Kim Jong-"Licensed to"-il; fireworks in the sky
July 4, 2006 2:16 PM   Subscribe

Newsfilter: North Korea tests at least two smaller missiles, and one long-range which was unsuccessful, failing in flight. Bush says last week: "Should they launch a missile, that will cause various -- we would apply various pressures. ... I believe it is best that I do not discuss what specific pressures we were talking about."
posted by nitsuj (65 comments total)

 
i hate it when bad feelings pan out.
posted by RTQP at 2:20 PM on July 4, 2006


4th of July distraction. *gets more potato salad and a hotdog*
posted by alteredcarbon at 2:21 PM on July 4, 2006


Ours was bigger.
posted by 2sheets at 2:29 PM on July 4, 2006


N. Korea didnt launch a long range missile today.

And our Shuttle when up successfully! (sigh of relief)
posted by BillsR100 at 2:29 PM on July 4, 2006


"... I believe it is best that I do not discuss what specific pressures we were talking about." -Bush

He's not what you'd call a quick study, but I bet he'll eventually get it, if he gets enough NATO leaders calling him. He's called out a column of driver ants, and now it's time to see if he can steer 'em away from our house.

Lesson plan for the Shrub: Driver ants and North Korean schizoids are nasty...
posted by paulsc at 2:33 PM on July 4, 2006


Nothing will be done militarily. Unlike Iraq, the DPRK has the known capacity to drop a nuke on major US bases in ROK.

See what happens when you *actually* have weapons of mass destruction?
posted by jaduncan at 2:33 PM on July 4, 2006


Like Rob Corddry, I thoroughly enjoy the fact the Korean missile is a Type "O" Dong.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:35 PM on July 4, 2006


It is worth noting that there is no international law that forbids North Korea from carrying out such tests. As a sovereign state, they have as much right to do so as the United States, which has tested hundreds of long range missiles.
posted by sindark at 2:37 PM on July 4, 2006


Wait--what about our magical anti-missile systems that could prevent something like this?

Oh, that's right--they don't work and/or exist.
posted by bardic at 2:38 PM on July 4, 2006


Bush is teaching the world that the way to stay safe is to build nukes. TEH Awsmo!
posted by Paris Hilton at 2:40 PM on July 4, 2006


The post: Bush says last week: "Should they launch a missile, that will cause various -- we would apply various pressures. ... I believe it is best that I do not discuss what specific pressures we were talking about."

The link: Said [Japanese PM Junichiro] Koizumi, through a translator: "Should they launch a missile, that will cause various -- we would apply various pressures. ... I believe it is best that I do not discuss what specific pressures we were talking about."
posted by Makoto at 2:42 PM on July 4, 2006


"Nothing will be done militarily. ..."
posted by jaduncan at 5:33 PM EST on July 4


If you think Trident missile subs aren't, right now, getting updated targeting packages delivered, and navigational fixes updated and checked, you're dreaming, jaduncan. I'd like to dream with you, but Bob McNamara knows this isn't any damn game any more. Let's hope no accidents ensue, nothing is misunderstood, nothing technical breaks at a bad time, in the next days and weeks.
posted by paulsc at 2:48 PM on July 4, 2006


I hear Seoul used to be a pretty large metropolis.
posted by bardic at 2:50 PM on July 4, 2006


"Bush said. "This is not the way you conduct business in the world. This is not the way that peaceful nations conduct their affairs."
What a guy
posted by D J Robertstein at 2:54 PM on July 4, 2006


"It should make people nervous when nontransparent regimes, that have announced that they've got nuclear warheads, fire missiles," Bush said. "This is not the way you conduct business in the world. This is not the way that peaceful nations conduct their affairs."

In other news, the Air Force successfully tested an unarmed Minuteman Three intercontinental ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base last month.
posted by chef_boyardee at 2:54 PM on July 4, 2006


A friend of mine compared military action against Iraq to throwing a rock at a hornet's nest, and military action against Iran and North Korea to throwing a rock at a car full of Crips. While all are bad ideas, the last two are significantly worse.
posted by mullingitover at 3:00 PM on July 4, 2006


Unlike say, India, Pakistan... etc. Ok, so we don't like N Korea, saying such is more honest than saying "This is not the way you conduct business in the world. This is not the way that peaceful nations conduct their affairs.", because, well that IS how peacefull nations conduct their affairs. Non peaceful countries go attack other countries for various thinly veiled non-valid excuses
posted by edgeways at 3:03 PM on July 4, 2006


While US policy towards the DPRK has been shit, even before Bush II managed to fuck it up even further, it does frustrate me that the countries with the most to lose or gain--China, South Korea, and Japan--don't seem to be doing all that much to take care of their unkempt and murderous neighbor.

It's gotten to the point where no US foreign policy is better than an absurd one, e.g., Iraq, where a US occupation is only heightening the power of fundamentalist Shia mullahs in Iran.
posted by bardic at 3:04 PM on July 4, 2006


paulsc writes "Let's hope no accidents ensue, nothing is misunderstood, nothing technical breaks at a bad time, in the next days and weeks."

Tom Clancy would agree. Yet in reality I hope there are more Stanislav Petrov around the world, willing not only to consider, but to remember that "leaders" around the world are more often wrong then not and shouldn't be taken at face value. Just shake fists and pretend you're fighting.
posted by elpapacito at 3:09 PM on July 4, 2006


I like how they fired a few 600km range missiles at the same time, just to remind the neighbours. Whoever came up with that one must feel pretty smug with himself.
posted by furtive at 3:10 PM on July 4, 2006


What can the neighbors do that won't get them nuked? They're stuck. What i can't believe is that we're not all negotiating.
posted by amberglow at 3:14 PM on July 4, 2006


If you think Trident missile subs aren't, right now, getting updated targeting packages delivered, and navigational fixes updated and checked, you're dreaming, jaduncan.

Well. I'd like to think that we could seperate items such as contingency planning, simulated wargames, target list updates and such from militarily doing something a la Iraq. An easy bright line is the complete lack of offensive action. Do you not agree?
posted by jaduncan at 3:44 PM on July 4, 2006


See, North Korea secretly LUUUUUUUUVs the USA. These are their fireworks for the 4th of July, they only disguise it as a "missile program" to keep their bad guy façade. Under his thick skin, Dear Leader is actually a sweet and kind snowflake.
posted by qvantamon at 3:54 PM on July 4, 2006


If I'm reading the Boston.com "developing story" alert correctly, they've launched at least three more missiles and are prepping more.
posted by schoolgirl report at 4:04 PM on July 4, 2006


Nothing will be done militarily. Unlike Iraq, the DPRK has the known capacity to drop a nuke on major US bases in ROK.

See what happens when you *actually* have weapons of mass destruction?
posted by jaduncan at 4:33 PM CST on July 4


Brilliant. Yet obvious. And kinda sad. And embarrassing.
posted by Ynoxas at 4:09 PM on July 4, 2006


CNN is now reporting White House sources as saying there have been six North Korean missile launches so far today, four/five Nodongs and two/one Taepodongs.

Here's two interesting informational links from one of the weblogs I read, Arms Control Wonk:
1) North Korean Ballistic Missiles
2) Can North Korea Put A Nuclear Weapon On a Taepodong 2?

IMHO, the current Administration has made the situation worse, particularly by abandoning the Agreed Framework negotiated back in 1994 by the previous Administration. Then again, I believe that the entire approach to the situation with North Korea taken by the US over the last fifteen years has been wrongheaded... after the 1992 elections in South Korea, there should have been a transition to placing Seoul in the lead and responsible for relations with Pyongyang, with Washington only in a supporting/backup role. Instead, right now we have the US and the South often working at cross-purposes and the US wanting to control inter-Korean relations (with rising anti-Americanism and resentment), and the situation is playing out as a "conflict between the North and the US" instead of a "negotiation between the North and the South" model which would be more beneficial for all involved.

But the Bush Administration is locked into its crazy 'axis of evil' rhetoric and politically dependent upon stoking fear of rogue regimes and terrahist threats.
posted by SenshiNeko at 4:09 PM on July 4, 2006


NHK TV is reporting 5 missiles. No Japanese TV station/ or any of the politicians will confirm what types.
posted by gomichild at 4:14 PM on July 4, 2006


"Do you not agree?"
posted by jaduncan at 6:44 PM EST on July 4


Military planners and diplomats don't think like normal people.

It's doctrine in most strategic and tactical circles that when an adversary takes visible, provocative actions, you not only react to those actions, but adopt a more aggressive posture all across your spectrum. That's to catch the opponent in any activities he may be conducting under cover of his attempt to misdirect your attention by a highly symbolic and public provocation. The load on the intelligence community goes up sharply, and the possibility for accident and further misunderstanding goes up in arenas far removed.

I wish there were an "easy bright line" to watch, that sabre rattling leaders on either side could not mistake, under the gaze of world opinion. But on the Korean peninsula, there isn't, always. As Robert McNamara has said about what he learned during his tenure as Secretary of Defense "In the end, it was luck. We were *this* close to nuclear war, and luck prevented it. "

We'd like to think we're somewhat removed from the hair trigger readiness of Cold War days, but our subs are out there, still, tonight, as are some young Americans on the edge of the Korean DMZ.

We need some luck in the coming days.
posted by paulsc at 4:14 PM on July 4, 2006


I'm now reporting that no less that 7, that's SEVEN, missiles were launched.

Just trying to steal the show.
posted by NewBornHippy at 4:21 PM on July 4, 2006


CNN says they can't aim really accurately, and one hit 600 miles off of Hokkaido.

They're purposely trying to get us to attack back, i think. Does Japan have nukes too?
posted by amberglow at 5:10 PM on July 4, 2006


I keep thinking of this. [previously on MeFi here.]

[and a young hae-chang flash on MeFi about MeFi here.]
posted by exlotuseater at 5:14 PM on July 4, 2006


No dongs.

lol
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:16 PM on July 4, 2006


it's our best friends forever Pakistan who helped North Korea go nuclear
posted by amberglow at 5:20 PM on July 4, 2006


ooo...i wonder if fireworks affect our radar?
posted by amberglow at 5:30 PM on July 4, 2006


OK. There are issues I have with comparing DPRK/ROK to McNamara era Cuba, as there are fundamental differences that make an accidental war far less likely on the Korean peninsula. I'm just going to state why I think this is so, feel free to disagree.

- Reasons Why Neither Side Will Start A Serious Shooting War In Korea -

The North Koreans: I will not attempt to analyse the possible motives of the DPRK, other then to avoid the internal collapse of the regime, and therefore of the Juche system.

First among these is the massive amount of landmines around the DMZ, meaning that no units can even have the possibility of crossing on to each foreign territory via land on their own initative. This route to war is therefore closed off. To do an invasion/incursion, you have to carpet bomb the border to clear a path. This is known by both sides, and so the only situation in which this is likely to be done is all out war. So not the first step then. Assuming they did start doing this, and that any conflict for the DPRK is magically guaranteed conventional, let's see how this turns out for the DPRK forces.

They have:
20 MiG, and about 8-900 other 70s-80s mainly Soviet planes. It should be noted that the country has a massive oil crisis, and many are likely unmaintained, or have been canibalised for parts.
1.08 million troops. This is a formidable number, but it should be noted that these men do not possess modern equipment in the main, or more crucially, modern C&C networks. There are shades of the Iraqi Army in Gulf War I here, and they got pasted.
55,000 special ops. These are well trained, well equipped (for task) troops, who do not face massive problems with C&C as they are designed to operate behind enemy lines in a semi-partisan role. These are likely to be a very effective constant irritation, but people doing asymmetrical warfare without support from the local population can only be an irritation, as they cannot shrink into that population to hide.

They would immediately face around half a million ROK troops armed with modern US supplied kit, the 17 thousand US troops that are already in the ROK, the ROK navy, and probable nuclear subs in the area. They would very soon face US troops from the Japanese bases also, and nigh-limitless air cover. While the DPRK has such a massively fortified country (photos on request) that it would be very easy for them to make an invasion costly beyond any reasonable cost for ROK/US, it is by no means certain that they would have the ability to hold the South Korean ground. One of the most crucial things here is the comparative industrial ability to provide ammunition that even *all* of a war-ruined Korea could provide compared to US forces. So, conventional war results in a massive loss, and probably a complete collapse of an already-on-the-deathbed internal economy.

A nuclear conflict also has no gain for them in power terms. Bear in mind that their nukes are the only thing in their locker: the conventional stuff is all somewhat outdated, representing the materiel that the USSR and PRC felt comfortable giving them, and was much the same carefully obsolete stuff the US give to second string allies. We can take it as read that a limited DPRK first nuclear strike of any kind would result in a massive retaliation on all sites where nukes were still suspected (suspected? Maybe just idly considered possible) to be stored, leaving the DPRK with no real assets to prevent further military response. This means they are faced again with a rather binary option of launching all they have, or having most of their nukes blown up within the DPRK. This is much the same dilemma that resulted in Soviet nuclear planning revolving around a full scale nuclear attack or nothing.

The major reason that this is so unpalatable to the DPRK when compared to Soviet military planners is that the Soviets had a chance of knocking out a significant percentage of the US nuclear arsenal. The DPRK has (unbelievably generously) 15 nuclear warheads. With this it can reliably level the ROK, and *might* be able to get a nuke on Japan. At this point it is faced with the US as main adversary, nuclear subs that each carry more warheads then the DPRK's entire arsenal, and no possibility of strike on that adversary. This means that a real nuclear war results in them being obliterated.

Why we won't start it: We are well aware that the DPRK know that their only real big card is the nuclear issue. This is what they see as their ticket to both continuing aid, and to avoiding invasion. For this reason, there is next to no chance of us attempting to strike at the only targets that we care about, the nuclear sites. The risk of a preventative missile strike being detected and causing the DPRK to launch the threatened missiles is far too high for the payoff. In addition, we would then face the scenario of having started a conflict where we were unaware that the DPRK had another warhead storage point we were unaware of. Also consider that this is highly likely given that DPRK political planners know that they face a massive disadvantage in an air war, and have no practical way to stop an air strike from a B2, for example. Given the massive concentration of troops on the border, we also would face the likely loss of ROK lives numbered in the hundreds of thousands in even a short conventional war. Any US or ROK president has to be aware that this is not likely to be massively loved by the people at home, and neither party wants to be involved in the massive, massive problem that would be administrating the DPRK as an entity even if all military forces on the Northern side were destroyed.

You note that you wish there was an easy bright line to watch, but neglect to note that in Korea, there is. Consider that the only open military conflict since the DMZ was created was the killing of Southern-based soldiers who had entered the DMZ to cut a tree down, with this being understood as part of the ritual, and with no meaningful response from either side. This is a highly formalised conflict, with both sides knowing that any major incursion over the DMZ would mean a full scale conflict, with neither side having anything to gain from that resumption. Terrifyingly well armed as it may be, there is a reason that the DMZ is the most stable active conflict military line in history.
posted by jaduncan at 5:51 PM on July 4, 2006 [4 favorites]


George W. Bush has turned the United States into the Dean Wormer of the world in 6 very long years.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
posted by any major dude at 6:04 PM on July 4, 2006


jaduncan, you put a lot of effort into that last post, and there are a lot of things in it with which I agree; but many of your assumptions are just that. Assumptions. And frankly, the only scenario you address that concerns me at the moment in light of today's events are the possibilities for actions being sparked off perhaps accidently along the DMZ, and the possibility that Pyongyang will mistake some surveillance or probe action from the U.S. or from our allies in the area as a direct provocation. A lot of outcomes of today could be bad, but I can't worry about them all, so I won't. But I'm not as sanguine as you that the North Koreans will stand pat and see what the U.S. does now.

What bothers me more is that there are a lot of people and groups in the world who will be encouraged against us by continued North Korean defiance, and emboldened. What worries me further is that, there may be movement of weapons and materials of serious nature out of North Korean hands, to other loosely allied parties. What worries me still further is that the intelligence "noise level" is now through the roof, and we weren't all that rock solid sure of what was happening all around us, before this.

Our leadership has managed to bring us, if not to the brink of a strategic abyss, then to the edge of a stinking, fetid swamp. Gators might get us, but mosquitoes carrying fever can be just as deadly.
posted by paulsc at 6:21 PM on July 4, 2006


jaduncan, you put a lot of effort into that last post, and there are a lot of things in it with which I agree; but many of your assumptions are just that. Assumptions. And frankly, the only scenario you address that concerns me at the moment in light of today's events are the possibilities for actions being sparked off perhaps accidently along the DMZ, and the possibility that Pyongyang will mistake some surveillance or probe action from the U.S. or from our allies in the area as a direct provocation. A lot of outcomes of today could be bad, but I can't worry about them all, so I won't. But I'm not as sanguine as you that the North Koreans will stand pat and see what the U.S. does now.

What bothers me more is that there are a lot of people and groups in the world who will be encouraged against us by continued North Korean defiance, and emboldened. What worries me further is that, there may be movement of weapons and materials of serious nature out of North Korean hands, to other loosely allied parties. What worries me still further is that the intelligence "noise level" is now through the roof, and we weren't all that rock solid sure of what was happening all around us, before this.

Our leadership has managed to bring us, if not to the brink of a strategic abyss, then to the edge of a stinking, fetid swamp. Gators might get us, but mosquitoes carrying fever can be just as deadly.
posted by paulsc at 6:23 PM on July 4, 2006


jaduncan, you put a lot of effort into that last post, and there are a lot of things in it with which I agree; but many of your assumptions are just that. Assumptions. And frankly, the only scenario you address that concerns me at the moment in light of today's events are the possibilities for actions being sparked off perhaps accidently along the DMZ, and the possibility that Pyongyang will mistake some surveillance or probe action from the U.S. or from our allies in the area as a direct provocation. A lot of outcomes of today could be bad, but I can't worry about them all, so I won't. But I'm not as sanguine as you that the North Koreans will stand pat and see what the U.S. does now.

What bothers me more is that there are a lot of people and groups in the world who will be encouraged against us by continued North Korean defiance, and emboldened. What worries me further is that, there may be movement of weapons and materials of serious nature out of North Korean hands, to other loosely allied parties. What worries me still further is that the intelligence "noise level" is now through the roof, and we weren't all that rock solid sure of what was happening all around us, before this.

Our leadership has managed to bring us, if not to the brink of a strategic abyss, then to the edge of a stinking, fetid swamp. Gators might get us, but mosquitoes carrying fever can be just as deadly.
posted by paulsc at 6:24 PM on July 4, 2006


Wow, sorry about the repeats! I'm not that desperate to discuss this.
posted by paulsc at 6:25 PM on July 4, 2006


George W. Bush has turned the United States into the Dean Wormer of the world in 6 very long years.

Does that mean North Korea's on double secret probation?
posted by kirkaracha at 7:37 PM on July 4, 2006


jaduncan - I think you're mostly right, but NK has shown that they're not always (usually?) rational actors in this scenario. I could see them doing something stupid like lobbing a single nuke at Japan because someone in their control structure is so deluded that they'll think the US will be so impressed and afraid of further retaliatory strikes that we'll back off and not want to escalate the situation.
posted by bshort at 8:14 PM on July 4, 2006


"Brilliant. Yet obvious. And kinda sad. And embarrassing." -posted by Ynoxas
Like sex with a fat clown.
Makoto is right about the quote, but ambiguity in the response from Bush is a problem. For example:
"And so one really interesting opportunity is to share and cooperate on missile defenses."
Doesn't have the same ring to it as:
We must be the great arsenal of democracy. For us this is an emergency as serious as war itself. We must apply ourselves to our task with the same resolution, the same sense of urgency, the same spirit of patriotism and sacrifice, as we would show were we at war.
In that same speech Roosevelt talks about recieving a telegram from people who don't want to hear about it.
One telegram, however, expressed the attitude of the ,small minority who want to see no evil and hear no evil, even though they know in their hearts that evil exists. That telegram begged me not to tell again of the ease with which our American cities could be bombed by any hostile power which had gained bases in this Western Hemisphere. The gist of that telegram was: "Please, Mr. President, don't frighten us by telling us the facts." Only now the rhetoric is from the other side whether for political expediancy or to cloak whatever machinations are occuring behind closed doors. It's appaling how opaque and desultory our politics and our government has become. Particularly when faced with what is an actual potential threat.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:14 PM on July 4, 2006


"They're purposely trying to get us to attack back, i think. Does Japan have nukes too?"

Jeez, amberglow. Asking that question obliterates your credibility about foreign policy beyond any hope of rescue. Wow.

As to jaduncan and paulsc's discussion, I mostly agree with jaduncan. But not entirely—and I think that paulsc's point about decision-making in North Korea is very important.

For example, look at what we now know about Hussein during the run-up to and the beginning of the war. He had basically deluded himself, and allowed his subordinates to delude him and themselves, about pretty much everything. His decision making process wasn't very rational (other than in trying to convince the US that he didn't have a WMD program) both intrinsically and as a result of being built upon falsehoods.

It's important to realize that dictators' comprehension of the world is usually deeply skewed to the point of delusion. You cannot expect them to act as rational self-interested actors—at the very least not according to conventional notions of "self-interest".

(Note that post Stalin and Mao, those two great nuclear authoritarian regimes have not been ruled by anything comparable to a single dictator. There are competing interests with real power and thus they have acted much more as rational self-interested actors. This absence of true dictators is the case in every other nuclear regime with only the exception of North Korea, though Pakistan is arguable.)

Furthermore, although this has become a cliche, I really don't think it's possible to overestimate both how desperate the situation in North Korea has become and just how megalomaniacal Kim Il Sung certainly was and Kim Jong Il most likely (but not as certainly) is.

Personally, I tend to think that all this sabre-rattling is mostly rational. North Korea is in dire straits and, given the posture if cannot abandon, must twist the arms of the rest of the world to help it on its own terms and not theirs. That's what it's doing. It doesn't want war any more than anyone else.

All that said, if any of us actually had any responsibility for US strategic policy with regard to the possibility of a country like North Korea having missiles that could place nukes on US soil, then we'd be horribly negligent not to take such a possibility very, very, very seriously and do everythign we can to prevent it. That's just the way it is. The stakes are too high.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:21 AM on July 5, 2006


(they just launched number 7 btw)
posted by gomichild at 1:57 AM on July 5, 2006


Like Rob Corddry, I thoroughly enjoy the fact the Korean missile is a Type "O" Dong.

The annoying thing about that being is that 'tae' (태-) is pronounced like 'tay-' not 'ty-', which ruins the joke if you speak any Korean at all.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:06 AM on July 5, 2006


being is are do will.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:07 AM on July 5, 2006


Amberglow,

"Does Japan have nukes too?"

Nope. Just the United States (5,735 active warheads), Britain (~200), France (350), Russia (5830), China (130), India (~100), Pakistan (~75), North Korea (5?), and Israel (?).

That said, if anyone could build a nuclear weapon very quickly, it's the Japanese. They have everything they need to produce fissile material and more than enough technical know-how.
posted by sindark at 3:45 AM on July 5, 2006


Japan has been working on a missile development plan though since the first NK test missile went over us in 1998.
posted by gomichild at 4:03 AM on July 5, 2006


Japan has been working on a missile development plan though since the first NK test missile went over us in 1998.

The Japanese M-5 space booster is, for all intents and purposes, an ICBM. Indeed, it looks very much as if the Japanese either bought the design or copied the LGM-118 Peacekeeper ICBM, better known as the MX. It has been built and flight tested as a space booster, with one failure in six flights, and the last flight launching three payloads -- which means "MIRV" in weapon terms.

In general, any nation able to launch satellites is able to build ICBMs -- if you can put 100kg into orbit, you can put more into an almost-orbit using the same booster. Most space boosters, however, aren't effective long term strategic weapons, they're too slow to ready and too fragile.

The M-5 isn't. It would easily fit into a silo, and with solid fuel, it would be easy to keep ready for quick launch.

I can't speak to Japan's current nuclear weapon status -- but you have to assume, given Japan's huge nuclear power infrastructure (some 40% of the total electrical production of Japan is nuclear) and Japan's techincal abilities in chemistry, machining and physics, that Japan is no more than one year from a functional weapon, and most of that would be fuel processing.

If Japan is sitting on a cache of U235 or Pu239, they could have a workable weapon in days. Other than the fissionables, you need clever machining, fast detonators, and engineering knowhow, and Japan has all of that, and how. It wouldn't be the most optimal weapon (give them a few more weeks) but it would work. They certainly know all the picky details of machining uranium and plutonium, and they're masters at timed explosive chains. I'll bet that there's been more than one bored researcher who's worked up exactly how to build the thing in his spare time, and truth to tell, building nuclear weapons isn't that hard, once you have the fissionables.

Indeed, I consider three nations -- Japan, Canada, and Germany -- as "Nuclear in all but doing." All have everything you need to make multistage nuclear weapons quickly -- fissionables, tech and delivery systems (or the ability to create such quickly.)

Of those, though, Japan is by far the closest in terms of delivering a real weapon (that is, a nuclear device able to be placed onto a target quickly.) The biggest part of that is the boosters they already have and the nuclear power infrastructure in place.
posted by eriko at 5:30 AM on July 5, 2006


Wow. Japan has no nuclear weapons because we're the only country in the world that has ever had them actually dropped on us. Two of them, in fact. Ever heard of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? I'm surprised so many people here don't seem to know this. Technically, sure, Japan might be able to build nuclear weapons, but emotionally, it can't because those two cities are still the torchbearers for international nuclear disarmament. It's a complicated issue.
posted by misozaki at 6:01 AM on July 5, 2006


The NATO nuclear sharing program means that we could say Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey also have nukes.
posted by Hubajube at 6:37 AM on July 5, 2006


"The annoying thing about that being is that 'tae' (태-) is pronounced like 'tay-' not 'ty-', which ruins the joke if you speak any Korean at all."

Thankfully, I don't speak Korean - so it's still funny to me, mister spoilsport.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:52 AM on July 5, 2006


thanks sindark and eriko and most others.

(and you're flagged again, EB--stop the insults or go away)

We all know about Hiroshima and Nagasaki--what we need to know is what Japan can do -- as deterrent so North Korea doesn't actually hit them, or in retaliation. It's not like we have any kind of stable situation going on, or a strong UN, or detente anymore.
posted by amberglow at 7:08 AM on July 5, 2006


There's a strong streak of anti-American pacificism is both Japan and South Korea, which pretty much ensures (IMO) that the US has no valid strategy for dealing with the DPRK. I've met South Koreans who actually think Bush is more of a threat to their lives than Kim Jong-Il is--rather insane, I realize, but the violent 20th century histories of the region makes for strange bedfellows. There's no love lost between Koreans and Japanese, but they kind of unite and rally around anti-American, or more precisely, anti-American government/Bush/military (any military) sentiment.

NPR had some interesting commentary this morning, from I forget whom. Basically, what DPRK wants is the normaliziation of relationships with the US in terms of economic and military issues, and they're looking over at Iran and seeing how having WMD's, or being in the process of building them, gets you all sorts of nice things, including civilian nuclear plants (power is desperately short in DPRK, as others have noted).

So, a clusterfuck all around. Things have gotten so bad that I can imagine a US envoy telling China, Japan, and South Korea that it's time they took care of their deranged little neighbor--since the US' military power is not an option (the South Koreans and Japanese would pitch a fit, the Chinese would also consider it a threat), all it can do is make people more worried in the region. Take the US hand off the table and force Asian nations to come up with their own solution, i.e., call the bluff of the Asian pacifists--fine, you don't want us here any longer, you go ahead and take care of this lil Juche problem you've ignored for decades.
posted by bardic at 9:34 AM on July 5, 2006


"(and you're flagged again, EB--stop the insults or go away)"

This announcing when you flag needs to stop. It's childish. And it wasn't an insult. It was a statement of fact. Japan not only doesn't have nukes and it's politically unthinkable that they would, but the very famous Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution says:
Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.
This was added under the influence of the Occupation after WW2, but it later became a key part of the modern Japanese national consciousness, and still is. There has been debate about it in the last few years, but it is still supported by the majority of the Japanese.

This is not unlike, in terms of national sentiment, what has been true in Germany since WW2, as well. And it's still true. These are now deeply pacifist countries. The idea of either of them having a nuclear weapons program in these terms alone is absurd.

But not only that, there is the regional political context within which they exist. While both nations are now deeply pacifist, they are also, decades later, still enormously distrusted by their neighbors and either one of them pursuing a nuclear program would destablize their regions and many nearby countries would go batshit insane, especially in the case of Japan.

It is hard to imagine that anyone who thinks themselves aware enough of foreign affairs to comment on them as often as you do could be ignorant of these facts. They form a huge part of the modern world's geopolitics.

Yes, it is true that both countries (but I'd say especially Japan), were they to decide to do so, could have nuclear weapons in a very short matter of time—far, far more easily and quickly than any other non-nuclear nation in the world. But that's beside the point. Neither country will do so unless the world changes dramatically from what it is today; and if this were to happen, every person would know about it. North Korea has had missiles capable of hitting Japan for years now, and has had nuclear weapons for years now. The current situation, from Japan's standpoint, is nothing new.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:05 AM on July 5, 2006


The current situation, from Japan's standpoint, is nothing new.

Well it is rather new for them to be launching them. Hence the atonished reaction here.
posted by gomichild at 11:24 AM on July 5, 2006


Ethereal Blich, Japan's passivism is a very interesting topic, and I certainly don't know anything much about popular opinion in that nation, but..

It doesn't take much searching to find that Japan does maintain a standing army/navy/air force, and has done for decades. Further, you probably know well the debate over Japan's participation in the Iraq war, which could be construed as an offensive action.

As for Japan's nuclear capability... Federation of American Scientists:
During the Sato cabinet in the 1960's, it is reported that Japan secretly studied the development of nuclear weapons. On 17 June 1974, Japanese Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata told reporters that "it's certainly the case that Japan has the capability to possess nuclear weapons but has not made them." This remark aroused widespread concern in the international media at that time.
I read an article a couple of years ago that goes as far as claiming that Japan maintains complete nuclear weapons in a disassembled state (of course I have no idea how reliable the claim is, and I can't find the source, oh well). I wonder what happened on April 9, 1984..

Since we are on the subject of ambiguous nuclear capabilities, check out Embarrassing Find:
UN nuclear inspectors just caught close U.S. ally South Korea enriching small amounts of plutonium and uranium to weapons grade.
posted by Chuckles at 11:46 AM on July 5, 2006


"Well it is rather new for them to be launching them. Hence the atonished reaction here."

No, they launched the Nodong-1 into the Sea of Japan in '93 and the Taepodong-1 over Japan in '98, then signed the moratorium with Japan. So it's not new, but it is a resumption after a long quiet.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:47 AM on July 5, 2006


Chuckles, my guess is that the widely agreed upon quick capability of the Japanese to produce a bomb probably involves some astute assumptions (or intelligence) about their readiness to do so, were they ever to decide that they needed to. If I were them, I'd maintain a (supersecret) capability. We are, after all, looking at the inevitable rise of China as a true superpower. The long-term strategic situation for Japan is likely to change quite a bit from what it is today. Don't you think?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:53 AM on July 5, 2006


Well it is rather new for them to be launching them. Hence the atonished reaction here.

Not really..
1984: North Korea successfully tests its first reverse-engineered Scud-B missile.
1990: North Korea successfully tests a Scud-C missile, hitting targets off North Korea's eastern coast from a base in the Kangwon Province
1993: North Korea successfully tests the Nodong missile to a range of about 500km.
May 1997: North Korea tests its AG-1 cruise missile. A Pentagon official downplays the threat, saying that it uses "unimpressive, old technology" from Russian Styx and Chinese Silkworm missiles.
August 1998: North Korea tests a nuclear-capable Taepo Dong-1 missile. The missile flies over northern Japan and lands in the Pacific Ocean.
September 1998: North Korea announces that the recent test of a Taepo Dong missile was actually a launch to deploy a satellite.
September 1998: The U.S. State Department admits that North Korea did attempt to orbit a satellite as it had claimed, but failed. A three-stage Taepo Dong rocket was launched, but the satellite fell into the Pacific still attached to the third stage.
Looking back, I wonder if it was a satellite, that would imply some pretty impressive capabilities. Perhaps those later statements were just diplomatic games.. Here is wikipedia's article on North Korean missile tests, which appears to include at least one incident that occurred after the end of the first link's timeframe.

The capabilities are progressing, of course, but astonishingly slowly.
posted by Chuckles at 12:05 PM on July 5, 2006


We are, after all, looking at the inevitable rise of China as a true superpower. The long-term strategic situation for Japan is likely to change quite a bit from what it is today. Don't you think?

I have no idea.. I definately think it makes sense to penetrate the propaganda with some realism though. For example, here is an interesting AskMe about the China issue, Chinese Militarism. Also, a Gwynne Dyer article I linked in that question, Bogeyman China:
The CIA frets that China could have a hundred nuclear missiles targeted on the United States by 2015, but that is actually evidence of China's great restraint. The first Chinese nuclear weapons test was forty years ago, and by now China could have thousands of nuclear warheads targeted on the US if it wanted. (The United States DOES have thousands of nuclear warheads that can strike Chinese targets.)
...
The Beijing regime is obsessed with economic stability, because it fears that a severe downturn would trigger social and political upheaval. The last thing it wants is a military confrontation with its biggest trading partner, the United States. It will go on playing the nationalist card over Taiwan to curry domestic political favour, but there is no
massive military build-up and no plausible threat of impending war in East Asia.
posted by Chuckles at 12:20 PM on July 5, 2006


Oh, I too am skeptical of how much the US and China may actually clash in the coming decades. But my point was not about China vis a vis the US, but China vis a vis Japan.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:45 PM on July 5, 2006


Japan could have a nuke tomorrow. But, given they’re one of the strongest influences on the world economy, and given they’re strong allies and trade partners with the U.S., why do they need one? They can maintain a defensive, nearly pure pacifist strategy as long as the U.S. is willing to knock the crap out of anyone that seriously threatens them. Does anyone think Koizumi flew over just to karaoke some Elvis tunes? I’m sure the first words out of his mouth off the plane were along the lines of “You’re going to cover us if these nuts decide to after us, right?” And though Bush was mewling vague politician “rah rah us, they suck” speech, words from the Admin like “linchpin of American security policy in the region” make pretty clear the U.S. position.

Is China using NKorea as a stalking horse? I dunno. But instability now threatens everyone. And I agree with the above comment(s) - Kim Jong Il is desperate. So aid could come from China, perhaps funneled through from Japan and the U.S. without anyone losing face. But that’s if anyone is sitting at the table and the US state department can avoid BushCo worrying about their dicks being too short and having to play the heavy to compensate. Meh, I’m optimistic there. I just wish the American people were plugged in and weren’t being told facile platitudes like every terrorist = every other terrorist = every country that is belligerant. We’ve proven we can deal with nuance (FDR). But it’s just not happening anymore. That scares me more than N. Korea.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:42 PM on July 5, 2006


Ethereal Blich, Japan's passivism is a very interesting topic, and I certainly don't know anything much about popular opinion in that nation, but..

It doesn't take much searching to find that Japan does maintain a standing army/navy/air force, and has done for decades. Further, you probably know well the debate over Japan's participation in the Iraq war, which could be construed as an offensive action.


Exactly--even i in my massive ignorance knew that much. EB, for many of us, we learn in part by asking questions. Those questions deserve answers and not insults. It's a very very common way of acquiring knowledge. Try it sometime, and stop insulting. It is hard to imagine that anyone who thinks themselves aware enough of foreign affairs to comment on them as often as you do could be ignorant of these facts. They form a huge part of the modern world's geopolitics. It really is hard to imagine it--you're absolutely right. Could that be why i participate in these threads--to learn things? Could that be why i actually ask questions of others instead of pontificating? hmmm....could it be?
posted by amberglow at 4:26 PM on July 5, 2006


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