As North Korea readies its new Taepodong-2 missile for a possible flyover of the U.S. mainland, administration officials are expediting their intense diplomatic efforts to calm the serious crisis that could very well lead to a nuclear confrontation between the two countries. At the same time, it is just as likely that the Pentagon is dusting off its contingency plans and mobilizing appropriate forces to be used if diplomatic efforts fail.
These frenzied actions come as most of the world and the American public remain completely unaware of the extremely serious nature of the situation that is quickly evolving. While major news organizations are covering the story as just another skirmish in the longstanding dispute between the countries, there is a general lack of understanding of what may actually be taking place. The Pentagon, the White House and the State Department have taken a low-key approach in their comments to the nation’s press while using extremely strong diplomatic language that is reserved for only the most serious national security events.
The Taepodong-2 missile is generally believed to have an estimated range of 2,175 to 2,670 miles. Other estimates put its range at striking distance of all major U.S. cities. In fact, U.S. military intelligence believes a two-stage Taepodong-2 missile could reach the United States, while a three-stage Taepodong-2 could range the entire continental United States.
The intensified rhetoric that is coming out of North Korea over the last few days seems devoid of any diplomatic reasonableness. On the official website of the country, there are blunt and extremely threatening statements best characterized as being provocative (a term the State Department prefers) and downright reckless at worst. Here’s a sampling:
KPA Air Force Command Warns against U.S. Ceaseless Military Provocations
Pyongyang, June 16 (KCNA) – The Air Force Command of the Korean People’s Army released today the following report on the ceaseless military provocation perpetrated by the U.S. imperialist warmongers: The U.S. imperialist warmongers committed one more military provocation by infiltrating a strategic reconnaissance plane into the sky above the DPRK’s economic waters on June 16.
At around 8:00 Friday an “RC-135″ of the U.S. imperialist aggression forces illegally intruded into the sky above the waters of the DPRK east of Chongjin, Hwadae and Riwon and spied on its strategic targets for hours, being refueled in the midair.
The ceaseless illegal intrusions of their strategic reconnaissance planes on spy missions have created an imminent danger of military clash in the sky above those waters.
The KPA Air Force warns them once again that should those planes persist in their reckless air espionage despite its repeated warnings, they will not be able to escape the same end as that of a tiger moth fated to perish in the flames, and the responsibility for that will wholly rest with the U.S. imperialist warmongers.
U.S. Chiefly to Blame for Nuclear Proliferation
Pyongyang, June 15 (KCNA) – The former head of the U.N. team for the inspection of weapons in Iraq, the general director of the IAEA and others expressed serious apprehension as to the potential danger of a new global nuclear arms race due to the U.S. wrong attitude. Commenting on this, Rodong Sinmun Thursday says:
“This assessment made by experts on the disarmament issue clearly proves that the U.S. is chiefly responsible for harassing global peace and stability and posing a nuclear threat and a kingpin of nuclear proliferation.”
Accusing the U.S. war-like forces of putting spurs to the development and production of smaller nukes and the militarization of space in a bid to use nuclear weapons as conventional weapons, seized by nuclear hysteria, the news analyst goes on:
“The U.S. is chiefly to blame for the proliferation of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction.”
It has transferred nuclear substance to its allies or actively helped them produce nuclear weapons in contravention of international convention. It transferred nuclear weapons-grade enriched uranium to South Korea and Israel and encouraged Japan to stockpile plutonium, shutting eyes to it. The U.S. blamed other countries which posed no problem, while sidestepping those issues that should be called into question. It applied sanctions and put pressure upon them and even referred them to the U.N. under the absurd charge of being “nuclear criminals” for the mere reason that they incurred its displeasure. These are unpardonable crimes.
The U.S., the world’s biggest nuclear weapons state, has applied unjust double standards over the nuclear issue, hindering the implementation of the NPT, fostering nuclear arms race and compelling non-nuclear states to bolster nuclear deterrent.
The U.S. evermore undisguised nuclear war moves serve as a catalyst accelerating the global nuclear arms race and creating the danger of a thermo-nuclear war.
The U.S. has neither justification nor face to talk about other’s “nuclear issue” as it is the most ferocious nuclear criminal and the arch criminal gravely threatening human existence and civilization.
It should lend an ear to the unbiased international voices and stop its reckless moves to start a nuclear war and foster the nuclear arms race before talking about the non-existent “nuclear threats” from other countries.
And, on Sunday the website carried a statement that North Korea threatened to “mercilessly wipe out U.S. forces in case of war. …”
Clearly, there are many serious problems in North Korea, perhaps the most basic of which is an ability to rationally comprehend the implications of its leader’s often-bellicose statements and unsettling actions. It would appear that North Korea does not foresee any serious military reaction that would come from the United States should its missile, armed or not, flyover American territory. The administration has gone as far to say that it was considering use of its uncompleted anti-missile defense system to shoot down any such missile, a clear indication of its assignment that such an act would indeed be tantamount to an act of war by the North Koreans.
Perhaps the North Koreans believe that since no military consequences accrued after their August 1998 launch of a missile over Japan that landed in the Pacific, the U.S. would also stand idly by while it sent this latest missile over America. Although the 1998 incident caused a diplomatic crisis, the Japanese took no military action. North Korea declared a moratorium on flight tests of long-range missiles in 1999 but said in 2005 that it would no longer keep to it.
This time, Japan has already told the North Koreans that any such flyover of its country would be considered a hostile act and Japan would have to “respond harshly.”
The U.S. has taken an even sterner diplomatic stance with the administration stating that “all options are on the table,” a term usually reserved for pending military action. The United States has even taken the unprecedented action of having the State Department contact the North Koreans directly, something heretofore unheard of, to state in unequivocal terms the serious consequences of such a launch, calling it a “serious provocation.”
The Pentagon has also positioned satellites and a U.S. guided missile ship into contingency positions to serve as surveillance and tracking assets. There are already substantial forces arrayed within striking distance of North Korea including naval vessels, heavy bombers capable of carrying nuclear warheads and thousands of well-armed troops stationed in South Korea. The U.S. also has a very robust nuclear-weapon deterrent inventory aboard submarines, surface ships and with its vast array of intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles that would assure the annihilation of North Korea should it wish to press the issue.
North Korea has directed its people to “hoist the national flag and watch a state message on television on Sunday afternoon,” the purpose of which has not been elaborated on. North Korea has repeatedly said it was “entitled and justified” to launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack against the United States.
America’s population and infrastructure are completely unprepared for withstanding a nuclear attack, even a limited one. There is no civil-defense program, no extensive stocks of supplies including necessities such as food, water and medical supplies, and no fallout shelters that would provide crucial protection for the early survivors of a nuclear attack. A recent report found our health-care system completely unprepared to cope with even a relatively minor national emergency.
As evidenced by the recent port fiasco that caused an uproar and promises of DP World divesting itself of its recently acquired American ports (which it still has not done many months later) and Congress enacting a “Safe Ports” bill that was recently gutted by elimination of all funding for overseas inspections of cargo containers for nuclear weapons and materials, the country’s civil defense is in complete shambles.
A comprehensive Civil Defense Improvement Act has been proposed, but not one elected official has come forward to support such legislation. Most members of Congress along with other top officials would be safely whisked away to secure, well-fortified and well-stocked government bunkers in a crisis, while the general population would be left to completely fend for itself. Obviously, there is little official incentive to move any program forward that would enhance the public’s safety during a nuclear attack. Critics of FEMA have described that as being a “national disgrace.”
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Robert Pfriender is the founder and president of Allied International Development, Ltd., a privately held real estate development and construction management firm located on Long Island, N.Y.