The Buzz

Is the U.S. Preparing for Preventive War? Here's What North Korea Really Thinks.

In mid-November 2017, I spent several days in Pyongyang talking to DPRK foreign ministry officials about the prospects of war between North Korea and the United States. These were sobering discussions. All of my interlocutors made it clear that while North Korea does not want war, it will not hide from it either. These officials feared that the US was already trying to shape the battlefield for a military operation against the North, and that South Koreans do not seem to have grasped the reality that the Trump administration is set on a course for preventive war.

America's 'Stealth' Air Force vs. North Korea: Who Wins in a War?

But air defenses are less of a problem than targeting North Korea’s artillery pieces— which are dug into hardened positions—that are aimed at Seoul. Indeed, even without its nuclear-tipped missiles, dug-in conventional North Korean artillery could leave Seoul devastated within only a few hours. Any successful attack on North Korea would have to eliminate those threats before they could level Seoul—but that is easier said than done.

In the event a war were to break out on the Korean peninsula, American airpower would play a key role.

B-2 Bomber: The One Weapon That Could Kill North Korea's Leaders and Nukes

B-2 bombers would almost certainly take part in any attack on North Korea’s nuclear program, which would almost certainly be a part of or escalate to a larger war between Pyongyang, its neighbors and the United States. While the B-1B bomber can launch cruise missile strikes against exposed targets, the B-2 would be sent after the North Korean leadership itself. The Spirit would drop Massive Ordnance Penetrator bombs on hardened and underground North Korean command and control system, ideally disrupting its ability to issue orders to launch missiles.

Disturbing Things You Never Knew About North Korea's Nuclear Weapons

Due to Seoul’s population density, a single 250 kiloton nuclear strike on city hall would kill over 717,000 people—tens thousands of whom would likely be American civilians who live and work in the city. The outer perimeter of the radioactive fallout would extend over a four mile radius. Those who are about two and a half miles from the nuclear detonation would be either dead (within 1.1 miles from the impact zone), dying over the next few weeks (1.3–2.72 miles) or suffering internally from the pain of acute radiation poisoning (2.72–4.28 miles).

A Freak Atomic Accident Destroyed a Russian Nuclear Missile Submarine in 1985

On August 10, the submarine was in the process of being refueled. Reportedly, the reactor lid—complete with new nuclear fuel rods—was lifted as part of the process. A beam was placed over the lid to prevent it from being lifted any higher, but incompetent handling apparently resulted in the rods being lifted too high into the air. (One account has a wave generated by a passing motor torpedo boat rocking the submarine in its berth, also raising the rods too high.) This resulted in the starboard reactor achieving critical mass, followed by a chain reaction and explosion.

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