Perhaps Kim-Jong-Il got jealous of all the attention on Iran over the last couple of days and, in classic narcissist style, decided to throw a tantrum of nuclear proportions. Pyongyang threatened South Korea with a nuclear attack, alleging that the US has moved a thousand nuclear warheads onto the peninsula and has begun moving nukes into Japan as well:
North Korea has warned of a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula while vowing to step up its atomic weapons programme in defiance of new UN sanctions.
Today’s Rodong Sinmun, a state-run North Korean newspaper, claimed the US has 1,000 nuclear weapons in South Korea. Another state-run publication claimed that America had been deploying nuclear weapons in Japan as well.
North Korea “is completely within the range of US nuclear attack and the Korean peninsula is becoming an area where the chances of a nuclear war are the highest in the world”, the Tongil Sinbo said.
A spokesman at the US military command in Seoul dismissed the claims as “baseless”, saying Washington had no nuclear bombs in South Korea. US tactical nuclear weapons were removed from the country in 1991 following the cold war.
We moved those weapons out of the Korean Peninsula when events made them unnecessary. However, that may change. Pyongyang admitted for the first time that they have begun processing enriched uranium, as a parallel program to plutonium develpment, which the US and its allies have long suspected. North Korea has declared that it will pursue nuclear weapons with abandon, which would force the US to stage nukes itself in South Korea and/or Japan as a deterrent.
It would return us to a mutually-assured destruction (MAD) standoff, just as in the Cold War, but one side would truly be mad — or at least pathologically self-absorbed.
With these statements, we should expect the US to enthusiastically enforce the UN sanctions applied last week after Kim’s nuclear test and missile launches. Will Barack Obama order an aggressive policy of interdiction on North Korean shipping, as well as a return of North Korea to the list of terrorist-supporting nations? If Obama expects Kim to come back to the bargaining table with any intention of compliance, we will have to hit Kim where it hurts — on the few exports North Korea can sell.