Seoul, South Korea. As the US and South Koreal conduct military exercises, the world’s military intelligence experts second guess what are the real red lines for the USA to actualy attack North Korea. Suprisingly the real reason will fit in the palm of your hand.
The present crisis with Kim Jong-Un of North Korea is a case of size really does matter in nuclear arms. The almost constant American media misrepresentation of the standoff between Pyongyang and the US over the former’s expanding nuclear program is as a “new Cuban Missile Crisis.”
Back then resolution was perilous, quick, and a decisive outcome almost immediately reached under conditions of unbearable pressure. None of this describes what is likely to happen over North Korea. This analytical mistake is far from trivial. For if the rhythm of an event is not understood, the very policy options put forward as solutions are likely to be woefully lacking, and not fit for purpose given that the true nature of the present crisis has a very different nature or character to it.
In the Cuban situation, the missiles that would destabilise the strategic balance between the US and USSR were set to be operational in days, if not in hours. In the case of North Korea, experts estimate the country is several years away-maybe by 2020 from succeeding in miniaturising its nuclear devices and placing them on an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).
This type of technological breakthrough would enable Pyongyang to strike the west coast of the United States with nuclear weapons whenever it wants to, as it already now can strike Japan and South Korea.
This is the true red line, the moment when the geostrategic calculations of the United States would be decisively upended. President Trump has stated this capability will be totally unacceptable. However, the key understanding time gives us is that it is, unlike in Cuba, not going to happen tomorrow.
What we are seeing now is grand scale political theatre, but should North Korea somehow come into posession of those tiny nuclear triggers-and some actually did get away and were found in an Estonian bank vault in 1993, we all may find the nuclear clock straight up at midnight with no further notice.