By this point, we’re all used to hearing a lot of aggressive bluster coming out of North Korea, generally from the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-un, or his sister, frequently including threats of the use of nuclear weapons. But a new announcement this week may be adding a dangerous element into the mix. The powerless Parliament of North Korea is conducting its latest session of business and their diminutive dictator decided to have them expand the nation’s laws to “automate” the country’s WMD response to any sort of attack on Kim or his holdings in the capital. He also seemingly put an end to any negotiations over the denuclearization of the peninsula, saying that North Korea would “never abandon” its nuclear weapons which he claims are needed as a deterrent against the United States and our allies. (Associated Press)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says his country will never abandon the nuclear weapons and missiles it needs to counter the United States, which he accused of pushing a pressure campaign to weaken the North’s defenses and eventually collapse his government.
State media said Friday that Kim made the comments during a speech at North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament on Thursday where members also passed a law that authorized North Korea’s military to “automatically” execute nuclear strikes against enemy forces if its leadership comes under attack.
He also criticized rival South Korea over its plans to expand its conventional strike capabilities and revive large-scale military exercises with the United States to counter the North’s growing threats, describing them as a “dangerous” military action that raises tensions.
Kim Jong-un threatens nuclear attacks more often than some people change their socks, so the tiny tyrant isn’t breaking any new ground here. But while the west knows that Kim does this for propaganda purposes, the troubling part of this is that his people, most of whom have no access to media sources from outside of the country, probably believe that he’s serious. That could include his military leadership.
By enacting a law describing conditions where his military could launch strikes against their perceived adversaries without direct orders from Kim, disturbing possibilities come to mind. What if there is some sort of internal terrorist attack on Pyongyang and power or communications are cut off? What if Kim suddenly drops dead (he’s not the healthiest world leader at the moment) and rumors immediately began to circulate that he was assassinated in some fashion, probably by American agents? What if one of his own missile tests misfired and went off course, smashing into the capital? (That’s already come close to happening this year.)
Under any of these scenarios, would his generals interpret the law to mean that they were required to fire whatever nukes they happened to have ready to go? There is still no proof that North Korea’s newest and longest-range ICBMs (that might reach the United States) are ready to fly. But he definitely has missiles that can reach South Korea, where many American troops are stationed. He can also almost certainly hit Japan or even Guam. The risk of an accidental nuclear war breaking out appears to be increasing.
Of course, just because North Korea has been able to detonate some nuclear explosions in tests doesn’t mean that they have been able to miniaturize the technology to the point where they could successfully mount one on an ICBM and have it take out a distant target. In fact, many analysts believe that Kim is quite a ways off from that level of capability. But that’s not the sort of thing you’d want to get wrong. And even if he can’t launch a nuke, he has plenty of conventional rockets and missiles that could rain down on South Korea if this new law were somehow triggered by one of the scenarios I described above.
Surely there has to come a point where Kim Jong-un is simply too dangerous and unstable to be left to his own devices. I dread saying something like that while we’re teetering on possible hot wars with both Russia and China. And the situation is complicated further by North Korea’s growing alliance with both of those nations. But the west may need to consider taking out Kim’s nuclear facilities before the day comes when he’s not just making idle threats any longer.