This article originally appeared at Anti-Media.
East Asia — With the mainstream media contemplating the significance of Kim Jong-un sending his sister to the Olympic Games in South Korea, as well as any messages found within the North’s military parade on Thursday, the larger question still looms:
Will the current thaw in relations between the United States and North Korea last beyond the games in Pyeongchang?
On Thursday, as he prepared to fly to South Korea to attend the games, Vice President Mike Pence told U.S. troops in Japan that “our forces are ready and our nation is resolved.” The day before, he reminded the world of the U.S. view that “North Korea is the most tyrannical and oppressive regime on the planet.”
While this doesn’t exactly bode well for U.S.-North Korea relations in the days to come, it doesn’t necessarily mean the situation will devolve into war. Still, evidence exists that the U.S. is taking the potential for a military conflict with the Hermit Kingdom very seriously.
Writing for The Nation on Tuesday, Michael T. Klare, professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, pointed out that the U.S. may already have a tool in place to decimate North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Last April, headlines were made around the world when the U.S. detonated the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan. At the time, it was reported that this MOAB was the strongest non-nuclear weapon in the United States’ military arsenal.
As it turns out, however, the U.S. had a “father of all bombs” waiting in the wings the whole time.
The GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), Professor Klare noted in his article, is a 30,000 pound weapon so massive it can only be carried by a B-2 stealth bomber. By contrast, the MOAB — officially the GBU-43B — is 21,600 pounds.
Originally designed for use against the nuclear program of Iran, the MOP “bunker buster” can penetrate hundreds of feet of rock and concrete before detonating its 5,300 pounds of high explosives. This is notable because, as with Iran, many of North Korea’s nuclear facilities are believed to be buried deep underground.
Equally noteworthy is the fact that earlier this month, the U.S. moved three B-2 stealth bombers — again, the only craft capable of carrying the “father of all bombs” — to a military base in Guam.
While the Air Force has refused to say whether any GBU-57s were moved along with the bombers, the very fact that the jets are there is, as Klare wrote Tuesday, “to say the least, highly provocative.”
In any case, as cooler heads have at least temporarily prevailed ahead of the games, Klare says now is the time to push for meaningful dialogue:
“With the Winter Olympics just about to begin, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in desperately striving to arrange peace talks with the North, this is the moment to speak out for de-escalation of the Korean crisis and the commencement of serious talks involving all key parties, including the United States, leading to a reduction in threatening arsenals and behaviors on all sides.”