US Should Bring Back and Forward Deploy the Theatre-level, Nuclear-Tipped, Tomahawk Land Attack Crui
A great deal has happened since my Friday blog post entitled “The World is Sleepwalking into a Preemptive Military Strike on North Korea.” On Saturday evening, after announcing that they had deployed Hydrogen bombs or thermonuclear warheads on Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), and were ready to carry out Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) attacks, North Korea set off a likely two-stage thermonuclear explosion at its Punggye-ri test facility. The yield on the underground thermonuclear test has been estimated at anywhere between 50-120 kilotons, with most analysis falling in the upper yield range. The test by all accounts was likely successful and demonstrated North Korea’s resolve to carry on in the face of US opposition and global condemnation. The US immediately restated their defense commitment to their Asian allies, and warned of a massive military response, if they, or their allies, were attacked by North Korea, invoking the US nuclear deterrent.
The UN Security Council held and emergency meeting on Monday with the US, France, UK, Japan and South Korea calling for action, and pushing further sanctions that would cut off North Korea’s oil flow, end their textile sales, and send their foreign laborers home. While, China and Russia condemned the North Korean action, they both blanched at further sanctions. As China and Russia are permanent members of the Security Council with veto power, it seems likely that the US will have to go economic sanctions alone, or just with its allies. To do so, likely means a trade war with China. But most analysis suggests that for the sanctions to start to hurt they would have to be in place for six months, and within two years North Korea is likely to field an effective nuclear strike capability that can target the US, Europe, or anyone else that the choose for that matter. Sadly, after 25 years of containment and economic sanctions, it must be abundantly clear to all, that further sanctions are useless in forcing Kim Jong-un and North Korea to give up their nuclear and long-range ballistic missile campaigns. If there is a dime left in the country, it goes to Kim Jong-un, the elite of the regime, the military and nuclear program first, and in that order, even if rest of the country starves.
Sanctions and further discussions give North Korea opportunity to perfect their thermonuclear capability and delivery systems. Since Saturday night’s thermonuclear test, South Korean intelligence has warned that the North has deployed another Hwasong-14 ICBM from its factory to the West of the country for launch over the Northern Pacific Ocean, and again over Japan. As well, South Korea has warned that the North is prepared to conduct a seventh nuclear test, even as Chinese scientists have warned that the Hermit Kingdom’s mountain test site could implode. Lastly, leaving little to the imagination, North Korea dispatched a delegation to cash-flush Iran for likely discussions about the Kim regime’s nuclear and ballistic missile successes and its almost certain future sale of technology to the Islamic Republic of Iran. There is little doubt that the moment that North Korea succeeds in perfecting its nuclear strike force that they will sell the very same technology and weaponry to Iran. Thanks to the Obama administration’s so-called ‘nuclear deal’ and the removal of sanctions on the Islamic Republic that Iran will have all the cash it needs to buy it and then some from their North Korean partners.
As it stands now, the US and its allies are stuck with accepting the new reality of a nuclear-armed North Korea with missiles that can reach the US and bust cities, or carrying out pre-emptive strikes on the North Korean regime to prevent what is now and unchecked, the inevitable. We are now at a crossroads, if the Trump administration follows its predecessors’ policy or policies on North Korea, this at the very least ends in failure, and at the very most burned out devastated cities throughout the American heartland. If it pursues a military option, admittedly they are not great, it deals with North Korea now before it gets any stronger, and thanks to missile defense, in real terms, Kim Jong-un can only hurt the North’s neighbors.
As a first step to deciding on a strategic option, deterrence and defense or preemptive/preventative attack, the Trump administration might consider bringing back the theatre-level, nuclear-tipped, Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missiles out of retirement, and deploy them on their relatively invulnerable, nuclear-powered attack submarine fleet as a means of giving their enemies pause. It would not violate any treaty, nor would the US require allied permission subject to nuclear blackmail for deployment. Nuclear-armed Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missiles are without a doubt a first strike, even preemptive strike weapon, that will leave potential US ‘rogue’ state opponents with little room for error, and even more remote chances of survival, in any strategic miscalculation. This interim step would also give China pause in its efforts to militarize and seize the South China Sea, and Russia pause for thought and reconsideration of its violations of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty in Europe.
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