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Nuclear North Korea
U.S. Says North Korea Is Capable of Nuking Japan

North Korea has the ability to launch nuclear warheads on its short and medium-range missiles—projectiles capable of hitting both South Korea and Japan. That’s the consensus view of South Korea and the U.S. intelligence community. From the New York Times:

The assessment of the North’s new capabilities is not based on direct evidence from inside its nuclear program, senior officials said, but draws on intelligence gleaned from high-level defectors, analysis of propaganda images and data collected from North Korean missile and nuclear tests, which have accelerated over the past six months.

While some intelligence agencies suggested as early as 2013 that the North had learned enough about rocket engineering and the miniaturization of nuclear warheads to mount one on a shorter-range missile, there is a new consensus and greater confidence in that view in both Washington and Seoul, the officials said.

Given the years of research North Korea has devoted to the program, experts do not consider the conclusion particularly surprising. But the politics of the assessment, which means the North can target American bases in South Korea and Japan, are delicate, both in the region and in the midst of a presidential election in the United States.

So this is what a failed nuclear accord looks like. It is also a reminder that diplomatic accords do not themselves enforce norms so much as serve as proof of the acceptance of those norms by the involved parties. As Adam Garfinkle has written, “You can’t affect the position of a shadow by doing things to the shadow; arms control negotiations are the shadows, and strategic realities cast them.” North Korea, which was never properly confronted as it repeatedly violated the terms of its earlier deal, has clearly made its own calculations about what it can get away with.

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  • Andrew Allison

    This couldn’t possibly be the reason that THAAD is going to S. Korea could it [snark]?

  • Ann in L.A.

    Never forget the leftist-sainted Jimmy Carter’s role in this. Clinton was taking a hard line, Carter didn’t like it, so he hopped on a plane and headed for NK, then cut a deal on his own which Clinton felt forced to swallow.

    • CosmotKat

      Is that an excuse or just another reality of Democrat geopolitics in action. JCPOA anyone?

  • Jim__L

    “You can’t affect the position of a shadow by doing things to the
    shadow; arms control negotiations are the shadows, and strategic
    realities cast them.”

    That’s one of the deeper statements I’ve heard about international relations. Obama is mucking about with shadow puppets (exercising “soft power”) while the hard power, the actual light and darkness, is neglected.

    • vb

      This also reflects much European thinking.

  • Bucky Barkingham

    Question: If KJU launched a nuclear armed missle at tack on Japan would Obama retaliate with an attack on the Hermit Kingdom?

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