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Despite all the hot words and Tweets from President Trump, aggressive posturing by President Kim Jung-un, and some of the absurd commentary in the media, here is the truth about North Korea’s rapid military direction and about the impotence of the rest of the world.  And all taking place at a time when there are more geopolitical risks globally than for 30 years.

The fact is, that as we see every day in the failed state of Zimbabwe, or Afghanistan or more recently in the chaos of Venezuela, or in Syria or Iraq, the most powerful military forces in the world can be humbled and humiliated by the resilience and complexity of the tiniest of nations, however chaotic or weak they may appear to be.

It is also a fact that US foreign policy statements are being broadcast direct from the White House by President Trump himself, in a series of what appears to many other nations to be impulsive and ill-considered statements, likely to further enrage North Korea.

Why North Korea feels so insecure and afraid

North Korea feels very insecure, because the nation is weak economically, has very few friends and because they have seen nations like the US and Britain take unilateral military action against other regimes like Iraq, even when such action is questioned morally by many other nations.

Their logic therefore is to develop, whatever it takes, a nuclear capability, to be used as a last resort if attacked.  They have already achieved success which is being rapidly refined. And this is a very rational thing for them to do. They have already positioned huge numbers of artillery in hardened bunkers just a few miles North of Seoul, able to kill hundreds of thousands in that city in a short time.  So they are effectively holding that city as hostage, as has been the case for the past 20 years.  Now they want to hold American or Japanese cities hostage as well.

The North Korean economy is largely self-contained because of years of isolation, is progressing gradually to a market economy, and is relatively immune to sanctions. The more the rest of the world gang up against North Korea, with even stricter sanctions, the more the leaders of North Korea worry that they are vulnerable to military action, backed by the international community.

Why America's global military power is so weak

Despite all the military might of the world’s only superpower, America, there is almost nothing that can be done with armed forces to stop North Korea from perfecting their missiles and warheads to the point where they can target American cities - part from making threats which are themselves likely to make the situation more dangerous.

Consider the options – these things are played out in War Games like a game of chess, by Pentagon Generals and advisors, every week.  The problem is that however those War Games are conducted, it is very tough indeed to find a positive outcome for the US and its Allies from military action.

Sanctions – stronger they are, the more insecure North Korea feels.  Sanctions will not stop their direction, but only possibly slow them down slightly.  RESULT:  North Korea wins their key objective which is improved national security.

Conventional weapons first attack by America – response will be a firestorm of artillery including possibly chemical weapons, rained on densely populated areas of South Korea.  America does not have the capability to take out all those hardened artillery bunkers fast enough to prevent a disaster.  RESULT:  North Korea retaliation threat is too great to risk this approach.

Nuclear weapons first attack by America – tactical nuclear devices, but targeted where exactly?  Even if aimed to completely obliterate a major city or every city, all those artillery will still be intact.  And launchers of North Korea's own nuclear weapons might also be intact - then fired wildly at nations like Japan as well sa America.  America cannot target the artillery with nuclear devices because they are are located right on the border with South Korea, very close to their capital city, so nuclear debris, impact and long term radiation would be likely to be catastrophic for South Korea too. Such an attack would also of course be extremely damaging for many years to America's wider global interests - whether trade or trusted relationships.  

Conclusion:  America cannot start any military action without great risk of huge destruction and loss of life in South Korea. And even if President Trump were to attempt such a pre-emptive strike, he would be more than likely to face a massive showdown with his own military commanders, who would be deeply concerned about being caterpaulted into a gigantic military disaster.

North Korea options are few other than more missiles

And what about the options for North Korea? Also very few. Once they have perfected the nuclear missiles they feel they need, what then?  Incidentally, their logical launch pad is a series of submarines to make a pre-emptive strike more difficult.  The moment they attempt to fire any nuclear weapon in an act of war, they know they will trigger, with the world’s approval no doubt, a retaliatory wave of tactical nuclear missiles targeted against their own nation.  Their nation is small, America is huge.  Their missile numbers will always be a tiny number compared to America.  However such a scenario plays out, the outcome is likely to be total destruction of urban parts of North Korea.

And what of a big artillery barrage by North Korea on the South?  Probably the same.  Not a risk they are likely to take.

So the truth is that America has effectively zero rational options to prevent this North Korea nuclear expansion, and North Korea has zero rational options to actually use their weapons.

How to prevent impulsive, irrational action and catastrophe 

That is, as I say, logically, rationally, and assuming no errors by either side.  No false data picked up by North Korea for example, suggesting a massive pre-emptive strike by America has just begun.  No mad, erratic act by either a paranoid and deluded North Korean dictator, or by an ignorant, impulsive and foolish US President at some point in the future - not that I am saying President Trump is any of those things.  The entire world will hope that he is far too rational to embark on such a nightmare, which would define his entire place in history, as well as wreck the American dream that he so aspires to fulfil.

So in summary, the world is a far more dangerous place because of all the above.  The only safe way out in the longer term is for all sides to do all they can to reduce tensions, open dialogue, and integrate North Korea into the global community in a harmonious way.  They are a nuclear military power already. A fact of life, so we had better talk with them.  Sanctions are far too late. And in the meantime, the international community needs to recognize that any other nation that wants nuclear devices is likely to succeed in developing them, given enough time. 

Existing nuclear weapon owners need to lead by example and push rapidly to reduce the number of their own weapons, and invest time in understanding each other better, rather than posturing aggressively in a way that worries other nations.  Leaders of the UN and nations other than US and North Korea need to engage urgently in dialogue with both national leaders, aimed at reducing tension, building trust and calming the situation, before someone, somewhere pulls a nuclear trigger.

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