The Threat of North Korea

Logic Flows Both Ways

Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel had words for a Pentagon news group: “We will strengthen our homeland defense, maintain our commitment to our allies and partners, and make clear to the world that the United States stands firm against aggression.”

The words were spurred by the menacing bugaboo of North Korea.

The AP reports that three recent developments in North Korea spurred the Obama administration to act:

• A nuclear test in February deemed reckless by Washington and condemned by the United National Security Council.
• Pyongyang’s launch in December of a rocket that put a satellite into space and demonstrated mastery of some of the technologies needed to produce a long-range nuclear missile.
• Last April’s public display of a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, the KN-08, a weapon that may be able to reach U.S. territory according to Navy Adm. James Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. ((See Associated Press, “Worried by North Korea, U.S. bolsters missile defence,” CBC News, 15 March 2013. Tellingly, the CBC News site promotes another article within the text of the AP piece: “Patrick Brown: The vicious circle that is North Korea.” One can think of more appropriate nouns for the adjective “vicious.”))

Winnfeld flashed his diplomatic skills, stating of the North Korean head-of-state: “And we believe that this young lad ought to be deterred … if he’s not, we’ll be ready.”

As usual, the threat is a small developing country that has previously been destroyed by the bigger bully nation of the US (ganged up with its allies).

If a six-foot, 200-pound middle school student spoke of being ready for his five-foot, 120-pound classmate most people would guffaw.

Nonetheless, representative Michael Turner, R-Ohio, supports the building of an East Coast missile defense site as “the next logical and prudent step to ensure we can counter the rising threat to the homeland.”

Representative Turner’s grasp of logic is highly questionable. For example, if the six-foot student has a sling shot and the short student went out and got a sling shot, would Turner characterize that equivalency in weaponry as a threat to the six-footer — an act requiring the construction of an elaborate defense by the six-footer?

I would like to ask Turner just how is it that North Korea, an economically challenged nation of about 24.5 million people with fewer than 10 crude nuclear weapons is supposed to be a threat to the world’s military superpower, its 320 million citizens, and 7700 advanced nuclear weapons? ((See “World Nuclear Stockpile Report,” Project Ploughshares. ))

Logic to me says North Korea is no threat unless it wants to risk obliteration (a highly illogical risk as far as self-preservation is concerned). Moreover, evidence point to the possession of nuclear weapons as having a deterrence effect against potential attackers. Logic, therefore, draws me to the conclusion that if a state wants to avert an attack against it, then possessing nuclear arms seems to be a sound strategy for protecting one’s homeland.

Sound reasoning also postulates that if the US desires a nuclear-free world, then there is no better way to persuade nuclear-armed and nuclear-seeking states to disarm than by matching the rhetoric with action — in other words, lead by setting the good example and dismantle all nuclear weapons.

Kim Petersen is an independent writer. He can be emailed at: kimohp at Read other articles by Kim.