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 WED 29 NOV 2017






Hysteria, threats, over DPRK test will achieve only more tests. Blind Freddie could tell us that.


The DPRK test this morning was both a surprise and not a surprise.


It was widely expected that the 'pause' in DPRK testing might last at least until Feb, if only because winter is coming up there, and doing tests in the severe weather is obviously less easy. On the other had, the DPRK may wish to test its ability to launch under all conditions. Even the US however, postpones tests at VAB if weather is not favourable. These considerations may however mean that this is the last test the DPRK manages..until next feb or thereabouts.


If there are more tests in the immediate future they will have to be in the next couple of weeks.


In the wider picture however, even if the timing of this one (and its nature - there had been talk of an 'end to end' test, remember?) - took us by surprise it is no surprise that the DPRK HAS tested once more, and clearly they are going to keep on testing.


The range of the missile now seems to be around 13,000Km. This is not too different from the Chinese DF5, or the US Minuteman-III. However we don't yet know the weight of the warhead /mock warhead it carried. A heavy warhead would significantly cut that range.


We also don't know for sure if the DPRK has managed to perfect re-entry technology, sufficient to protect the warhead (full of fancy electronics, exotic materials and high explosive), from the heat of high-speed re-entry through the atmosphere. It would be dangerous to be over-confident however, that they have NOT been able to do that. They may not have – we really do not know for sure.


The DPRK definitely sees as most likely that it 'hits the button' first, in a situation in which it is already convinced that the US is about to do a pre-emptive strike against it. (i.e. a 'pre-pre-emptive strike'). This is because it must have concerns over the survivability of what is still the worlds smallest nuclear arsenal. If it takes that first strike option, it must, to have even a slight chance of survival, try to take US command and control out of action. Its most logical targets are therefore US command and control nodes.


For the same reasons it would also be rational for it to do an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) strike out in space, which could cripple the entire US economy and cause the global financial system literally to disappear. It is all very well for the US to threaten to make rubble bounce in Pyongyang if the DPRK strikes, but if the US command and control system doesn't work after that, this threat may be unachievable. Of course the same applies ten times over to China and Russia whose capabilities are far more formidable than those of the DPRK will ever be. US nuclear command and control may well be much more vulnerable than that of Russia and China whose systems are EMP - hardened. US nuclear command and control now goes thru commercial carriers which are as far as we know NOT EMP – hardened.


Talk of military options simply makes apocalyptic scenarios such as this all the more probable. Threats or no threats, sanctions or no sanctions, the DPRK is going to acquire/has acquired the ability to hit the US. It already has that to a limited degree.


Only a complete transformation of the US-DPRK relationship can change that.


China and Russia have had the ability not merely to hit the US but to make the rubble bounce many times over (In Russia's case), for decades. While the risk of an (accidental or otherwise) apocalypse involving either of them is as real as it has ever been, we are not seeing (and do not want ever to see) the kind of 'blowviating' that there is over the DPRK.


The kind of hysteria and posturing that follows every DPRK test merely makes the DPRK more determined than ever to test. There is nothing whatsoever surprising about this. However it also raises the stakes of every DPRK test, and makes every one of them into a confrontation with 'apocalyptic' stakes.


In contrast, Russia (Sarmat) and China (DF 41) have tested missiles much more potent than anything from the DPRK (and arguably more potent than US missiles) and these tests have been seen as merely 'routine'. Which indeed they are, in the sense that mostly what has been tested has been tested before is is evolved from something that has been tested before.


Pressuring Russia or China, 'not to test' and threatening them with 'fire and fury', sanctions, and military pressure  if they do not desist is unimaginable even to Trump. (though continued missile testing by ANY party including the US must be an issue). And it certainly would have the opposite effect to that intended.


We can go forward on the DPRK only if we firmly grasp that threats and sanctions not only will not work but are themselves a powerful driving force behind the DPRKs testing. The more we threaten them if they test the more they will be determined to test.


We can only try, slowly, over a period of years and decades to take down the temperature and achieve a 'normal' relationship with the DPRK, and only years after that will they slow and eventually stop, testing.


But to try to pressure them is guaranteed positively not only to fail but to achieve exactly the opposite of what is intended.


It might be possible at some future date to bring the DPRK into a missile test ban, that prevented missile tests from everyone - including the US, Russia and China, and not merely those we arbitrarily define as 'rogue' states. Certainly such a ban is an idea worth exploring.


The hysteria and posturing over DPRK capabilities, dangerous as they are, and the failure to see them in the context of the truly world – ending capabilities of other nations, achieves – and can only achieve – the very opposite to what is intended, spurring the DPRK on to yet greater efforts. There is absolutely nothing surprising in this.



John Hallam, United nations Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner

People for Nuclear Disarmament/Human Survival Project

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 November 2017 12:23