Although North Korea is developing advanced nuclear missiles that could do significant damage and possibly spark World War 3, an attack on the United States would likely result in the end of the East Asian nation.
According to a retired military commander, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is developing a handful of nuclear weapons, including the one he vowed could flatten Washington. However, next to the U.S. arsenal of nuclear warheads, North Korea is not a major player.
“They can do a lot of damage to the U.S., but there won’t be any North Korea left in the event of a nuclear exchange,” said Dennis Blair, former chief of the U.S. Pacific Command. “That’s not a good regime survival strategy, and even Kim Jong-un would understand that.”
In 2016, the United States maintained an arsenal of more than 4,000 nuclear missiles. North Korea, Blair said, is working with between 10 and 15.
That leaves much bigger threats to the United States, Blair said. Russia, which has had an unusual relationship with the U.S. over the past half-century, remains the greatest nuclear threat. Russia opposes United States foreign policy, keeping Vladimir Putin’s country on top of the World War 3 watch list.
Countries like Pakistan also have nuclear capabilities. The country has been developing missiles since 1972. But it is North Korea that continues to pose a problem with its new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
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President Donald Trump said earlier this year that an attack from an ICBM in North Korea wouldn’t happen and blamed China for supporting the country’s efforts to build a nuclear program. On Tuesday, May 30, the U.S. launched a test ICBM over the Pacific Ocean and destroyed it with a ground-based anti-missile interceptor. The operation came two days after North Korea fired a test missile from Pyongyang that traveled 229 miles to just off the coast of Japan.
The U.S. anti-missile test aimed to show that the United States is prepared for such a strike. But, even a limited nuclear attack on North Korea could be devastating and come with a number of significant complications. Because defense experts do not know exact locations of North Korean warheads, averting military action is a top priority.
Melissa Hanham, a researcher in the Asia Nonproliferation Program, told Business Insider the United States is better off remaining tight-lipped about its strategy, adding credence to Trump’s initial statement about North Korea’s inability to strike first.
“It’s always in the U.S.’s favor to be somewhat ambiguous,” Hanham said.
World at War
Defense Secretary James Mattis told Reuters last month a war with North Korea would be horrific. On the 82,000 square-foot Korean Peninsula alone, there are more military armaments than any other place on Earth. That includes around 6,000 tanks and approximately 3 million soldiers, and as a result, nuclear action there would result in a catastrophic loss of life.
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On Tuesday, June 6, Russia deployed a Su-27 fighter jet to intercept a U.S. B-52 strategic bomber in neutral airspace near the Russian border. The U.S. jet was part of a training mission to prepare for an “all-out attack” in that region, leading some to speculate that a U.S.-Russia conflict could spark World War 3.
It was reported last fall that tension between the two countries was palpable, as then President Barack Obama accused Russia of hacking Democratic National Committee computers to influence the 2016 elections; a charge the Russian Foreign Ministry denied.
“Nobody should harbor the illusion that you can pressure Russia, neither the current American authorities, nor those who will replace them,” Russian spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in a CNN report.
Some say a Russia-China alliance, which would likely include North Korea, could be what sparks an attack on the United States. Trump’s April 6 bombing of Syria reportedly illuminated the possibility of that alliance.
[Featured Image by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images]