North Korea Conducts Another Ballistic Missile Test

North Korea tests another missile, and sends another message to the United States and its allies in Asia and the Pacific.

US North Korea Nuclear Missiles

For the first time since September, North Korea has launched another ballistic missile test in what seems like another direct challenge to President Trump, the United States, and its Asian and Pacific allies:

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Wednesday morning for the first time in more than two months, defying demands from President Trump to halt its weapons programs and raising the stakes in an increasingly tense standoff with the United States and its allies.

The unidentified ballistic missile took off from Pyongsong, a town northeast of Pyongyang, at 3:17 a.m. and flew east toward the Sea of Japan. It appeared to land in waters in which Japan claims special exploration rights.

Six minutes after the launch, South Korea conducted its own missile test off its east coast, demonstrating its ability to strike North Korean missile launching sites, the South’s military said in a statement.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, told reporters that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had called a meeting of his national security council.

“We strongly urge North Korea to change their policy as there will be no bright future for North Korea unless they resolve such issues as the abductions, nuclear program and missiles,” Mr. Suga said.

There was no immediate reaction from the Trump administration.

Unlike in previous launches over the summer, when the missiles flew over Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido, the government did not issue cellphone alerts to warn citizens.

Nighttime launches are not common, but North Korea has conducted night missile tests before. It launched an intercontinental ballistic missile at night on July 28.

The new missile firing came as North Korea has increased the frequency and daring of its missile tests, sending two missiles over Japan in August and September, while demonstrating technical progress that suggested it had developed the ability to strike the continental United States.

In a Sept. 19 speech at the United Nations, Mr. Trump warned that if North Korea threatened the United States or its allies, Washington would have “no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” and he mockingly referred to its leader, Kim Jong-un, as “rocket man.”

The North Korean leader responded by calling Mr. Trump “a mentally deranged U.S. dotard,” and his foreign minister later warned that Mr. Kim could order the test of a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific.

In the wake of a Sept. 3 underground nuclear test — the sixth by North Korea — the United Nations Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions against the country.

In the nearly three months since that test, as leaders of North Korea and the United States have exchanged insults, the world has braced itself for another show of force by the North.

While in New York for the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September, North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, said that Mr. Kim was considering a hydrogen bomb test of unprecedented scale over the Pacific Ocean.

As noted, this latest test has not resulted in an extensive response from the Trump Administration as of yet. However, during a press pool availability during a meeting with the Republican leaders of the House and Senate regarding tax reform and the Congressional agenda for the rest of this year, Trump did make some brief remarks about the test:

President Donald Trump said “we will handle” the intensifying situation with North Korea, though he gave no details about how to do it after the nation launched an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday.

“I will only tell you that we will take care of it,” Trump said. “We have Gen. [Jim] Mattis in the room with us, and we’ve had a long discussion on it. It is a situation that we will handle.”

The president spoke after huddling with GOP senators on Capitol Hill and after the Pentagon on Tuesday said it detected a North Korean missile launch — the first from Pyongyang since mid-September.

“It went higher, frankly, than any previous shot they’ve taken,” Mattis said. “It’s a research and development effort on their part to continue building ballistic missiles that can threaten everywhere in the world, basically.”

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that, in immediate response to the North Korean test, South Korea launched a missile exercise of its own that took place within an hour after the North Korean launch was detected, suggesting that the North Korean test was anticipated at least to some degree. Of course, this is largely due to the fact that North Korea is at the moment probably among the most scrutinized places on the planet when it comes to American spy satellites and surveillance planes. Just as intelligence can detect the tell-tale signs of preparations for an underground nuclear test, it likely isn’t very difficult to determine from aerial and orbital surveillance when a new missile is being prepared for a launch of some kind. As a result, South Korean, Japanese, and American forces were likely already on hair-trigger alert for a launch of some kind at the time that it happened. At this point, of course, these launches remain tests. In the future, though, we could likely be faced with a situation where a test will end up being something far more serious. At that point, the response from the United States and its allies could prove to be more than just a mere missile exercise.

It is worthwhile to keep things in perspective at this point, though. As with previous tests, the missile in question did not go very far, landing somewhere off the east coast of Japan in Japanese territorial waters. The difference this time is that the missile appears to have gone higher than any previous North Korean test missile, perhaps as high as 3,000 feet. This appears to be a significant enhancement on previous test results and suggests that the missile could be capable of flying longer distances. Nonetheless, the distance traveled isn’t much better than the distance that the DPRK’s medium-range missiles have been known to reach, and a long way toward being able to effectively hit American territory such as Guam or Hawaii, much less the Continental United States itself. Additionally, the North has yet to demonstrate that it has the ability to launch a missile capable of delivering a payload of any kind that far, and apparently still has not mastered the ability to create an effective nuclear or atomic weapon that could be placed on such a missile.

Until that time arrives, it’s not at all clear that the North Koreans are going to be willing to talk anytime soon.

FILED UNDER: Asia, National Security, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Mu says:

    Cute typo there, it was 3000 miles, not 3000 feet.
    Since DJT took office NK went from mild threat to Japan and NK to a full fledged thermonuclear power capable of reaching any place in the US with ICBM. Life is beautiful.

  2. Slugger says:

    I repeat what I always say. North Korea ranks about 125th in national GDP. We have to think about how we will cope with a world where there are 100 nuclear armed nations. I would bet that some one in Yemen is thinking that if they had nukes the Saudis would not be messing in their country. You can each concoct your own nightmare scenario. US supremacy in military affairs may step down a notch or two since few would risk a couple of Hiroshima sized events on our soil. To maintain world leadership we have to find non-military means to keep our grasp.

  3. barbintheboonies says:

    I hope we take him out without hurting any innocent people. I would love for the N Korean people to know what it is like to be free.

  4. becca says:

    @Slugger: oh, sweetie… we ceded world leadership the day DT was selected prez.

  5. SenyorDave says:

    @barbintheboonies: Why do you think that North Korea would suddenly suspend their nuclear program Kim Jong-un was out of the picture? Slugger’s point about Yemen makes complete sense. Especially since MBS and Kushner are bestest buddies, and the Saudi coalition has turned Yemen into more of a nightmare than it ever was (a difficult task). But Qatar would be my choice for a nuclear weapons program. The hack of their state news by UAE and subsequent freeze out by the Saudis and their allies demonstrate clearly that MBS is trying for Putin-style control of the region, and he’ll use any trick he can to achieve it. And Trump supports him.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    3,000 miles, not feet. (About 2,800 per VOX.)

  7. gVOR08 says:

    Oops, missed @Mu:

  8. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @barbintheboonies: War always hurts innocent people. It’s one of the only things it’s good at.

    “It ain’t nothin’ but a heartbreaker!/Friend only to the undertaker”

  9. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    “Why do you think that North Korea would suddenly suspend their nuclear program Kim Jong-un was out of the picture? ”

    Or that they’d end up free, for that matter? Or that they’d know what to do if they found themselves free–how did “freeing” Iraq work out?

  10. Matt says:

    @Mu: 3000 miles isn’t nearly far enough to hit mainland USA let alone “anywhere”. It needs to go at least another 2000 miles to hit the west coast of the USA. They have yet to demonstrate a true thermonuclear bomb. The first thermonuclear bomb detonated by the USA was the size of a house and weighed 82 tons (Ivy Mike) back in the 1950s.

    To hit anywhere in the USA would require NK to develop a true ICBM along with an re-entry vehicle. They need to vastly miniaturize their nuclear devices too. At that point their missiles will basically be on par with the tech used by the USA and USSR in the 1950s. Not much of a threat as they are easy to detect when launched and easy to shoot down.

    When they develop MIRV ability with dummies/ECM and such then I’ll be slightly worried. They have yet to demonstrate a reliable missile that is accurate or even relatively accurate. At this point if the missile doesn’t explode on launch it’s a success for them.

    The Soviet’s plan to nuke the USA relied on thousands of ICBMs with MIRVs that includes high tech ECM and decoys to try to saturate the US defense systems. North Korea would be lucky to get a handful of missiles off the ground. The response would be swift as the US would for the first time since WW2 take the kid gloves off and actually punch with the full weight of their arsenal. NK would be a former country within 30 minutes of NK launching nukes at the USA or allies. China would probably be a bit pissed about the radioactive cloud left behind but at that point they wouldn’t really have much to stand on.

    The nuclear program has always been about extracting food/stuff from the international community while placating the masses in North Korea. Basically the leadership of NK has been trying and probably somewhat successfully turned the nuclear program into a matter of national pride.

  11. barbintheboonies says:

    @SenyorDave: I do not think that It is what I hope for these people. They have been living in Hell for so long I just want something good for them Is that ok with you?

  12. barbintheboonies says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: What part of hope don`t you understand? War sucks yes so does the little nut job.

  13. Gustopher says:

    I’m sure Trump will solve this with a lame insult.

    Neither “Rocket Man”, nor the far more severe “Little Rocket Man” did the trick, but “Rocket Boy” will do the trick.

  14. MarkedMan says:

    Big talk from the Blowhard about how NK would stop launching once he was president. What a pathetic joke.

    I’m not big on military tactics, but I fail to see why a missile launch is the only way they can deliver a nuke. A freighter in Houston Harbor or any one of a couple of other coastal cities would serve quite nicely as a delivery vehicle.

  15. Mu says:

    @Matt: It went 3000 miles UP. That is 6 times the height an ICBM warhead needs to reach; they didn’t want the guys at NORAD have a bad day and shot high and short.
    The predicted range for the missile is 8100 miles. The distance from NK to Miami is 7400 miles.

  16. Matt says:

    @MarkedMan:Reality is such a move would be extremely difficult to pull off. We already know most if not all of the NK shell companies. It would be extremely hard for NK to move a freighter to one of their ports without us knowing. Which means they’d have to move the nuke to the freighter. A NK nuke being a large heavy piece of metal that leaks radiation that is easily detected by detectors on all major ports. Any freighter heading to the USA is checked beforehand. They would have to make a freighter disappear load the nuke on it then wait years for the radiation to decay off to the point where it wouldn’t be instantly detectable. Then they’d have to re-introduce the freighter with all the appropriate paper trails showing it never having disappeared in the first place so as to not arouse suspicion. Basically it’s about impossible to use a freighter to get a bomb into a US port. The best they could hope for is an offshore detonation which would cause some minor damage and create a relatively low level radiation cloud.

    Then the USA would pave NK because it’d be incredibly obvious who did it.

    note the part where it says “Screening cargo for radiation before it gets here. “

  17. Matt says:

    @Mu: Yes they fired an EMPTY missile almost straight up.

    The Hwasong-14 has an estimated range of 4200 miles when loaded. Not enough range still and I have no idea where you got that ridiculous 8100 mile range number from.

    The USA’s main ICBM (minuteman-III) has a range of about 8,100 miles and a flight altitude of 700 miles. Which apparently is much higher then you realized as that is not 1/6th of 3000.

  18. Mu says:

    Matt, that’s probably why DHS still is looking for technology to see through a steel container to find nukes. Because all those alpha-particles easily make it through the heavy metal shell of the warhead. Ditto for the betas of the tritium.

  19. Mu says:

    Here you go Matt, one of many.
    And the “empty missile” is your assumption based on wishful thinking; they can’t be as good as we were 50 years ago.
    That’s the problem, the first nukes and the first ICBMs were done with guys with slide rules. Rocket science isn’t really all that hard.

  20. Matt says:

    @Mu: You don’t have to look through a steel container to find a nuke there’s plenty of radiation released to detect that one was nearby.

    I gave you a link to actual nuclear and rocket scientists leading you through the math showing you how I’m right and you respond with a wired article written by someone who has no experience in nuclear bomb design or rocket design. Even your own article says that the missile was mostly empty outside of maybe a lightweight diagnostic system. That the re-entry vehicle broke up without the 500-700 Kg weight of a nuclear bomb. Your article actually supports my points. They just went with the OMG WE”RE DOOMED thing stating an unrealistic empty weight range only to dampen all the panic with reality later in the article.

  21. Matt says:


    Rocket science isn’t really all that hard.

    This right here destroys any credibility you might of had. History and reality do not agree with you. It’s clear you have NO real understanding of how modern rockets work. Hell you’d be confused by the old V2 design..

  22. Mu says:

    Gosh, Matt, you caught me. All those millions of dollars of DoD and NASA funding for my research, down the drain.
    And btw, the science is really pretty basic, it’s the materials and the machining for reliability that kills you. Unless of course you’re a communist dictatorship and you don’t care too much about a few failures, CNN doesn’t cover NK all that much.

  23. James in Bremerton says:

    One doesn’t need a “freighter.” One needs only a vessel just large enough to bear the device, a high speed craft that can be rammed aground on any beach and detonated.

    More imaginative thinking than “missiles” and “regular shipping order,” please.

  24. Guarneri says:

    Now wait just a cotton pickin’ minute.

    I’ve been watching film clips of Bill Clinton telling us how his agreement with NK was a good deal, and how NK would cease their nuclear program. You mean he lied?

    I wonder. Did Obama lie about Iran too?

  25. gVOR08 says:


    It’s clear you have NO real understanding of how modern rockets work. Hell you’d be confused by the old V2 design..

    That seems uncalled for.

    The article you cite discusses a specific rocket and two tests. In the July 28 test the missile rose 3725 km (2315 miles) and they extrapolate a possible range, on a flatter trajectory, of about 9,000 km (5600 miles).

    I don’t know the source for @Mu:’s estimate of 8100 miles, but the new test reportedly reached 3,000 mile (4800 km), 30% higher. Range on a flat trajectory would also be greater. The 8100 mile estimate seems within the ballpark.

  26. michael reynolds says:


    We do not have a reliable, realistically-tested ABM capacity, we have systems which may or may not work as advertised. Has any complex military system ever worked perfectly first time out?

    As for putting a nuke on a freighter, what makes you think they’d off-load it and run it through security? Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay, New Orleans, New York City, Boston. . . They’re all port cities. No need to off-load. So, NK ships can travel thousands of miles north or south through territorial waters of China or Russia, join into the maritime flow, drive into a port city and bang.

  27. beth says:
  28. Matt says:

    @Mu: Which NK has shown to be poor at time and time again. They have problems with the basics of machining and metalurgy. Mostly due to the fact that their scientists are suffering from starvation, parasites and nearly random exeuctions. All evidence points to Kim caring greatly about failure based on him executing batches of scientists after failures.

    @James in Bremerton: Okay so how are you going to get a 700 Kg package that leaks radiation into a high speed craft that is going to cross the pacific ocean and then ram a port or coast without ever being detected by our multiple layers of sensors? While not requiring any services such as refueling? You do realize that without an airburst a nuclear bomb basically makes a large crater and does a tiny fraction of the damage it could do right?

    @Guarneri: It was a good deal right up till Bush Jr tore up the deal…

    @michael reynolds: We have multiple generations of battle tested ABM systems. The only time ABMs have problems is when they are facing hundreds of modern MIRV incoming which includes decoys, ecm etc. NK’s missile tech is barely past the 1960s and they haven’t demonstrated the ability to even get a nuke on a missile let alone shrunk down to a modern egg shaped design.

    Did you not read the link I provided? Scans are done before they even leave port for the USA. You can’t get a radiactive shipment docked at a US port without a ton of paperwork. There are about 700 ports that ship to the USA and during the Obama era the DHS was mandated to setup scanners at each of those ports. They didn’t quite make the time table which required a two year extension. What you’re suggesting was possible in the 1970s but not today when every container ship is logged and tracked around the world.

    Nukes leave a trail of radioactive isotopes in their path. It’s pretty easy to track a nuclear warhead’s path with just a scanner.

  29. Matt says:

    @Matt: Regardless any of those proposed attacks would do little damage and ensure that NK is paved over with international support.

  30. Slugger says:

    In my view the Norks or other hostile states don’t have to destroy us to create a significant rebalancing of our strength versus them. The destruction of two buildings in New York with the loss of 3500 was a major trauma. A realistic ability to deliver two or three Hiroshima sized bombs will change things. Urban sprawl means that the attacker does not need precision missiles. Another 25 countries with such a capacity will change things a lot.
    There was a time when building a nuclear bomb required most of the geniuses of humanity and a lot of treasure. Those were the good old days.

  31. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @barbintheboonies: It’s foolish to hope for things you can’t have. “Taking out the little nut job” costs, based on recent estimates of the retaliatory artillery barrage on Gyeonggi Province NK could launch, 1 million killed and injured during the first day (some say few hours) of the war.

    I could hope that the US would make wiser choices with the lives of people of other nations than we do with the lives of our reservists and day-labor soldiers of the National Guard, but that would be as foolish as hoping that we can take out Kim without killing innocent people, wouldn’t it?

  32. barbintheboonies says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: Then I’m foolish I hope you don`t visit any children battling cancer. You`re a ray of sunshine.

  33. JohnMcC says:

    @barbintheboonies: Let’s all pause and contemplate the difference between ‘sunshine’ and ‘moonshine’.

    If ‘hope’ for the beneficent outcome for NKoreans requires a magic bullet that leaves Kim Jong-In dead and the remaining government of NKorea full of the spirit of love and kindness — we are completely screwed. No such bullet.

    Hope for that is not ‘sunshine’.

    (BTW – Kim’s name is spelled with a U not an I. Note to the autocorrect gremlin.)

  34. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Oh great…the Trumplicans are calling for regime change. What could go wrong???

  35. CET says:


    @Matt: Regardless any of those proposed attacks would do little damage and ensure that NK is paved over with international support.

    And I think that’s the key point to keep in mind here. All the hand wringing about NK developing an ICBM ignores the fact that delivering a nuke to the US via ICBM is going to be at least as unreliable as delivering one by hand, and the culprit is going to undeniable (no matter what RT publishes afterwards).

    It seems pretty obvious that North Korean nukes will be used to threaten South Korea, Japan, and (indirectly) China to extract PR victories for the Kim regime and enough material goods to keep the military from revolting. Though if the number of intestinal worms in the defecting soldier the other day are any indication, military revolt might be closer than we thought….

    Unless I’m missing something, the major threat is that the DPRK will inevitably collapse at some point. When it does, it will probably be a bloodbath, and I could see Kim ordering nuclear strikes on his neighbors, or even his own population. It would benefit all of us (but especially China and the US) to have a plan for securing any North Korean nukes when that happens.

  36. michael reynolds says:


    1) Dude, we just recently learned that our tested, precision-guided weaponry in Afghanistan kills 31 times as many civilians as claimed by the military. That is mature technology, battle-tested technology, which clearly does not always work as advertised. Bad intel, software glitch, operator error and you miss and blow up a wedding. Let me put it this way: I lack your faith in military testing and reporting. There would be every reason to overstate our ABM capacity.

    2) Did you not read the link I provided? Scans are done before they even leave port for the USA. Before they leave port. . . in North Korea?

    A freighter-delivered nuke will not be checked leaving NK (obviously) and it does not have to pass through US port security, either, since all they’d have to do is drive the boat under the Golden Gate Bridge and pull the trigger. At no time would ‘port security’ be involved.

    So, if the NK’s aren’t checking it as it leaves, and the Chinese don’t decide to board the ship as it passes through their territorial waters, you’re now down to imagining that we have Geiger counters in mid-ocean. Pretty sure we don’t.

  37. CET says:


    Two comments:

    1) I’d love to see Kim Jong Un meet his maker, but I think the most compelling reason not to ‘arrange’ for that is that it would probably just make things worse. The only thing more dangerous than the current state of North Korea would be North Korea descending into a civil war. Even if we wanted to occupy it like we did Iraq (and look how well that worked out…), China would never stand for it. We’d be looking at WWIII.

    2) It’s like Trump read Machiavelli, and then decided to do the exact opposite. He’s acting like the epitome of a weak and feckless leader – all talk and no credible deterrent. The only reason for poking your enemy like that is if you’re trying to goad them into starting a war. The US military is pretty clear that a war on the Korean peninsula will be a complete shitshow for everyone involved.

    3) This is a case where actual diplomacy would be useful – not with North Korea, but with China or South Korea. Since Trump doesn’t really get diplomacy (and Tillerson gutted the state department), we don’t have much of a hand to play.

  38. michael reynolds says:


    Though if the number of intestinal worms in the defecting soldier the other day are any indication, military revolt might be closer than we thought….

    Just happened to be reading Chernow’s new biography of Ulysses Grant and came across a bit describing the shame of southerners who witnessed their boys in gray marching by caked with filth, stinking, shoeless and vermin-ridden. And yet somehow they fought pretty well. Ditto the Japanese on Iwo Jima. Etc…

    An artillery piece requires a crew of 5 to 7 guys. So with 5000 capable gunners, North Korea can manage 1000 pieces and rain 1000 shells every ten minutes (for sustained fire), 6000 rounds an hour, 144,000 rounds in the first 24 hours, on densely-packed Seoul. The death toll would be shocking, and the financial cost could run to the trillions.

    The reason we are upset by a NK ICBM is not that we think they’ll launch an unprovoked attack on Washington. It is rather that we can no longer bully North Korea. We like being able to knock off troublesome third world governments – Saddam, Gaddafi, the Taliban, Mossadegh, Allende, Lumumba. . . And if we threaten to knock off a North Korean government we don’t want to have to worry that they might take out Chicago in retaliation. We have a lovely situation now where we can pull the trigger on probably 70% of the world’s governments and fear no retaliation aside from pinprick terrorism. We like it that way.

    The reason the South Koreans are less upset than we are is that nothing has changed for them – they’ve been under the gun for decades.

  39. Franklin says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Just happened to be reading Chernow’s new biography of Ulysses Grant and came across a bit describing the shame of southerners who witnessed their boys in gray marching by caked with filth, stinking, shoeless and vermin-ridden. And yet somehow they fought pretty well. Ditto the Japanese on Iwo Jima. Etc…

    I think it depends on how well the troops are motivated for the cause. The Iraqis weren’t. But there’s not enough information flow in NK (in either direction) to know what they’re thinking.

  40. michael reynolds says:

    I just want us to be very cautious about starting a war with North Korea. Every war in this country’s history has started with an underestimation of the enemy. Every war is always going to be over by Christmas.

    This is a population raised like Spartans. They’ve been taught from birth that we are the Big Evil. They’ve been trained to fight. Most of the South Korean population is right up against the border, twenty miles from mountains riddled with hardened artillery positions. And we have no effective means of silencing that artillery quickly, unless we go nuclear, in which case I’d suggest people check the direction of the prevailing wind on the Korean peninsula, because whatever gets blowed up in the north is going to drift and fall all over South Korea.

    The potential up-side is that we wouldn’t have to worry that North Korea would launch a suicidal nuclear attack.

    The potential down-side is that we could end up destroying South Korea, part of Japan, inflict mass casualties, precipitate a huge humanitarian crisis, potentially killing millions, eliminating any influence we have in Asia. . . and that’s if we don’t end up in a shooting war with China or Russia.

    It’s always possible we could have a miracle, but to my eyes the down-side risk is many times greater than the up-side reward.

  41. CET says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The reason we are upset by a NK ICBM is not that we think they’ll launch an unprovoked attack on Washington. It is rather that we can no longer bully North Korea.

    Meh. I think we’ve pretty clearly established that NK gives zero f*cks what we think.

    As long as China is willing to prop them up (and escalate on their behalf if there’s a war), we already have no credible ‘kinetic’ options. I would say we haven’t been able to bully them for a while. At least for the last 15 years or so, and arguably since the 60’s….

  42. michael reynolds says:


    By ‘bully’ I meant ‘regime change’ and the credible threat of same.

    It is vital to the American psychology that we be able to knock off small but obnoxious foes at will, as we have done in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Granada, Panama, Chile, Iran and other countries. What we are hoping to preserve is that disproportion of power. There is zero reason to expect NK to shoot an ICBM at us – they’re not crazy. Evil yes, crazy or stupid, no. The Kim dynasty has stayed afloat for more than six decades in very trying circumstances – that says ‘survivor’ to me, not ‘suicidal idiot.’

  43. JohnMcC says:

    @michael reynolds: As much as I like your insights into the domestic situation I think the NKoreas have always felt safe from Khaddafi/Saddam type regime change in their location tucked up in China’s axilla.

    It has been pretty obvious since 1952/53 that no American president would launch a MacArthur type invasion nor would any PRC leadership let the Kim’s be supplanted by a ROK-aligned gov’t.

    In regards to the fallibility of even well-establish weapons due to poor intel, WOW! Have I got some stories about that. There was the ARV map that mistook a leper colony for a VC headquarters area. The results are still in my dreams.

  44. michael reynolds says:


    First, thank you.

    Second, you don’t think Kim has visions of cruise missiles flying in his window? I do, because in his place, I would. When the greatest military power on earth wants you dead, you’d have to be crazy not to worry.

    Let me put it this way: between us worrying that Kim will lob a rocket at LA and Kim worrying that there’s a US Air Force crosshairs on his forehead, I’d say Kim has the more realistic concern. Or turn it sideways: the leader of your local drug gang has told all his friends that your continued existence is intolerable. Now, maybe that doesn’t keep you up at night, but I’ll bet you check your locks carefully and buy a gun. And if you’re Kim that gun is nuclear. I think Kim has layers of paranoia – fear of a coup, fear of the Chinese, fear of us. Nukes – if Kim manages to survive until he has a decent force in place – solve all three.

    I think we should accept the reality that NK is and will remain a nuclear power, and will grow in capability. We need to find ways to buy the little bastard off diplomatically, and that has to start with a major stand-down from writing rhetorical checks we can’t cash. I don’t see a winning move for us, do you?

  45. JohnMcC says:

    Gosh! You’re welcome.

    No quarrel at all that NKorea is a nuclear power and the national doctrines and policies must make that their foundation. Trying to take the nukes away from them at this point is infinitely more horrible than almost anything I can think of.

    No quarrel about Kim’s reasonable fear (is it paranoia when they really are out to get you?). But you and I know that if we knew his airline schedule he would arrive safely at least at this point. And if he were unfortunately killed in an accident – I would suspect the Chinese more than the U.S.

    We’re all sitting in powder magazine with Zippo lighters in our hands.

  46. Teve tory says:

    @Matt: I have a degree in physics. I went to a private lecture one time by a guy who explained the basic details of how the bombs in the forties were made. A very little bit of the information was still classified, things like material opacity to neutrons. But the general gist of the hour-long lecture was, yeah once somebody has done this a few times it’s actually pretty easy to do. I disagree that the North Koreans have hydrogen bombs though, those are more sophisticated and harder to do.

  47. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @barbintheboonies: No but I do have a friend with cancer–liver and colon. 4 runs of Chemo, 2 surgeries, among the one percenters who have survived more than 3 years. No wishing involved. Some good fortune, though.

    My uncle also died just one month after I visited him in New Zealand 2 years ago. He had asbestosis and lung cancer and his tumor came raging back while I was visiting. But I was lucky in that I got to visit him while he was still feeling good after his radiation treatments, so I was lucky again. I wished a peaceful passing for him–something that it was possible for him to have. I was lucky again, and so were my cousins who related to me stories of how nice it was to hear stories and tributes from his friends in Turengi while he was receiving hospice care.

    My mom went into a coma and never woke up when they diagnosed her cancer. She passed peacefully also. So overall, I’ve been very lucky. And you’re right, I’m not a ray of sunshine on health issues. I expect it’s because I was sick with asthma for 55 years and have COPD left over from it for which treatment has been mediocre at best. Still, I’ve been pretty lucky for someone who doesn’t wish for much.

    Never was blessed with children. My mom raised me to believe that it would have been immoral to breed children who were genetically doomed to having defects. Maybe I was raised not to be a ray of sunshine. Who knows?

  48. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @JohnMcC: Spelling his name Jong-eun may help with the auto-correct demon, but it’s not very nice because women are more likely to spell it that way than men.

  49. JohnMcC says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: Thank you, my friend. It’s a pleasure to be here.

  50. wr says:

    @Guarneri: “I’ve been watching film clips of Bill Clinton telling us how his agreement with NK was a good deal, and how NK would cease their nuclear program. You mean he lied?”

    No. George W Bush violated that deal and NK restarted their program. Which has only been common knowledge for more than a decade.

    God, you’re stupid.

  51. Matt says:

    @michael reynolds: 1)Because that is what happens when you drop a large explosive device into a wedding, funeral, busy intersection etc. If we’d stop bombing targets that are in groups of people we’d stop causing collateral damage (aka dead civies). You’re the one who has been cheering this action on and whenever someone points out that innocents are killed you just gloss it over. It’s funny that you suddenly care about innocents now. It’s working perfectly as advertised. We can’t control explosions in real time so naturally others are getting wrecked too.

    2) Okay so you really think a freighter with a nuclear device is going to leave NK and head straight to a US port without anyone noticing? Christ almighty dude that’s pretty dumb. That freighter would be intercepted in international waters and not allowed any closer to the USA for MANY reasons outside of the nuke on it. Hell Russia tried to sneak one of their stealth nuke powered subs into the gulf and we still picked it up. Despite it hiding in a freighter’s echo and then submerging into rocky bottom of the gulf. It was always in international water so nothing we could do. The gulf of Mexico of course is probably the busiest body of water near the USA as it’s confined by land.

    You’re already starting to act like you did prior to throwing your full support behind the invasion of Iraq. I thought you had learned your lesson but here you are fear mongering again…

  52. Matt says:

    @gVOR08: It might have somewhat close to that range empty. That wasn’t the argument I was making. My point was the missile had no payload outside of a light diagnostic system. Just one nuclear warhead using NK’s tech will weight at least 500 Kg with most nuclear engineers pushing the estimate closer to 700 Kg. On top of that they need a re-entry vehicle that would survive (which they have yet to do) and that will add further weight to the missile. Our current main ICBM the minuteman III has a range of “at least 8100 miles” FULLY loaded with MIRV warheads that include the required re-entry vehicle and ecm/dummy stuff. I did find it kind of amusing/interesting that the exaggerated range of the NK missile just happened to be the same range as the only publicly released data on the MInuteman III

    NK’s missile would be lucky to hit Alaska once it’s fully weighed down. Assuming they ever figure out the re-entry aspect and actually miniaturize their nuclear design (which is of an OLD design that doesn’t miniaturize well).

    Once again such a missile would be easy pickings for our defense systems.

  53. Matt says:

    @Matt: I meant to mention that the Patriot system did quite well during the first gulf war. Despite the fact that there was a very VERY small window for intercept and the system wasn’t designed for that job (it’s a conventional SAM system not ABM). They did have some issues with targeting because the Scuds would break apart and tumble down which would then cause issues with trying to figure out which chunk of debris was the warhead.

    A NK ICBM on the other hand would be super easy to target since they have shit for ecm, dummies, and other anti-interception tech. The target would be clear and visible and the course plotted well before the missile even made it to the peak of it’s path. Hell it might even be shot down from japan if NK’s aren’t careful about the arc they use. If NK launched more than one missile you know damned well the US and allies in that area would start shooting at them.

    The Russians are pretty much the only ones capable of saturating our defense network and that was intentional as a concession to the Russians. It would of caused a great deal of unneeded tensions had we built a system capable of handling an attack by Russia.