Korean Peninsula right now to wipe them off… Read more »

Member
Reply to  thezman
3 years ago

Iran to Israel is mutually assured destruction. The Israelis are widely believed to be a nuclear power, and have been since the late 60’s and 70’s. Maybe the Iranians think they can absorb 100 nukes, hard to say, or that they could nuke Israel, deny it, and rely on the “world community” to deter Israel. But I doubt it. Their bluster is all for show…like the GOP “fighting” the nuclear deal by yelling about it but doing nothing because: Boeing and the others. The Iranian govt screams and yells for show to appease the crazies in their midst. They’re not… Read more »

Epaminondas
Member
3 years ago

Please explain to me why I should care what happens to Japan, China, or the two Koreas. To use a fashionable term, I don’t believe our military presence in east Asia is sustainable. Like Europe, our presence seems to be more of an annoyance than anything else. If people in other cultures wish to be “free”, however they define it, they have to be willing to fight for it. I don’t think Asians and Europeans want to be free as much as our leaders say they do. Let’s just keep the oceans free for trade purposes and let these folks… Read more »

Member
Reply to  Epaminondas
3 years ago

Because: history. The United States fought a bloody Pacific war and dropped two atomic bombs in order to secure free trade in the eastern Pacific and to dethrone the fascists. The Japanese knew we would enter the war given certain provocations (invading the P.I., an other strategic areas), so they attacked Pearl. That FDR had recently relocated the Pacific Fleet to Pearl from San Diego was all the incentive they needed to try and stop us before we could get started. We’ve been down this road before. Hence all the disinformation, oh btw, about the location of the USS Carl… Read more »

Al from da Nort
Al from da Nort
Reply to  hokkoda
3 years ago

And, probably like I guessed, led by an (almost) all azimuth, low altitude, cruse missile strike. Norks suddenly don’t know whether to sh*t or go blind and have no time to figure anything out.

If only we’re serious: And we’d better be. Or, leave well enough alone for our Asian ‘allies’ to work out a new strategy not involving us, with a long-distance cordon (historically a bad strategy BTW).

Member
Reply to  Al from da Nort
3 years ago

The problem we have is staying power. How violent are we prepared to get with a suicidal/kamikaze (to borrow from the Japanese) death cult? We’re going to have to murder North Koreans by the tens of thousands to even make a dent, and then deal with the nearly guaranteed “insurgent” war in South Korea. We would most likely have to bomb North Korea to the point where their terrorist troops in the region decide that not only is their cause hopeless, but that if they wish to save mom, dad, sister, brother, child back home, they had better surrender and… Read more »

Dutch
Dutch
3 years ago

IF—we are going to do anything, it is probably best to use the Isreali tactics. Some sort of mysterious midnight destruction of facilities or disappearance of certain persons. Plausible deniability if it fails. Don’t argue too vehemently that it wasn’t us if it succeeds.

Now maybe there is a quid pro quo with the Chinese, secret of course, that takes the possibility off the table.

Karl Hungus
Karl Hungus
Reply to  Dutch
3 years ago

just bomb every power source in norkor. then lil’kim can decide if he wants to go to war over that. and die for that. hit the depots where his western luxury goods come in. make life miserable for lil’kim without pushing him over the edge. and if we misjudge where the edge is? too bad for kim.

Karl Horst
Karl Horst
3 years ago

The other question is if the US does to N. Korea what it did to Iraq over WMDs, who or what will fill the political vacuum when the dust in Pyongyang finally settles? Will China try to move in or does America have enough clout to convince the Chinese to stay out and allow N & S Korea to unify back into a single country as Germany did not so long ago. Reunification sounds all well and good on paper from the perspective of freedom and democracy and being one big happy family once again. But ask any West German… Read more »

Dutch
Dutch
Reply to  Karl Horst
3 years ago

My guess is that China would never agree to Korean unification. To the Chinese, two Koreas serving as pawns of greater world powers is the best available solution. As the USSR thought of Germany, until there was no more USSR.

Anonymous
Anonymous
3 years ago

I’ve heard some low-level concern for some time now that the Norks are trying to develop the capability to deliver an EMP weapon over the US, and the trajectory will be FOB (fractional orbit bombardment) over the South Pole, then up to the US. This line is based on reading some tea leaves (supposedly, specific things they’ve been researching/asking about, certain people they’ve been consulting, etc.). For one thing, our token NMD was designed to handle only a few incoming missiles from “rogue” nations (specifically, the Norks and Iran) coming over the North Pole, but it isn’t pointed in the… Read more »

bilejones
Member
Reply to  Anonymous
3 years ago

And the “low-level concerns” are the propaganda of the US’s murderous MIC.