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US Hegemony over Korean Peninsula Challenged by North Korea, and by New South Korean President

Washington can only delay, but not halt North Korea's self-defense advances

Iran found out about the US and Israeli-led sabotage of its nuclear program using the “Stuxnet” worm, and effectively countered it (as well as cyberattacking Saudi Arabia’s oil field computers). Iran was a comparatively easy target, though. Sanger notes that in North Korea, missiles are fired from multiple launch sites around the country and moved about on mobile launchers in an elaborate shell game meant to deceive adversaries.
Bruce Cummings tells us that for decades the North has built some 15,000 underground facilities of a national security nature. In the mountainous terrain, sometimes a mile deep, are hidden nuclear weapons facilities as well as conventional weapons such as long-range canons. See “Advocates Urge Trump to De-escalate with North Korea, Not Ratchet Up Threats & Military Aggression” (Democracy Now! April 17, 2017) with guests Cummings, and Christine Hong.)

North Korea seems to have figured out how to deal with cyberattacks. In April and September last year North Korea had successes with R-27 engines and exploded nuclear weapons with more than twice the destructive force of the Hiroshima bomb.

A report on cyber vulnerabilities by the Defense Science Board, commissioned by the Pentagon during the Obama administration, warmed that “North Korea might acquire the ability to cripple the American power grid and it could never be allowed to ‘hold vital U.S. strike systems at risk’.” We know that, in 2014, North Korea messed with Sony Pictures Entertainment wiping out 70 percent of the company’s computing systems. Ted Koppel’s work, Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath (Crown, 2015) deals with cyberwar and its limits.

Once the US uses cyberweapons against nuclear launch systems of North Korea, Sanger notes, Russia and China may feel free to do the same, targeting American missiles. “Some strategists argue that all nuclear systems should be off-limits for cyberattack. Otherwise, if a nuclear power thought it could secretly disable an adversary’s atomic controls, it might be more tempted to take the risk of launching a pre-emptive attack.”

America’s Red Line vs. North Korea’s Red Line

The US will draw a line if and when a North Korean ICBM is capable of reaching the US mainland.

North Korea is two or more years away from successfully achieving such capability. It has yet to figure out how to solve the problems of 1) miniaturizing the nuclear warheads and 2) re-entry from space.

Joshua Pollock, a senior researcher at the Middlebury Institute of International studies in Monterey, CA, thinks that the North’s ICBM tests will allow them to work through problems of 1) and 2) and the North will be able to create a reliable weapon in a “year or two.” (North Korea nuclear threat: should California start panicking? By Alan Yuhas, The Guardian, April 20, 2017.)

Joseph Bermudez, an analyst at 38 North, a think tank affiliated with the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said, “If everything proceeds as is, It’s likely by 2020 that they could have a system reaching the United States.”

After the fifth test last fall, Siegfried Hecker, the former director of Los Alamos National Lab, thought likewise: “Left unchecked, Pyongyang will likely develop the capacity to reach the continental United States with a nuclear tipped missile in a decade or so.”

story | by Dr. Radut