Today, The Washington Post reported that North Korea has developed the capability to miniaturize its nuclear weapons and use them on their existing missiles. The story cited excerpts from a confidential and undisclosed assessment by the US Defense Intelligence Agency that were read to reporters by anonymous intelligence officials.
Naturally, President Trump responded to this news with his typical bombast, saying that the US would respond with “fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before” if the US is threatened.
In turn, Kim Jong Un saw Trump’s “fire and fury” and raised him by having the state-run news agency release a report that North Korea was considering options to attack Guam.
It’s not clear how this latter threat will be received since we can’t be sure whether Donald Trump knows a) what Guam is or b) that it is a part of the United States.
But in any case, it is safe to say that US-North Korean relations have hit yet another new low and the risk for a military confrontation appears to be at its highest level yet.
As noted, this latest downward spiral was set into motion by the WaPo story. But in fact, Trump’s response to this story makes no sense. If anything, the WaPo report should make the case for a peaceful resolution even more compelling and imperative than it was before.
It takes only a moment’s thought to see why this is so. There are two possibilities here:
Suppose one believes that the WaPo report based on US intelligence officials is 100% accurate, and North Korea really does have the capability to fire long-range missiles armed with nuclear weapons. Well, in this case, a military option is obviously off the table. Even a “limited” nuclear exchange is a plainly intolerable outcome that would lead to a massive number of casualties. Additionally, even relatively small exchanges of nuclear weapons can lead to devastating effects to the climate that cause harm far beyond the initial impact zone.
Alternatively, suppose that you take the WaPo report with a large grain of salt given the US intelligence community’s track record of overstating foreign threats when a potential war looms. In this case, then we are back to the status quo, where a conventional military conflict would still lead to the unnecessary deaths of thousands of innocent people on both halves of the Korean Peninsula. No doubt, such a conflict would also entail significant casualties of US troops who are stationed right in the line of fire.
So no matter what you think of the WaPo story, peace is still the only option that should be on the table.