North Korea crisis: how likely is nuclear war?

North Korea crisis: how likely is nuclear war?

The commander of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army, Kim Rak-gyom, released more details of the plan to launch four intermediate-range ballistic missiles into waters near Guam in the Western Pacific to teach US President Donald Trump a lesson.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported that, according to the plan, the four Hwasong-12 missiles would fly 2,086 miles in 17 minutes and 45 seconds to reach their target in the ocean near Guam. 

General Kim said he was disclosing the details of the plan to “give stronger confidence in certain victory and courage to the Korean people and help them witness the wretched plight of the U.S. imperialists.”

North Korea will fine tune its launching plans by the middle of this month and wait for a final order from its leader, Kim Jong-un.

“Sound dialogue” is not possible with someone “bereft of reason, and only absolute force can work on him,” General Kim said, accusing Mr. Trump of having spoken “a load of nonsense.” He said Mr. Trump, who he said was spending his time on the “golf links,” was failing to “grasp the ongoing grave situation.”

On Tuesday, President Trump said threats from Pyongyang would be met with "fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which the world has never seen before." Earlier that day, a Defense Intelligence Agency report concluded North Korea is now capable of miniaturizing a nuclear warhead, stoking fears the country could soon be able to mount one on an ICBM capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

On August 5, 2017, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a new resolution on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in response to its continued Nuclear Programme in violation of all relevant UN Security Council resolutions. These measures target North Korea’s principal exports, imposing a total ban on all exports of coal (North Korea’s largest source of external revenue), iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood.

The Pentagon has prepared a specific plan for a preemptive strike on North Korea's missile sites should President Trump order such an attack, NBC News reported.

Two senior military officials — and two senior retired officers — said that key to the plan would be a B-1B heavy bomber attack originating from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.

The Pentagon has prepared a specific plan for a preemptive strike on North Korea's missile sites should President Trump order such an attack.

Six B-1B "Lancer" bombers are currently positioned in Guam, 2,100 miles by air to North Korea. Military sources point out that the battle tested B-1, a workhorse for the past 16 years in both Afghanistan and Iraq, has been modernized and updated — "doubled in capability," according to the Air Force.

The deputy director of the Political and Military Analysis Institute, Alexander Khramchikhin, speaking to Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that the exchange of rocket fire between the DPRK and the US is quite possible. "Of course, it's hard to estimate this probability, but it's about 20-30%. And any of the parties can strike the first blow, because both sides have people capable of such a step. In this situation there are many psychological factors, as well as the factors of uncontrolled escalation, when even someone's random error can launch military operations," he pointed out.

At the same time, hostilities will affect all the DPRK's neighbors. "The escalation of the conflict will be uncontrollable, because no one would stop at one missile strike. And when a full-scale clash starts, South Korea and, possibly, China will be drawn in it. We must understand that it will not be like in April in Syria, when the US hit a blow at the Syrian airbase and it was all over - it's absolutely impossible here," Alexander Khramchikhin stressed, adding that external players are not able to influence Pyongyang and Washington.

The editor-in-chief of 'Military-Industrial Courier' and the magazine 'Aerospace Defense', Mikhail Khodarenok, in turn, expressed confidence that so far the parties do not intend to proceed to real military operations. "This stage is just a war of nerves, because no one publicly announces real missile strikes: they hit first. I think that in the near future there will be no military solution to the conflict. It is possible, but later," the expert predicts.

"Undoubtedly, such North Korea's behavior will nevertheless push the United States to a military solution to this problem. And then a technology of a rapid global nuclear disarmament without the use of nuclear weapons will be applied. The international community cannot take any measures with regard to the current situation. Everything depends only on the DPRK and Washington," Mikhail Khodarenok concluded.

US Defense Secretary James Mattis issued an ultimatum to North Korea  to "cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and destruction of its people".

"The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons," Mattis said in a written statement, adding that the "regime's actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates."