The change in the regime when Kim Jong-il died in December 2011, had many wondering if Kim Jong-Un would follow in his father’s footsteps.
That question was definitively answered in late January 2013. ABC News reported that Kim Jong-Un had declared the US a “sworn enemy” of the Korean people.
This came on the heels of North Korea’s announcement of a “third nuclear test and continued rocket launches”. (1)
North Korea’s December launch of test rockets – what many believed to be a North Korea nuke test – was met with a tightening of sanctions against North Korea by the US.
In light of the new declaration against the US, all pretense of the December launch being part of a “peaceful space program” was replaced by the statement Kim Jong-Un issued on January 24, 2013:
“We are not disguising the fact that the various satellites and long-range rockets that we will fire and the high-level nuclear test we will carry out are targeted at the United States.” (1)
North Korea Nuke Tests With Long-Range Missiles?
The range of the rocket launched in December 2012 is believed to have the capability to “fly further than 6,200 miles” according to South Korean scientists who examined rocket debris.
The majority of international scientists don’t believe that North Korea has missiles capable of reaching America – yet. But, North Korea has vowed to continue with its long-range missile testing despite the UN resolution condemning further testing.
The Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability reported that in the summer of 2010, North Korea claimed “it had developed improved nuclear weaponization technology—perhaps giving it the ability to put warheads on ballistic missiles”. (2)
In a United Nations resolution against North Korea’s plans for further nuclear testing and the development of nuclear weapons, China joined the US in urging North Korea to use “restraint” in its weapons program.
Yet, it doesn’t appear that such urging coming from North Korea’s largest ally had any effect on the new regime.
North Korea’s defiance of the UN resolution was:
“We do not hide that a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched by the DPRK one after another and a nuclear test of higher level which will be carried out by it in the upcoming all-out action, a new phase of the anti-US struggle that has lasted century after century, will target against the US, the sworn enemy of the Korean people.” (3)
North Korea’s Nuclear Warheads
According to Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability, there are no known “test flights with nuclear, biological, or chemical warheads in North Korea. If these warheads exist, either they have been imported from Russia or China, which seems highly unlikely, or they are unlikely to perform well once launched.”
Further speculation about North Korea nuke tests and weapon capabilities considers there can only be a very small number of such weapons. This would make any such WMDs very valuable and not something North Korea would risk without highly dependable and accurate missile delivery systems.
The one-shot scenario of North Korea launching a nuclear missile at the US has not been ruled out, however unlikely it might be. This type of terrorist attack is not beyond reason.
It is believed that North Korea has a limited arsenal of Soviet/Russian missiles, but no way to develop or produce other missiles. That means they would need to arm the existing Russian missiles with nuclear warheads.
This scenario is more likely to most experts, although the majority agree, the North Koreans would have a “very low chance of successful use”. (1)
It is more likely that North Korea would spend its missiles on closer range targets such as South Korea and Japan before risking an iffy, long-range target like the US. Such an attack would mean the death of tens of thousands. Experts believe North Korea presently has such WMD capabilities. (1)
North Korea’s US Target Cities
If North Korea has long-range missiles, then many speculate that possible city targets for a one-strike nuclear attack are the typical large cities cited in other such scenarios over the decades.
These include, New York (over 8,000,000 people), Washington (over 600,000), Los Angeles (almost 4,000,000) and San Francisco (over 800,000).
This is assuming that North Korea’s long-range missile capability could reach any of these cities. Most experts believe that the longest possible range for a North Korean rocket launched against the US would be Hawaii. (4)
Retaliation for such an North Korean attack would be swift and decisive. The devastation would be so vast that it defies logic that North Korea should be so hell bent on this destructive path.
Many speculate that China and Russia would support North Korea, but much of the current intelligence reports contradict such assumptions. Clearly, no world power would desire a nuclear war that could easily escalate out of control ending in total world annihilation and holocaust.