North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

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North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby Djehutynakht » Wed Jan 06, 2016 3:53 am UTC

Following reports of an artificial earthquake tremor close to one of the DPRK's suspected nuclear sites, the North has announced that it has successfully tested a Hydrogen Bomb.



Well, happy New Years everybody. 2016 is getting off to a wonderful start!


Anyways, part of me suspects that the DPRK is lying about the Hydrogen Bomb part. It was probably a nuke test, yes, but I'm more doubtful as to whether the North actually has developed H-Bomb technology. Kim Jong Un was flounting that claim a few weeks ago, but a lot of experts say it's unlikely.


So I guess that waits to be seen. I'm also curious to see China's reaction.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby ijuin » Wed Jan 06, 2016 5:35 am UTC

I think it was likely not a multi-stage fusion bomb in the Teller-Ulam style, but rather what is more commonly called a "boosted fission weapon", which is the classic dial-a-yield warhead that uses a selected quantity (a few grams) of tritium to generate additional neutrons to boost the fissile efficiency. Pure first-generation fission weapons (e.g. Fat Man) yield up to tens of kilotons, while these boosted weapons are capable of up to four hundred kilotons in the largest tested designs.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby sevenperforce » Wed Jan 06, 2016 3:26 pm UTC

I doubt the North Koreans actually know what a hydrogen bomb is, much less possess the capacity to build one.

Now they could quite easily build a radiological dispersal device and stuff that into the nosecone of a missile and send it our way. Though whether they could actually find a population center is anybody's guess.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby DaBigCheez » Thu Jan 07, 2016 2:06 am UTC

North Korea has announced lots of things.
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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby ijuin » Thu Jan 07, 2016 5:33 am UTC

Colorado Springs is actually the second-highest priority military target in any attack against the continental United States after the Pentagon itself, given that it is the site of NORAD Command headquarters, so it is only natural that they would want to threaten it.

As for the nuke itself, the tritium-boosted design adds very little complexity and mass for a significant boost to yield--mostly just the tritium bottle and injection system and the electronics to control it--a few dozen kilos at most, provided that you have the tritium.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby Dauric » Thu Jan 07, 2016 2:27 pm UTC

ijuin wrote:Colorado Springs is actually the second-highest priority military target in any attack against the continental United States after the Pentagon itself, given that it is the site of NORAD Command headquarters, so it is only natural that they would want to threaten it.


It's also home to the Air Force Academy and (IIRC) has three nearby Air Force bases.

The problem is they fail at basic orienteering.

At the video's 1:20 mark, the narrator says "Colorado Springs" while an arrow helpfully illustrates a rocket's potential path from North Korea, 1,000 miles past Colorado, and straight into the heart of what appears to be Little Rock, Ark.


Unless they're -trying- to make us think they're incompetent to lull us in to a false sense of security...

Has China officially (or otherwise) responded to this? They're allies with North Korea only because NK provides a buffer zone between Mainland China and U.S. allies in the theater. Openly provoking the U.N. / U.S. with nuclear tests might increase the threat of U.S. intervention, which is contrary to the reason China maintains an alliance of sorts with NK.
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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby Chen » Thu Jan 07, 2016 2:48 pm UTC

Dauric wrote:Has China officially (or otherwise) responded to this? They're allies with North Korea only because NK provides a buffer zone between Mainland China and U.S. allies in the theater. Openly provoking the U.N. / U.S. with nuclear tests might increase the threat of U.S. intervention, which is contrary to the reason China maintains an alliance of sorts with NK.


I'm pretty sure China condemned it along with pretty much everyone else.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby sevenperforce » Thu Jan 07, 2016 3:02 pm UTC

Yeah, they have historically let China know ahead of time, but this time they didn't, and so China is extra pissed and unlikely to defend them in any way. China's first official statement was not pretty.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby elasto » Thu Jan 07, 2016 3:24 pm UTC

In addition, China has promised to vote in favour of whatever trade sanctions the UN Security Council endorses against NK as a result of this test.

(Obviously, China will have a hand in drawing up what sanctions that will be, but basically they are hanging their partner out to dry on this one.)

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby cphite » Thu Jan 07, 2016 4:22 pm UTC

elasto wrote:In addition, China has promised to vote in favour of whatever trade sanctions the UN Security Council endorses against NK as a result of this test.

(Obviously, China will have a hand in drawing up what sanctions that will be, but basically they are hanging their partner out to dry on this one.)


More likely, China is issuing public condemnation so that they get to share in the moral high ground, but when it comes to actually imposing sanctions they will do everything they can to make sure the NK regime isn't harmed.

Barring an actual nuclear exchange, or a war large enough to send refugees their way, China still benefits from NK continuing to be thorn in the side of the West.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby Mutex » Thu Jan 07, 2016 7:05 pm UTC

Is NK a thorn in the West's side? They just seem to make the occasional ludicrous threat. If they actually attacked Seoul it would be devastating, but until then...

I'd have thought China would be as worried about a lunatic playing with nukes in their neighbourhood as anyone.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby Zamfir » Thu Jan 07, 2016 9:41 pm UTC

It's a bit odd to consider it a thorn in the 'West'. You move only one country more to the east, and that's the self-proclaimed land of the rising sun.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby jestingrabbit » Fri Jan 08, 2016 1:16 am UTC

Zamfir wrote:It's a bit odd to consider it a thorn in the 'West'. You move only one country more to the east, and that's the self-proclaimed land of the rising sun.


Totally agree, this is an Asian problem first, a global problem second and a western problem last.

I don't really think that China wants NK to be doing what its doing. They seem to be primarily focused on economic power and modernisation and internal social cohesion with military power a necessary addendum to that list, but not their most pressing concern. Is a bankrupt and moribund NK a boon to economic power? No.
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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby Djehutynakht » Fri Jan 08, 2016 2:17 am UTC

Interestingly enough, I just concluded research on Chinese-NK relations, and how and why China responds to North Korea. Which is partly why this catches my attention.


So far as I understand it, these nuclear tests really anger China. China sees them as unnecessarily provocative, and promoting military action by SK, Japan, US, etc. in the region. Essentially, it creates a giant headache for China that China does not want to deal with, as they'd much rather focus on things like economic development, occupying the South China Sea, and yelling at Japan.

This test, especially, I assume they'll be especially ticked off about because the North Koreans have had the courtesy to conduct it in the middle of a problematic period for the Chinese stock market.

China is pretty angry at the North for being absolutely stubborn and defiant (this, I've been told, is one reason the North has developed nuclear weapons. It knows it's only ally, China, is not exactly loyal, so it feels nuclear weapons are an added safeguard. I've also heard Kim Jong-Un views the program as a way in which to cut the need for traditional military to ensure North Korea's security, and instead focus on economic development).

But at the same time China won't risk endangering the North. For as much of a thorn in the side North Korea is, a regime collapse would be catastrophic for China.

So China will continue to support the North... but barely. It will publicly condemn North Korea. It will allow some sanctions to be passed, although it will use it's UN veto power to get those watered down. And it will ignore those sanctions freely. However, it may choose, if it believes it to be in their interest, and not too dangerous, to enforce some sanctions in order to teach North Korea a lesson.

I am interested, however, to see Russia's reaction. Russia was on the sanction North Korea bandwagon before, but they seem to be more hesitant after this test. Putin's trying to reestablish a relationship with the North, so the prospect of Russia's reaction should be...interesting. Putin might also just want to tick off the West, too.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby elasto » Fri Jan 08, 2016 11:41 am UTC

You can always infer the Chinese leadership's true view on a matter by what they choose to censor online - or, in this case, what they choose not to censor.

Not only is social media critical of NK remaining online uncensored, tellingly, social media critical of China's leadership for being too weak in their past treatment of NK is going uncensored.

No, as Dj says, China is really angry about this.

And, for sure, China wouldn't support sanctions that immediately crippled NK, but the West wouldn't propose such sanctions anyway. It's no more in the West's interests than China's for the NK regime to collapse suddenly - since (a) they'd likely level SK with their dying breath and (b) there'd be a massive refugee crisis into China at a time when the world economy is hardly strong.

In an ideal world, I think the West would like NK to stay stable in the medium term but slowly reform and conform - rather like Iran seems to be doing now and China before it. Obviously that's not looking particularly likely though...

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby Zamfir » Fri Jan 08, 2016 1:34 pm UTC

I don't think Iran is much of an example here. For one, it has never been very isolationist, even at the peak of the Khomeini years. Nothing like North Korea or Maoist China. US-Iran relations have been cut drastically from both sides, but not between Iran and the rest of the world.

And the current change in attitude is not a large break either - it's basically a return to their 1990s policy, with many of the same people involved. More like the Bush-Obama change than the Mao-Deng change.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby sevenperforce » Fri Jan 08, 2016 2:22 pm UTC

What are the probable scenarios where we'd see actual nuclear war?

And by "nuclear war" I of course mean the precisely targeted detonation of tactical nuclear weapons with no loss of life. I'm not a monster or anything.

If NK were to test-fire one of its multistage missiles in the general direction of the United States, we'd probably use it as an opportunity to test our interceptors. During the Cold War, we fielded nuclear-tipped interceptors like the Spartan and the Sprint. I'm not sure if we have any nuclear-tipped interceptors still deployed. The THAAD, Aegis, and Patriot missile systems that I know are deployed for ballistic missile defense are either kinetic or conventional ordnance, but there could be classified tactical nuclear interceptors out there as well. If we have nuclear-capable interceptors, I'm inclined to think that we'd use them regardless of whether the NK missile was actually nuclear-armed or actually had a dangerous trajectory.

Alternately, if NK were to actually launch a real nuclear-tipped missile in ANY direction, there's a pretty good chance Obama would call Kim on the phone and politely inform him that he had two hours to fully evacuate all personnel from all his nuclear research, development, manufacturing, and testing facilities before they were reduced to radioactive craters. Don't see that going any other way, really. We have 288 submarine-launched Trident missiles and I'm sure we know exactly where every single North Korean nuclear facility is.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby cphite » Fri Jan 08, 2016 4:02 pm UTC

Mutex wrote:Is NK a thorn in the West's side? They just seem to make the occasional ludicrous threat. If they actually attacked Seoul it would be devastating, but until then...


The key is the "until then..." part. We maintain a presence of nearly 30,000 including air support, artillery support, naval, etc - in additional to supplying and maintaining much of what South Korea has in place - just in case the North decides to commit national suicide. This comes at the cost of billions every year, serves to provoke other powers in the region, etc.

Which is pretty much the definition of a thorn in ones side; not exactly a threat, but a constant annoyance.

I'd have thought China would be as worried about a lunatic playing with nukes in their neighbourhood as anyone.


China is worried about being caught in any potential fallout - trade disruption in the region, refugees, and (far less likely) nuclear fallout. But they don't mind seeing SK (an economic rival) constantly under pressure and spending money and people on defending itself; and they don't mind seeing the US doing the same. So they have historically struck a balance between publicly condemning NK for it's antics while privately supporting or at least condoning them.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby sevenperforce » Fri Jan 08, 2016 5:38 pm UTC

cphite wrote:
Mutex wrote:Is NK a thorn in the West's side? They just seem to make the occasional ludicrous threat. If they actually attacked Seoul it would be devastating, but until then...


The key is the "until then..." part. We maintain a presence of nearly 30,000 including air support, artillery support, naval, etc - in additional to supplying and maintaining much of what South Korea has in place - just in case the North decides to commit national suicide. This comes at the cost of billions every year, serves to provoke other powers in the region, etc.

Although the Korean Armistice Agreement of July 27, 1953 served as a formal cessation of armed hostilities and established the demilitarized zone, North and South Korea are technically still at war. Which means that we are still technically at war with North Korea and, by proxy, with China.

Dunno if they'll ever sign an actual peace treaty. Kim is one stubborn, psychotic SOB.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby Dauric » Fri Jan 08, 2016 5:55 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote:Dunno if they'll ever sign an actual peace treaty. Kim is one stubborn, psychotic SOB.


Wasn't he educated in the States?

I'm not sure that the wild psychotic thing is the person in the position, or if it's a factor of the politics and the position itself, as his father was pretty belligerent, yet was reported as having a love of 'Western' culture. The executions by Anti-Aircraft Flak cannons are certainly... disturbing, but IIRC he's in a position that he needs to continually establish his authority with the military or risk a military coup.
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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby sevenperforce » Fri Jan 08, 2016 6:09 pm UTC

Dauric wrote:
sevenperforce wrote:Dunno if they'll ever sign an actual peace treaty. Kim is one stubborn, psychotic SOB.


Wasn't he educated in the States?

I'm not sure that the wild psychotic thing is the person in the position, or if it's a factor of the politics and the position itself, as his father was pretty belligerent, yet was reported as having a love of 'Western' culture. The executions by Anti-Aircraft Flak cannons are certainly... disturbing, but IIRC he's in a position that he needs to continually establish his authority with the military or risk a military coup.

He attended primary and secondary school in Switzerland under a false name, but he has never been in the States. I think the wild psychotic thing probably stems a great deal from his upbringing; he got along very well with his father and adopted most of his father's practices. So yes, it's the position, but it's also where he came from. There's no reason to think he has any mental illness other than environmentally-induced delusions.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby Zamfir » Fri Jan 08, 2016 6:53 pm UTC

Do we have indication of any delusions or mental problems at all? Executing people to consolidate power is hardly delusional.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby sevenperforce » Fri Jan 08, 2016 7:35 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Do we have indication of any delusions or mental problems at all? Executing people to consolidate power is hardly delusional.

Any statement he's ever made about the United States is awash with delusions of grandeur. Execution to consolidate power is par for the course for psychopathic dictators but that kinda begs the question.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby Mambrino » Sat Jan 09, 2016 12:41 am UTC

sevenperforce wrote:
Zamfir wrote:Do we have indication of any delusions or mental problems at all? Executing people to consolidate power is hardly delusional.

Any statement he's ever made about the United States is awash with delusions of grandeur. Execution to consolidate power is par for the course for psychopathic dictators but that kinda begs the question.


Then again, because of policies of his grandfather and father, the legitimacy of the NK government is more or less based on a national cult that worships Kims' as demigods, thanks to whom NK is a workers' paradise compared to the West. Disputing any of that publicly might threaten the status quo (that includes him living comfy life as a dictator), possibly even suicidal.

edit. In other words, it remains to be seen if he privately maintains the delusions of grandeur, because publicly keeping up with them is to be expected.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby sardia » Sat Jan 09, 2016 1:18 am UTC

After a certain point, you just write off the South Korean DMZ and the populated area around it. Then you can start dropping nukes until the regime collapses. It's doubtful that anyone would ever let it get to that point though. I think South Korea would be willing to tank a nuclear explosion or an artillery barrage on their main city before they would even consider destabilizing the whole peninsula via regime change(aka nuclear option).

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby jewish_scientist » Mon Jan 11, 2016 2:13 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote:I doubt the North Koreans actually know what a hydrogen bomb is, much less possess the capacity to build one.

This reminds me of a controversy that happened in Massachusetts a little while back. A group of exchange students from the Middle East (may have been Pakistan) wanted to take a class on nuclear physics. Some people thought that it would be stupid to give information on nuclear physics to citizens of a country we are trying to stop from making nuclear weapons; others thought that the students were being discriminated against for their nationality. I do not remember what happened in the end.

sardia wrote:I think South Korea would be willing to tank a nuclear explosion or an artillery barrage on their main city before they would even consider destabilizing the whole peninsula via regime change(aka nuclear option).

The moment a country uses a nuclear weapon, one of two things will happen. The first is MAD for the whole planet. The second is that literally everyone turns on the country that used the nuclear weapon and literally reduce it to craters using conventional weapons. Both situations end badly for whoever strikes first. Unless the leadership of a country decides to use the 'suicide bomber' stratagem, no nuclear weapons will ever be used. That is why I am more concerned with Middle Eastern countries with nuclear arms programs; suicide bomber tend to do act in the name of a country or terrorist group centered in that region.

I think that if N. Korea were to attack, S. Korea would retaliate with everything it had.
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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby Zohar » Mon Jan 11, 2016 2:20 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:
sevenperforce wrote:I doubt the North Koreans actually know what a hydrogen bomb is, much less possess the capacity to build one.

This reminds me of a controversy that happened in Massachusetts a little while back. A group of exchange students from the Middle East (may have been Pakistan) wanted to take a class on nuclear physics. Some people thought that it would be stupid to give information on nuclear physics to citizens of a country we are trying to stop from making nuclear weapons; others thought that the students were being discriminated against for their nationality. I do not remember what happened in the end.

That sounds pretty ridiculous. First because any country would have an ally that's scientifically advanced enough to teach it any sciences. But second, because a physics class doesn't teach you how to build a nuke. I'm pretty sure an engineering class wouldn't teach you how to do that either.
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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jan 11, 2016 4:39 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Do we have indication of any delusions or mental problems at all? Executing people to consolidate power is hardly delusional.


I do not think he, personally, is particularly insane. More of, North Korea as a social structure is kinda dystopian and horrible. Insane isn't quite the right word to describe it, but I see why it gets used.

jewish_scientist wrote:The moment a country uses a nuclear weapon, one of two things will happen. The first is MAD for the whole planet. The second is that literally everyone turns on the country that used the nuclear weapon and literally reduce it to craters using conventional weapons. Both situations end badly for whoever strikes first. Unless the leadership of a country decides to use the 'suicide bomber' stratagem, no nuclear weapons will ever be used. That is why I am more concerned with Middle Eastern countries with nuclear arms programs; suicide bomber tend to do act in the name of a country or terrorist group centered in that region.

I think that if N. Korea were to attack, S. Korea would retaliate with everything it had.


I disagree. MAD is complicated, and does not rely on such a strong interpretation. More of a game theory thing. People don't stop caring about their interests just because nukes are used. Yeah, any nuke use is going to be a Big Deal, and will be looked at very carefully, but it's trivially observable that nuclear tests, right now, do not cause the world to crap itself and self destruct.

Use of nukes in someone else's turf is a MUCH bigger deal than a test, but the specific use is going to matter a great deal. US nuking Russia? Kind of a problem. As is vice versa. And allies for obvious reasons. Once you get outside the orbits of the big powers, everyone cares much less. IE, the third world, before this term became co-opted to describe poverty and such.

North Korea isn't particularly strong in the allies department. I can conceive of a situation in which they have absolutely no nuclear powers willing to go to bat to defend them.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby sevenperforce » Mon Jan 11, 2016 5:01 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:
sevenperforce wrote:I doubt the North Koreans actually know what a hydrogen bomb is, much less possess the capacity to build one.

This reminds me of a controversy that happened in Massachusetts a little while back. A group of exchange students from the Middle East (may have been Pakistan) wanted to take a class on nuclear physics. Some people thought that it would be stupid to give information on nuclear physics to citizens of a country we are trying to stop from making nuclear weapons; others thought that the students were being discriminated against for their nationality. I do not remember what happened in the end.

That's fantastically racist and utterly, utterly stupid. Probably wasn't Pakistan, though, since they already have nukes.

If true, it must have been a knee-jerk reaction by a few idiots who don't know anything about what nuclear science is. Nuclear physics is necessary for nuclear medicine, nuclear power, and a bunch of other important stuff -- stuff we actually encourage people to learn about.

Anyone with access to the internet has the capacity to construct a crude nuclear fission weapon...if they have access to highly-enriched uranium. Blocking students from attending a certain class due to their nationality is Trump-level idiocy.

sardia wrote:I think South Korea would be willing to tank a nuclear explosion or an artillery barrage on their main city before they would even consider destabilizing the whole peninsula via regime change(aka nuclear option).

The moment a country uses a nuclear weapon, one of two things will happen. The first is MAD for the whole planet. The second is that literally everyone turns on the country that used the nuclear weapon and literally reduce it to craters using conventional weapons. Both situations end badly for whoever strikes first. Unless the leadership of a country decides to use the 'suicide bomber' stratagem, no nuclear weapons will ever be used. That is why I am more concerned with Middle Eastern countries with nuclear arms programs; suicide bomber tend to do act in the name of a country or terrorist group centered in that region.

Suicide bombings aren't limited to Middle-East-origin groups.

The chances of MAD resulting from the use of a nuclear weapon are...pretty much nil these days. There were times during the Cold War that we came close, like the infamous 1983 incident. But not so much nowadays.

The possibility of MAD has very little to do with nukes and almost everything to do with delivery. MAD only happens if multiple powers possess large quantities of active, deployed nuclear ICBMs and SLBMs. For all its bluster, North Korea's delivery systems are completely anemic; private companies like SpaceX (and probably even Blue Origin) would have a better chance of delivering a nuke to a target than the entire North Korean military. China has sufficient ballistic missile technology, but I don't think they've ever stockpiled delivery systems. Israel has no need for ICBMs; their nukes are all pointed at their nearby neighbors. France and Great Britain are unlikely to do anything that the US wouldn't already do. And even though relations between Russia and the US aren't great right now, I am pretty darn sure that Putin doesn't want nuclear war with the US under any circumstances.

The superpowers (US, Russia, GB, China, and France) have all mutually agreed that they won't use nukes except in response to a nuclear first strike. India, Pakistan, and Israel are all stable enough to know better. If North Korea launched a nuclear first strike, the closest-allied superpower of the target nation (probably us) would carpet their military facilities with small tactical nukes, with the full approval of all the other nuclear nations. Instant game over.

Tyndmyr wrote:North Korea isn't particularly strong in the allies department. I can conceive of a situation in which they have absolutely no nuclear powers willing to go to bat to defend them.

If North Korea launched a nuclear first strike, no one would defend them.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby cphite » Mon Jan 11, 2016 6:08 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Do we have indication of any delusions or mental problems at all? Executing people to consolidate power is hardly delusional.


Nah.

It's fun to mock him, but he isn't crazy or delusional. All of his madness, as was the case with his father, is carefully orchestrated.

The NK regime runs on fear and fanatical devotion. It's basically a cult, where Kim Jong-un has been raised to an almost god-like status, with an emphasis on his benevolence and protection. All of his threats and bluster and military posturing are intended to build on this image. It's why they go to such lengths to keep people from gaining access to internet, foreign television and movies, etc. Because the illusion is built off the idea that as awful as things may be inside NK, they're much worse outside NK.

The whole thing depends on Kim Jong-un being a god-like figure, and a fear that any dissidence whatsoever will be crushed utterly and brutally. When someone even shows the appearance of going against the regime, they don't just send that person to prison or worse; they send that persons whole family, and sometimes any neighbors who failed to report them quickly enough. Hell, when Kim Jong-il died, they were arresting people for not appearing distraught enough over his passing.

At this point it's a matter of survival. Any sign that the people are losing their fear or sense of devotion could result in mass uprisings, or some faction of the military deciding to take advantage. And as awful as conditions are, the folks in power will almost certainly die in horrible ways if their regime ever falls.


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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jan 11, 2016 6:23 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:North Korea isn't particularly strong in the allies department. I can conceive of a situation in which they have absolutely no nuclear powers willing to go to bat to defend them.

If North Korea launched a nuclear first strike, no one would defend them.


That is definitely one of those situations. Not the only one, I think, but they're definitely unsettlingly aggressive in general. Really, really pushing the line on what they can get away with as a matter of course. That'd be one way to leap over it, and lose any remaining leverage.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby sevenperforce » Mon Jan 11, 2016 7:08 pm UTC


Oh, right; I was thinking of the non-nuclear-state assurance: "The United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations." In today's global political climate, this is more or less functionally equivalent to a no-first-use policy. There is no reasonably conceivable scenario in which the United States would launch a first strike against Russia, China, Pakistan, or India, and there are no non-nuclear-weapons-states outside the NPT which have the military capacity to provoke nuclear retaliation from the United States. Leaving only North Korea.

The US has specifically mentioned that a viable use of tactical nuclear weapons would be the destruction of WMD stockpiles, be they nuclear, chemical, or biological...if nukes were used against North Korea, that's probably how it would go down. It's not like we would ever consider nuclear strikes against civilian populations. Russia would not participate in such a preemptive strike, but they would probably not condemn it and definitely would not consider retaliating or defending North Korea.

China would probably be outraged if the US used nukes against North Korea, but they wouldn't defend it. Their nuclear arsenal is too small for fighting another superpower anyway. Honestly, that's the whole point -- MAD is only possible if you have at least two nuclear superpowers who are willing to fight each other, and that has not happened since the Cold War.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jan 11, 2016 7:24 pm UTC

It'd be a mess, though. Any fight with North Korea would be pretty awful. Even if you try very hard to only hit military targets, they are...a very militarized society. A lot of military to hit. And when the resource shortages inevitibly hit, because you're trying to diminish their capacity to fight, they're going to prioritize the military over random civilians.

There's really no way where an utter crapton of people don't die. And you likely have massive refugee problems, and reactions to same by the military. The whole thing will fall to bits, sure, but it'll create a giant mess in doing so. It's not a matter of if we would win, really, but a matter of the cost of doing so.

So, you end up doing math like "how many people is it worth it to kill in order to free the remainder". It's an ugly question, and most people would frankly rather punt. As long as we can sort of put off any crisis, we can tolerate the existing bad situation. Regardless of how many people die over the long term in the existing bad situation.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby sevenperforce » Mon Jan 11, 2016 8:03 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:It'd be a mess, though. Any fight with North Korea would be pretty awful. Even if you try very hard to only hit military targets, they are...a very militarized society. A lot of military to hit. And when the resource shortages inevitibly hit, because you're trying to diminish their capacity to fight, they're going to prioritize the military over random civilians.

There's really no way where an utter crapton of people don't die. And you likely have massive refugee problems, and reactions to same by the military. The whole thing will fall to bits, sure, but it'll create a giant mess in doing so. It's not a matter of if we would win, really, but a matter of the cost of doing so.

So, you end up doing math like "how many people is it worth it to kill in order to free the remainder". As long as we can sort of put off any crisis, we can tolerate the existing bad situation. Regardless of how many people die over the long term in the existing bad situation.

Oh, certainly. The United States would never wage war (let alone nuclear war) against North Korea just to liberate it. The only scenario where we would execute any strike would be if the threat of a North Korean attack became too high to wait any longer.

Kim has issued all sorts of bellicose threats, but none of these are considered particularly serious because although making the threats are necessary in order for him to maintain power, he most likely knows that carrying any of them out would end up with him dead. There would need to be real action before a US attack would be provoked...like, if Kim sent armored units over the DMZ in the apparent start of an actual invasion. In that event, the US might very well nuke any military installations believed to contain nuclear weapons or weapon delivery systems, just to make absolutely certain that there is no chance of NK getting a nuke off. We don't really want Seoul to get hit by even the small firecracker nukes that North Korea has.

One issue is that conventional weapons just don't have the yield that nukes have. The GBU-43/B MOAB boasts a TNT-equivalency of just 11 tonnes. One B61 warhead, the smallest select-yield weapon we currently field, can instantly do the work of 30,000 MOABs. For the task of wiping out nuclear weapons facilities and delivery systems, it's hard to beat nukes.

On another note, Chinese feelings about North Korea are REALLY poor right now...a lot worse than I thought. I didn't realize it, but the recent test actually caused earthquake tremors large enough to result in property damage and evacuations in parts of China. They are ticked.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby Dauric » Mon Jan 11, 2016 8:43 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote:Kim has issued all sorts of bellicose threats, but none of these are considered particularly serious because although making the threats are necessary in order for him to maintain power, he most likely knows that carrying any of them out would end up with him dead.


This has me thinking about the video discussed earlier, where they identify the location of "Colorado Springs" as somewhere around Little Rock Arkansas. It's such a glaring error of orienteering (map reading), it makes me wonder if it's a 'Tell' that the propaganda is primarily for an internal audience rather than an actual threat to the United States. I wouldn't put an error of that magnitude beyond their administration, but map-reading is such a fundamental skill to anyone with a military background that the error is conspicuous.
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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jan 11, 2016 8:44 pm UTC

Oooh, that's really pushing the line with the Chinese, then. And they're strongly territorial, as shown by the various island disputes. Those are crap compared to trashing areas of the mainland, too. North Korea is putting itself in a delicate place by doing that...

I mean, if China actually gets annoyed enough to punish N Korea, who is gonna stop them? Nobody is my guess. And a retaliation against Seoul may not be something China cares about nearly as much as us, so it doesn't work so good as a deterrent.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby sevenperforce » Mon Jan 11, 2016 9:04 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Oooh, that's really pushing the line with the Chinese, then. And they're strongly territorial, as shown by the various island disputes. Those are crap compared to trashing areas of the mainland, too. North Korea is putting itself in a delicate place by doing that...

I mean, if China actually gets annoyed enough to punish N Korea, who is gonna stop them? Nobody is my guess. And a retaliation against Seoul may not be something China cares about nearly as much as us, so it doesn't work so good as a deterrent.

To be fair, the tremors were minor, and the property damage was along the lines of "cracked pavement", not collapsed buildings. But it's enough to make China extremely grouchy.

China has a strict NFU policy but I can see them sending North Korea a statement like "Try that one more time and we're allying with the US, jerk."

Nuking all the military installations believed to contain nuclear weapons or weapons delivery systems with tactical B61 bombs dialed to the 100-kiloton range could be done with no risk to US personnel, low NK civilian casualties, and massive results.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jan 11, 2016 9:13 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Oooh, that's really pushing the line with the Chinese, then. And they're strongly territorial, as shown by the various island disputes. Those are crap compared to trashing areas of the mainland, too. North Korea is putting itself in a delicate place by doing that...

I mean, if China actually gets annoyed enough to punish N Korea, who is gonna stop them? Nobody is my guess. And a retaliation against Seoul may not be something China cares about nearly as much as us, so it doesn't work so good as a deterrent.

To be fair, the tremors were minor, and the property damage was along the lines of "cracked pavement", not collapsed buildings. But it's enough to make China extremely grouchy.

China has a strict NFU policy but I can see them sending North Korea a statement like "Try that one more time and we're allying with the US, jerk."


Yeah. If N Korea chest thumps and does it again, but bigger/closer/etc, I can see this getting increasingly more messy.

Nuking all the military installations believed to contain nuclear weapons or weapons delivery systems with tactical B61 bombs dialed to the 100-kiloton range could be done with no risk to US personnel, low NK civilian casualties, and massive results.


Well, you'll likely get shelling of Seoul, right? And military installations within range. I mean, north korea has a history of retaliation for even fairly minimal border slights. It's a cinch they'd react to a nuclear strike. Sheer volume would be a big problem for anything within a reasonable band of the border, so that'd get messy. Unless you significantly widen your targetting to include a lot of non-nuclear stuff north of the border.

I mean, it still might be worthwhile, depending on circumstances. The current standoff has to end eventually, and a lot of potential outcomes are pretty messy, so you're dealing in matters of degrees, and who exactly suffers.

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Re: North Korea conducts 4th Nuclear Test

Postby sevenperforce » Mon Jan 11, 2016 9:54 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
Nuking all the military installations believed to contain nuclear weapons or weapons delivery systems with tactical B61 bombs dialed to the 100-kiloton range could be done with no risk to US personnel, low NK civilian casualties, and massive results.


Well, you'll likely get shelling of Seoul, right? And military installations within range. I mean, north korea has a history of retaliation for even fairly minimal border slights. It's a cinch they'd react to a nuclear strike. Sheer volume would be a big problem for anything within a reasonable band of the border, so that'd get messy. Unless you significantly widen your targetting to include a lot of non-nuclear stuff north of the border.

I mean, it still might be worthwhile, depending on circumstances. The current standoff has to end eventually, and a lot of potential outcomes are pretty messy, so you're dealing in matters of degrees, and who exactly suffers.

If North Korea were to make an actual advance across the DMZ, or begin artillery strikes with a massing of troops/etc. on the DMZ, South Korea would have no choice but to respond for its own protection. Military action by SK would run a dangerously high chance of goading Kim into trying to launch a nuke...in fact, he might have to, if only to save face. That's why I think any actual invasion by NK would result in a US attack on NK's nuclear installations, and that attack would almost certainly need to be nuclear in order to be completely effective in preventing a nuclear weapon from hitting Seoul.

And, yes, that would result in an all-out assault by North Korea. They'd probably deploy all 28 of their attack helicopters, all 384 of their jet fighters, and all 188 of their jet bombers. Of course, they only have three airstrips near the DMZ, so we'd merely need to park a couple of carriers and a few submarines off the coast and shell those three airstrips into oblivion about half an hour after the nukes landed. A nice navy shelling would also turn NK's artillery installations into craters. Any of the aging jets that did make it off the ground would be picked out of the sky with ease, either by a wave of UCAVs or by a dozen air superiority fighters. Predator drones could then make mincemeat out of anything that crossed the DMZ. Nonmilitary casualties would be next to nothing.

NK's air force is not very impressive. They have exactly 1 fixed-wing personnel transport craft.


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