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Friday, February 18, 2005

How dangerous is North Korea?

Strategy Page has some thoughts on the topic in military news about Korea.
Despite North Korea's self-proclaimed nuclear weapons, Iran is still a bigger threat to the world, because Iran supports terrorism, even the Sunni terrorists who consider Iranian Shias to be heretics.  The North Koreans are mainly a threat to South Korea, China, Russia and Japan. These four nations are trying to get North Korea to behave, and either fix it's crumbling communist era economy, or collapse quietly and let South Korea take over. However, the people running North Korea (and no one outside the country is entirely sure exactly who that is) do not operate according to any normal logic. The constant fear is that North Korea, with its large, but weakening, armed forces, will somehow lash out and invade South Korea.
The most talked about threats, like missiles and nuclear weapons, are blown out of proportion. The North Koreans have basically taken the World War II German technology found in the SCUDs, and scaled it up to produce multi-stage missiles that can, possibly, reach halfway across the Pacific. But it is potential, at the moment, more than actual capability. The guidance system technology the North Koreans have is not first rate, and even the use of GPS for guidance is doubtful because of meager North Korean engineering resources. Moreover, there is the engineering required to make a nuclear weapon (theirs has not even been tested yet) work in a missile warhead. Their Taepo Dong 2 intercontinental missile has not been test fired yet. The Taepo Dong 1 has been used, which gives you something to work with. The range for the Taepo Dong 2 is an extrapolation (from 2,000 kilometers for the 1 to three times that for the Taepo Dong 2). It's much ado about nothing, unless it can reach the Alaska, Hawaii, or maybe US West Coast. Maybe.

Oh, yes, and, of course, a main source of revenue is exporting weapons:
The "No Dong" missiles have seen incremental improvements to assist their export program. The No Dong sales are a major source of hard currency. These missiles are basically improved SCUDs.

As I've said before, the DPRK is not in a good geographic location to be threatening the world. It is surrounded by greater powers and separated from its ancient enemy, Japan, by miles of ocean which it cannot hope to reach across except by missiles. However, such an attack on Japan will be dealt with pretty roughly.

North Korea is like the grade school bully who is just annoying enough to shake some lunch money loose just to keep him quiet, but runs the real risk of making some bigger, stronger kid mad enough to put him in his place. I like the Strategy Page's concluding sentences:
The North Korean leadership has a lot to be afraid of, but the United States is only one of many objects of terror for them. It's gotten to the point where North Korean generals are not sure their troops would follow through if ordered to attack the south. So there you have it. Unreliable troops and missiles, untested nukes and a North Korean population that is starving to death. And none to happy with their present leaders. Perhaps it's no surprise that the North Korean leadership acts a bit mad. They have a lot to be mad about.

Update; Captain's Quarters reports that North Korea may have backed off another hard line stance herein their game of international blackmail.

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