We’re used to blood curdling propaganda from Pyongyang, but an American president using the same kind of language – ‘fire and fury’ – is a new departure. The threat of nuclear war in East Asia is suddenly alarmingly close.
But before this hysterical rhetoric reaches a climax, Western leaders must consider what history and strategic analysis teaches us about how to avoid calamity – or how best to contain it.
The devastating nature of the first Korean War in 1950-53 is a warning of the huge costs of a second, which could also drag in countries as close as Japan, as remote as Britain or as reluctant as China.
The options Washington is considering, range from the tried-and-trusted – to the once unthinkable.
Option 1: A Limited Strike
In 1994, President Clinton considered using strategic bombers to attack North Korea’s nuclear facilities before an atomic weapon could be produced.
Then, as now, the US had a range of airbases in South Korea, Japan and Guam from which to strike, with B1 bombers and cruise missiles plus its fleet of nuclear aircraft carriers, each with more attack planes than the entire RAF.
President Donald Trump has vowed any threat to the U.S. will be met with ‘fire and fury like the world has never seen’
Clinton decided against military action because of fears North Korea’s huge ground force would wreak havoc across the South Korean border. A major war would be needed to defeat it.
Today, North Korea is far better prepared to survive even a severe air attack by the US. Its nuclear forces are not sitting ducks. It has repeatedly deployed mobile launchers so it can move and hide missiles.
The newer North Korean solid-fuelled missiles can also be launched much more quickly than the older liquid-fuelled rockets. These developments make neutralising…