North Korea showed off a lot of missiles. What might be its targets?

May 19, 2017

The Washington Post:

Experts assumed Kim Jong Un had the capability to launch nuclear weapons even before last weekend’s test flight of a new missile that, on a normal, flatter trajectory, would have been capable of reaching Guam. But they don’t think he wants to fire them randomly.

This notion that the program is unsophisticated is no longer true, and I don’t think the strategy is unsophisticated, either,” said Vipin Narang, an MIT professor who has written two books about nuclear strategy.

Narang said Kim’s blueprint appears to be derived from the playbooks of other countries that developed nuclear weapons, including Pakistan. The short version: repel and deter. He would hope to have enough nuclear firepower to repel a conventional attack from South Korea while deterring a game-ending nuclear retaliation by the United States.

North Korea almost certainly has the capability to use a nuclear bomb against anything in South Korea and Japan, said Joshua Pollack, editor of Nonproliferation Review. But no one is sure how powerful those bombs are.

“The objective is to preserve the regime, right?” said Narang. “You really have to stop the invasion. And if you think you need nuclear weapons to do that . . . how do you deal with the fact that the U.S. is going to make you a smoldering, radioactive hole at the end of that? Well, if you can hold American homeland targets at risk, that might induce caution.”

It is a risky strategy, but not many options are available to a small country against a superpower. And it explains why Kim appears to be trying to build a diverse nuclear arsenal that is capable of striking targets as near as the South Korean border and as far away as the U.S. mainland.

Read the full article.

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