- - Tuesday, March 26, 2019

After North Korea’s H-Bomb test in September 2017, some analysts, myself included, urged the White House to consider possible military options, using conventional surgical strikes to denuclearize North Korea quickly, while minimizing escalatory risks.

Decades of failed talks, and the failed Hanoi nuclear summit proves again, North Korea will not denuclearize peacefully.

Dictator Kim Jong-un’s game is to buy time through pretend negotiations to build enough ICBMs so nuclear-armed North Korea, with a Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) relationship with the United States, becomes irreversible.

Economic sanctions designed to pressure North Korea’s denuclearization peacefully never worked, and are not working now. According to a recent United Nations report obtained by the Associated Press, leaked in the UK Guardian (March 11, 2019):

“United Nations experts are investigating possible violations of UN sanctions on North Korea in about 20 countries, from alleged clandestine nuclear procurement in China to arms brokering in Syria and military cooperation with Iran, Libya and Sudan. The expert panel’s 66-page report to the security council also detailed the appearance in North Korea of a Rolls-Royce Phantom, Mercedes-Benz limousines and Lexus LX 570 all-wheel-drives in violation of a ban on luxury goods. And it noted a trend in North Korea’s evasion of financial sanctions by using cyberattacks to ‘illegally force the transfer of funds from financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges.’”

Moreover, according to the UN report: “North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs remained intact and its leaders were dispersing missile assembly and testing facilities to prevent ‘decapitation’ strikes.”

The White House should be alarmed North Korea is now reneging on dismantlement of their Sohae satellite launch facility, rebuilding Sohae to orbit satellites, possibly nuclear-armed for EMP attack.

The Congressional EMP Commission warns two North Korean satellites presently orbit over the United States that, if nuclear-armed, could blackout North America — posing potentially the single greatest nuclear threat from North Korea.

The EMP Commission recommends shooting-down these satellites over uninhabited regions. The United States has intercepted satellites before, in the 1980s, and is significantly more capable of anti-satellite operations today.

Destruction of North Korea’s two satellites would be the least escalatory military option, as it would not entail striking North Korea’s homeland, yet would eliminate the greatest potential nuclear threat to the United States.

Downing North Korea’s satellites alone, one of the smallest and most easily executed military operations, might be enough to bring about a diplomatic solution. For the first time the United States will be striking against the North Korean nuclear threat — proving to Pyongyang, China, and Russia the United States is determined to denuclearize North Korea, forcefully if necessary.

Another military option, more ambitious and riskier, would destroy North Korea‘s: 2 satellites, 12-20 ICBMs, 30-50 IRBMs, 60 mostly non-nuclear bombers, 1 Sinpo missile submarine, 12 retired Golf missile submarines (purchased from Russia), the Sohae satellite launcher and Yongbyon Nuclear Complex, including a nearby clandestine uranium enrichment facility.

Tunnels can become graveyards for North Korean missiles by bombing entrances. North Korean air defenses are antiquated, ineffective, and can be suppressed non-lethally with electronic countermeasures. Aegis cruisers and other anti-missile defenses can be surged to intercept any launched missiles.

All of this, fewer than 150 targets, could probably be destroyed by three aircraft carriers and Global Strike forces using conventional weapons in a few hours. Any surviving or future new ICBMs or IRBMs should be destroyed on sight.

This campaign would eliminate the North Korean nuclear missile threat to North America and U.S. territories and severely cripple their nuclear program.

Another military option, even more ambitious and even riskier, would do all the above and destroy North Korea’s almost entirely non-nuclear 300-450 MRBMs and 600-800 SRBMs. This would eliminate Pyongyang’s nuclear threat to Japan and South Korea, but would probably require days to execute and entail much higher escalatory risks.

Striking quickly, surgically, against the smallest number of targets, is least likely to be misconstrued as attempting to destroy the North Korean regime in an all-out war — and therefore least likely to result in North Korean escalation using nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction.

Psychopaths like Kim Jong-un have been attacked, and defeated, without their using weapons of mass destruction (WMDs):

• Adolf Hitler during World War II refrained from using Tabun and Sarin nerve gas, fearing Allied retaliation.

• Iraq’s Saddam Hussein did not retaliate for Israel’s destruction of his Osirik nuclear reactor in 1981, or launch chemical and biological missiles during wars with the United States in 1991 and 2003.

• Syria’s Bashar Assad did not retaliate for Israel’s destruction of his clandestine Al Kibir nuclear reactor in 2007, or for U.S. destruction of his Barzah chemical-biological weapons complex in 2018.

Denuclearizing North Korea forcibly is very risky. The United States should be prepared to respond to North Korean use of WMDs — including with nuclear strikes to destroy the regime, if necessary.

But “living” with nuclear-armed North Korea, surrendering to Mutual Assured Destruction with Kim Jong-un, is reckless and will surely kill millions.

If North Korea defies denuclearization successfully, nuclear-armed Iran is next. Tehran on March 18 announced Russia will build them two more nuclear reactors.

• Peter Vincent Pry, chief of staff of the congressional Electromagnetic Pulse Commission, served on the House Armed Services Committee and the CIA.

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