Ever since Donald Trump took retaliatory actions against Syria, North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un has accelerated his nuclear tests. Despite multiple warnings from the United Nations, Kim supervised another missile test conducted by his military and was very proud when it was a success.
The United States now has a large number of battleships at the Korean Peninsula which North Korea has called an act of provocation that could have “catastrophic consequences.” As the tension gains momentum, many are wondering what would really happen if a nuclear war actually breaks out between North Korea and the United States.
The United States and its East Asian allies have strategic defense assets in position, but as the world has learned from the previous two World Wars is that a war is full of uncertainties.
“People think missile defenses are a magic wand. They aren’t,” Jeffrey Lewis, a renowned arms expert, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Can North Korea and the United States Start World War 3 With Their Nuclear Missiles?
Technically, of course, either North Korea or the United States could just attack each other without giving any predefined warning at any point in coming days. However, both the nations would prefer not to avoid being in breach of the United Nations’ Charter they would need to be able to satisfy Article 51 — that the use of nuclear war or other missiles was in self-defense.
“Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defense shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.”
In recent history, North Korea has not followed United Nations’ rules and regulations. So, it is fair to say that it will be Washington which is likely to follow the defined measures.
Apart from taking all the measures, the United States and its allies in the region are all prepared for a North Korean nuclear attack. America and South Korea both have preemptive strike plans for a situation in which Kim Jong-un’s nuclear attack appears imminent.
Can North Korea Attack South Korea?
Tensions between North and South Korea have always remained extremely grave. According to We Are The Mighty, both the parties are currently monitoring military intelligence for even the slightest suggestion that may result in a war.
South Korea has a three-stage defense system, the first stage of which is a preemptive strike option designed to eliminate the North’s offensive capabilities. The “Kill Chain” strike system detects signs of an impending nuclear missile launch and strikes the North’s nuclear weapons sites and missile bases with cruise missiles.
Apart from South Korea’s three-stage defense system, the country has collaborated with the United States to have a joint response plan named Operations Plan (OPLAN) 5015.
As of this writing, there are few officials who know the specifics about OPLAN 5015 as it is a classified project, but it is believed that OPLAN 5015 is created to consolidate previous contingency plans, which are OPLAN 5029 — internal instability in North Korea, OPLAN 5027 — preparations for an all-out war, and a peacetime plan that involved localized provocations from North Korea.
According to Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs, in the events when a nuclear missile strike will appear imminent, allied forces might attempt to eliminate Kim Jong-un’s missiles at launch.
Mike Mullen said last year that the United States could “move to take out launch capabilities on the launchpad” if North Korea appeared poised to wage a nuclear war against the United States and its East Asian allies.
But What If North Korea Launches Nuclear War Without Any Warnings?
Well, if something like this happens, then there are plans for that as well.
As mentioned above, the second-stage of South Korea’s three-stage defense system is the Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) system. The main objective of this stage is to intercept incoming missiles. Apart from KAMD, they also have America’s THAAD. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense is an anti-ballistic defense system designed to shoot down medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase by intercepting with a hit-to-kill approach.
In simple language — THAAD is a missile defense that involves hitting a fired bullet with another bullet, which apparently is not an easy task.
“Missile defense systems will never provide 100 percent effectiveness … The addition of THAAD does not guarantee the protection of Seoul, but it does add another piece to the constantly changing puzzle of defense,” Rodger Baker, Vice President of Strategic Analysis at Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence platform, told TheDCNF.
In 2013, South Korea requested the Pentagon to provide detailed information on the THAAD system concerning prices and capabilities as part to prepare their nation against the hermit country. Three years after the official request, American and South Korean military officials agreed to deploy the THAAD missile system in the country to counter North Korea’s growing threats.
New York Times reported on May 2, 2017, that a spokesman for the U.S. military announced that the THAAD system in Seongju is “operational” and “has the ability to intercept North Korean missiles and defend South Korea.”
But Will North Korea Succeed?
Even if North Korea fires a nuclear missile under Kim Jong-un reign, the chances of them succeeding against both South Korean and the United States military are pretty slim.
However, let’s consider this — Kim Jong-un actually launches nuclear weapons.
According to our previous reports, Kim Jong-un is believed to have nuclear warheads, but not more than 10 in numbers. In March 2016, Kim himself announced that their great country had developed a warhead small enough to fit missiles.
Apart from the released images that have shown the range of North Korea’s missiles, very little is known about Kim’s plans to use his artillery and in the event of a rocket being fired it is extremely difficult to know exactly what launch capability Pyongyang has.
Who Would North Korea Target?
The North Korea and the supreme leader regularly threatens nuclear war against the United States, which is perceived in Pyongyang as the greatest threat to the country’s long-term survival. Based on the earlier failed tests, it is still unlikely that Kim Jong-un’s nuclear missiles will be able to reach the mainland America.
Having said that, the North is tirelessly working to develop a reliable, nuclear-armed ICBM and may achieve the long-range missile technology in few months.
“There is a real possibility that North Korea will be able to hit the U.S. with a nuclear-armed missile by the end of the first Trump term,” K.T. McFarland, the deputy White House national security adviser, remarked. “We don’t know where they are on the path, but we know what path they are on.”
Apart from America, the two countries most likely to find themselves in the crosshairs are Japan and South Korea.
In the event North Korea decides to nuke these countries, a decision which may change the course of Korea’s future, the Korean People’s Army could strike military bases and strategic assets.
Over the years, North Korea has threatened not only America but countries like Japan and South Korea. Years ago, the hermit state vowed that Japan’s Tokyo would be “consumed in nuclear flames,” and in 2016, Kim Jong-un threatened to turn South Korea’s Seoul into “a sea of flames.”
“North Korean missiles, while improved, are still not all that accurate. Thus, while Pyongyang may prefer to target U.S. military facilities in Japan with its limited nuclear arsenal, it may also choose to fire some missiles toward large population centers in an attempt to rapidly shift the political cost of conflict,” Baker further told TheDCNF.
Would The United States Use Nuclear Weapons Against Kim Jong-un’s Hermit Country?
Earlier this year, President Trump talked about a major conflict with North Korea is possible, but he would prefer a diplomatic outcome to resolve the issues.
“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump told Reuters.
Nonetheless, President Trump said he wants to opt for a diplomatic way to reduce the tensions between the two countries but “it’s very difficult.”
North Korea Says Missiles Can Carry Nuclear Warheads https://t.co/2aVGEBsxrY
— Nkuntsu (@shlangu) May 16, 2017
Given the pressure from the United Nations, it is highly unlikely that the United States will choose the military way to resolve the conflicts, but if Kim Jong-un would launch his nuclear missiles and declines United Nations’ plea to choose the diplomatic way, then countries like Japan and South Korea may unite with the United States to end the problems.
Are We Ready For Nuclear War?
When the United States nuked Japan during World War 2, thousands of people lost their lives. There are many who are still struggling from the aftermath of it.
So, in very simple language — no, the world is not ready for nuclear war or any other kind of missile test that results in the loss of innocent lives.
What the world currently needs is a strategic plan that helps in avoiding the war at any cost. Furthermore, there are many diplomatic approaches that can be considered by the world leaders.
You can read diverse opinions from our writers on the Opinion front page.
[Featured Image by Shizuo Kambayashi/AP Images]