Sarah Palin: Let’s Nuke Russia

COMMENTS BY FORMER Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin — that the USA should institute a nuclear strike on Russia in response to its aggression over Ukraine — are unhelpful in the extreme; even so, the remarks inadvertently highlight the stupidity of the USA’s strategic arms policy on Barack Obama’s watch, and underscore the dangers of blithely accepting promises over national security at face value.

There isn’t a great deal to recommend the incendiary and provocative remarks made by Sarah Palin to the Conservative Political Action Conference, suggesting that ”the only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke.”

Clearly, such a fraught and inherently dangerous international situation as that which  exists between the West and Russia over Ukraine — and yes, between heavily nuclear-armed powers, to boot — scarcely needs fuelling by somebody widely regarded as a high-profile lunatic possessed of explosively ill-informed views, and who takes any and every opportunity to publicly air them.

Even so, Palin has drawn attention to an issue that has been a deep and increasing source of unease for conservatives, both in the USA and abroad, for much of the duration of the Obama presidency: the apparent determination, based on so-called agreements obtained from Russia in “good” faith, for both sides to commit to and execute steep cuts to their respective arsenals of strategic and tactical nuclear warheads.

I have long been of the view — and have said as much in this column — that negotiating with Russia over nuclear arms is akin to negotiating with a shark over a chunk of bleeding meat; the shark might swim around in circles a few times, and view you with bemusement, but eventually it will seize the meat and wolf it down. And you with it, if you’re unlucky.

Agreements with Russia — with little or no credible verification that it ever follows through in its disarmament commitments — to slash its nuclear arsenal at the same time as it modernises that same arsenal and tests its efficacy is a game of smoke and mirrors at best, and a ruse that the USA has been silly enough to fall for at its menacing worst.

It should go without saying this, but the West — stripped of the deterrent nuclear umbrella maintained by the USA, the UK, and France — would be a ripe target for conquest, incapable of any meaningful retaliation as it would be, and however noble or well-intended his motives, Obama’s approach to nuclear disarmament agreements with Russia have been an act of international lunacy.

To this end, Palin is absolutely correct. Where I take issue is with the follow-through call to strike Russia first over its activities in Ukraine generally, and in the Crimea in particular.

The situation on Europe’s far eastern flank is dangerous, volatile, and largely unpredictable; little reassurance can be derived from either the words or actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose incandescent approach to attempts at diplomacy over the incident even extend as far as to deny that the tens of thousands of Russian troops pouring into Ukraine are even Russian. According to Putin, they stole uniforms, or bought them.

Such idiocy is no laughing matter. Especially when the powers of the West now appear to be lining up to draw a “red line” at any Russian attempt to formally annexe the Crimea — irrespective of the outcome of next weekend’s referendum, which the Ukrainian government has nonetheless declared unconstitutional, and vowed to disregard.

Nobody knows how events surrounding Ukraine might play out, and whilst the last thing I would want to see is the ignition of a conflict that could spiral into World War III and/or a nuclear conflict, it is simply impossible at this point to categorically and emphatically rule such an event out.

To this end, comments from Palin that effectively advocate a nuclear first strike on Russia are unhelpful, inflammatory, and in extremely poor taste.

It is not known to what extent Palin is viewed in Russia as having any credibility, or the degree to which her utterances are likely to be regarded as in any way representative of official thinking in Washington.

But even the suggestion of a first strike from someone who five years ago was a serious candidate for high office in the USA is not the message that country should be conveying to Putin, and should nuclear weapons — God forbid — be used at all in relation to the Ukrainian dispute, a pre-emptive strike in the absence of any proportionate provocation from Russia (and as of today, there has been no such provocation) would permanently jeopardise America’s position in the post-war world order.

If, of course, there is a world left after such an event for any order to exist.

Palin should pull her head in. If she won’t restrain herself voluntarily, Obama should lock her up under the national security laws he inherited from his predecessor.



BREAKING NEWS: North Korea Readies More Missiles For Launch

BRITISH NEWSPAPER the Daily Express is reporting that North Korean forces have been detected moving more medium-range ballistic missiles into locations along its east coast; its speculation, citing South Korean military sources, is that the DPRK is readying for a sudden missile launch.

It is understood that the missiles have been loaded onto mobile launchers and hidden in an “unidentified facility” near the North Korean east coast, which has raised suspicion that the North’s intentions are to launch against unspecified targets within the next few days.

The development concerns two MRBMs in addition the the one seen by Western observers on Wednesday.

An earlier theory — based on the single missile observed two days ago — was that a “test” launch to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of deceased dictator Kim Il-Sung on 15 April had been scheduled; this latest development would seem to fly in the face of that.

It is understood the latest missiles observed by the South do not have the range to strike the US mainland or Guam, but South Korea and Japan are both well within range — and so are the US forces stationed in each.

Obviously, the veracity of this information may be updated as more information becomes available.

Readers can access a link to the Express story here, which will update during the night (AEST) as more details become known, and of course we will return to the issue over the weekend in this column if anything untoward occurs during that time.


“Final Approval” For Nuclear Attack: DPRK Raises Tensions To Boiling Point

NORTH KOREA has continued to raise the temperature of its nuclear standoff with the USA, warning the “moment of explosion” is approaching; it comes as the US acknowledges for the first time the DPRK represents a “real and clear danger,” and as the rest of the world simply waits.

I wrote in this column a few days ago that the time was approaching for North Korea to either put up or to shut up, based on the progression of its antics and its rhetoric, and this latest development reinforces that view.

Indeed, its statement — including a declaration that its threats to launch a nuclear strike on US interests “(have) been finally examined and ratified” — continue to box the North into a position which leaves little room for a climbdown, and responses from the US indicate that there is now real concern over just how far the DPRK might be prepared to go toward acting on those threats.

North Korea has said that the US would be smashed by “cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means.”

War, the North Koreans said, could break out “today or tomorrow.”

This latest escalation in the DPRK’s hostile and belligerent rhetoric comes as it yesterday denied access to the Kaesong joint industrial zone, just inside North Korea, to workers from the South.

This is potentially significant as Kaesong represents one of the few reliable sources of hard currency the North has access to; its workers constitute a pool of cheap labour for the South Korean companies who operate there, and who in turn pay the North Korean government rather than directly to the workers themselves.

The Kaesong precinct has long been regarded by analysts as a real bellweather of the state of inter-Korean relations, as distinct from the rhetoric from the regime in the North; whilst the DPRK has temporarily shut the area down in the past, its restriction on access to the area in light of the present threats it is propagating represents an ominous new development.

The USA, for its part, has continued to build up its countermeasures, beefing up its anti-missile defences on Guam, as well as bringing additional warships into the North Pacific to complement the aircraft and other military infrastructure it has moved into the region in recent weeks.

And in another sign of how seriously the development is being taken in Washington, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said Pyongyang represented a “real and clear danger” to the United States and to its allies South Korea and Japan.

Quoted in The Australian today, Hagel appeared to also acknowledge that the threat posed by North Korea is actually greater, in terms of its capabilities, than has previously been admitted publicly.

“They have nuclear capacity now, they have missile delivery capacity now…we take those threats seriously, we have to take those threats seriously.”

It remains to be seen where all of this might lead, but it is to be hoped that China still retains adequate influence over its errant neighbour to haul it into line, and to diffuse as far as possible the heightened state of crisis the DPRK has created.

Either way, it seems increasingly obvious that unlike previous episodes of aggressive bluster from the North, the current situation poses the real and potentially deadly prospect of igniting a conflagration that can be in the best interests of nobody — including, despite its bellicose assertions to the contrary, those of North Korea.

As ever, we will continue to watch developments on this issue. But at some point — given the high stakes the DPRK has created — something, soon, will need to give.


Unpredictable Miscreant: More Opinion On North Korea

WE HAVE spent a lot of time on North Korea lately, and rightly so, given the way it insists on behaving; the time is approaching for it to put up or to shut up, and whilst frenzied diplomacy would seem the North’s best next move, nobody really knows — it could just as likely be an invasion of the South.

Once again, I am going to share some links tonight in the continuing interests of holding back on the heavy stuff a bit until Easter is over, but even so, what is going on in the North Pacific — with the DPRK apparently holding court, and attempting to put the USA over a barrel — is well and truly deserving of the attention.

As the USA flies more of its most sophisticated combat aircraft onto the Korean Peninsula, continuing to parade its military might before the North — this time, two F-22 Raptor fighters — a few things are becoming clear, in the crystalline sense, about the developing confrontation between the United States and the bellicose North Korea.

One, that the DPRK appears determined to continue to ratchet up the rhetoric, the tension and the danger of military conflict — whether accidental or deliberate — with no apparent end in sight; it seems that North Korea is playing a game of brinkmanship with the US and refuses to blink first, and back down.

Two, the USA, at least, seems to be in no mood to be bullied, and nor should it be; showing off its most potent nuclear-capable bomber aircraft — ostensibly as part of prearranged and recurring war games with South Korea — is an ominous and unmistakable warning that the nuclear sabre-rattling of the DPRK, if acted upon, will elicit lethal consequences.

The dumping of harmless ordnance a few miles from the North Korean border by B-2 stealth bombers that flew to the Peninsula last week further underlined the US capability to respond — if the DPRK took any notice.

And three, it is obvious that China (and, increasingly, Russia) are moving into position behind the North; as odious and distasteful as China’s errant brat of an ally has become, the bottom line has become clear: if push comes to shove, China will back the DPRK, and confront the United States.

I have consistently maintained that the outcome of what is going on is likely to be — in round terms — nothing; the North has engaged in this type of belligerence many times before, and whilst this is its most truculent tantrum episode to date, it remains more probable than not that one way or another, it will climb down in the end.

I think the DPRK wants something; a big diplomatic win over the USA to take back to its people (and the hardened military men surrounding the young leader) to bolster Kim Jong-Un’s credentials as a leader who “kicks ass” (to use the American pejorative) on behalf of his country.

He probably wants food and money too.

But North Korea has also pursued a wish list including bilateral ties with the USA, security guarantees, a peace treaty and a non-aggression pact for many years; the Americans haven’t acceded to these demands thus far, and would seem less likely than ever to dole such baubles out to Jong-Un as a reward for threats of nuclear strikes against a litany of US-aligned targets and in response to his country’s vicious, warlike posturing.

There are two excellent opinion pieces I’ve seen today that I think will interest readers: the first is by Greg Sheridan, the respected foreign editor at The Australian; the second is by Dr Tim Stanley, and was published today in The Age, having first appeared in Britain’s Sunday Telegraph.

Readers will note that the sentiments in both of these articles reflect many of the points I have made myself; they will also note that both articles canvass in greater detail the less palatable outcome — military conflict — and where that might lead.

Whilst I have been careful to ensure that outcomes involving both peace and war have been canvassed in this column in discussing the latest incident with North Korea, I note  that when I first raised the option it could end in war, nobody was interested; now everyone is discussing it.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. But the first article I published on North Korea and its antics, earlier this year, was read by just two people at the time; today, search terms based on North Korea/war/nuclear weapons were the top three drivers of people to this site, and readership here is running at several hundred people per day at present, and growing.

This is not a situation that would appear to be about to vanish, and it can’t be ignored; God willing, cooler heads will prevail, and some form of normality on the Korean Peninsula will be restored in good time, and without any shooting.

In the meantime, we will of course continue to talk about it here; but it bears remembering that four of the world’s most dangerous hotspots for potential military conflict — North Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the Spratly Islands off the Philippines — all involve China.

Some time ago, I hypothesised in an article “America vs China: Why The US Is The Right Choice;” at the time — again — I was pilloried. How naive. How fantastic. And what a brilliantly conspiratorial mind I must have, where theories like that are concerned!

It may be that when the current climate concerning North Korea has cooled down somewhat, that particular question is one that Western governments and their people should spend rather more time considering a little more closely.

Interesting Links On The North Korea Situation

JUST to follow up on the articles I have posted on the escalating tensions between North Korea and its “hated enemies” — the USA, the South Korean government, and Japan — I’m posting a couple of links tonight which readers may find of interest.

Whilst acknowledging the dangers — and not least given North Korea and its incendiary rhetoric have gone far further than the usual empty bluster it engages in — I still think the most likely outcome of the rising crisis on the Korean peninsula is that nothing will happen.

Even so, any country or regime promising “all out nuclear war” on anyone — especially when it’s three of our biggest trading partners in Japan, South Korea and the USA, the latter also being the owner of thousands of multi-megaton nuclear weapons — needs to be taken seriously to the extent they are monitored, their words and actions analysed, and contingencies prepared for even if such preparations are never acted upon.

It is for these reasons that I have written the occasional article on the present flare-up between the DPRK and everyone else — even if the latest round of belligerent bluster proves to be nothing more, I think it’s important to cover it, given we talk about events in other parts of the world too.

With this in mind, I wanted to share a good article from the BBC World News agency, which you can access here; this article also has some links to other material of interest about North Korea, its threats, and reaction and analysis — including from the South.

I note that it also links to an obituary for dead DPRK leader Kim Jong-Il, father of present leader Kim Jong-Un; it may amuse/interest/perplex/disgust readers to know that one of the favourite articles I have written and published in this column over the past two years was my own obituary for Kim Jong-Il; you can access that article here.

(And knowing I get quite a bit of traffic from readers in South Korea, I hope our friends in the South enjoy it too — the guy caused you enough trouble over the years).

Finally, for those who have either not heard of it or never been able to find it, I wanted to share a link to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) website — the official North Korean “bulletin board” for posting propaganda, threats and seriously weird stuff for the benefit of the outside world. You can access that little gem here.

The site is hosted by an internet server in Japan, which is no real surprise given the internet is really the preserve of the ruling elite in North Korea — even if Japan is a starring member of the DPRK’s murderous hit list.

Somehow, the mangled English the translations feature really add something; as readers will see, much of the ranting that is published on this site has a distinctly surreal feel about it anyway, but the broken sentences and words mismatched to their intended meaning take the experience to another level altogether.

I trust readers will find the material included in these links to be of interest and — whilst not detracting from the potential gravity of the situation on the Korean Peninsula at present — some amusement as well.


Pyongyang: We’ll Nuke South Korea, Japan, Guam, Hawaii And Mainland USA

BELLICOSE miscreant state North Korea has ordered its “strategic” rocket forces and long-range missiles readied for war; it comes amid a long period of belligerent rhetoric from the DPRK, and threats to inflict nuclear strikes on a growing list of targets. The real threat, however, may be China.

One simmering issue we’ve kept an eye on over the past couple of months — and which was pushed into the background to some extent by the nonsense the Australian Labor Party has been up to — is the perennial problem of North Korea and its recent, and increasingly strident, threats of nuclear war against the USA.

I wanted to make comment on the matter tonight, coming as it does after news today that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has ordered what seems to be his country’s nuclear and conventional rocket forces to what the Americans call Def Con 2, or one step short of a state of active warfare.

Apparently the move is in response to a fly-by of nuclear-capable US bombers that took place today as part of joint US-South Korean military drills that are being staged off the South Korean Coast, and which are scheduled to continue until 11 April.

Whilst South Korea’s defense ministry said it saw no sign of imminent military action by North Korea, the development continues a deeply disturbing trend on the part of the North to escalate tensions in its “confrontation” with the United States.

As I have said before in this column, one of the great dangers — and unknowns — when talking about North Korea is the extent of its grip on reality; for example, it seems genuinely persuaded of the view that armed with a handful of relatively low-yield nuclear weapons it is a superpower in its own right, and the military equal of the USA.

Over the past month or so, too, it has been developing and adding to a list of countries and targets that are supposedly in line for an atomic strike: first it was Washington, then South Korea, and then a few weeks ago, Japan; as part of today’s call to arms, Guam and Hawaii are now on the list, and as I have said before, its threat to hit mainland America is most likely made with Los Angeles in mind, owing to its relative proximity across the Pacific.

It is true that most military experts do not believe North Korea possesses the ICBM capability to hit the US mainland — yet — and there is dispute over whether or not it has mastered the miniaturisation technology required to allow it to fit warheads to its MRBMs and short-range missiles, which also calls into question its ability to hit Guam or Hawaii.

Yet the DPRK’s local enemies, real or perceived — South Korea and what it calls the “puppet regime” that governs it, and Japan — are probably right to be worried; and even if the North lacks the long-range missile capabilities to lob one at LA, it could just as feasibly pack a warhead in a shipping container, and sail it somewhere in the US where it wasn’t expected — and detonate it in a port.

One of the biggest worries with this situation is that having endlessly ratcheted up the level of tension and hostility in his own ranks, Kim risks an errant commander taking matters into his own hands, and start shooting if some incident occurs; unlike established nuclear-armed states like Russia or China, the DPRK is not known for advanced control systems and other measures to safeguard against accidental, unauthorised or rogue launches.

But the greatest worry of all could turn out to be China, the North’s only (and steadfast) ally; the British newspaper The Guardian is carrying an article in which the Chinese seem to be doing what they do best, which is to protect the DPRK and to attempt to manipulate Western responses to allow the North to continue its reckless behaviour unchecked.

The Chinese Foreign Minister quoted in the article said that

“Actions such as strengthening anti-missile [defences] will intensify antagonism and will not be beneficial to finding a solution for the problem…China hopes the [USA] will proceed on the basis of peace and stability, adopt a responsible attitude and act prudently.”

And this is the problem with China when it comes to North Korea or, indeed, to the myriad of territorial disputes it is itself engaged in with other neighbouring countries around the South China Sea rim, and Japan.

Under the cover of seemingly peaceful rhetoric, the message to the US is clear, emphatic, and unmistakable: if you’re thinking about responding to anything the North does — don’t.

It’s a problem because even China doesn’t really know exactly what its volatile, fractious ally might do; and as I have pointed out, the potential for a war to start as the result of a miscalculation or misinterpreted event is real, high, and growing.

If the DPRK were to follow through on its threat to hit any or all of the targets it has bandied around with an atomic bomb, it is virtually certain that American nuclear retaliation against Pyongyang would be immediate, and overwhelming.

In that eventuality, the Chinese would most likely show their hand — one way or the other.

It’s one thing to lecture the US — whether in defence of its errant ally or not — in rhetoric preaching peace, but oozing confrontational and menacing undertones.

The Chinese game of military poker it plays, especially with the US, is no benign exercise.

It would be another matter altogether to be faced with a nuclear conflict on its doorstep, even if in response to aggression from the DPRK, and to sit back and do nothing after its posturing and its prescriptive diplomacy, and especially in light of its wilful militarisation and expansionist outlook — in the Asia-Pacific region at least.

Were such a conflict to occur, all bets would be off as to how China might respond.

And in turn, it’s why North Korea’s behaviour is so dangerous.

It might play well to ordinary North Koreans — the few with TVs or radios, that is, or electricity to power them — but the machinations of Kim Jong-Un are tantamount to poking Uncle Sam in the eye with a bloody big stick; push it too far, and he might — to use the US vernacular — “kick their ass.”

As ever, we’ll keep an eye on this, and hope China finds some way to bring the belligerent brat on its doorstep to heel.

A Nuclear Strike On LA? Pyongyang Would Glow In The Dark

WE’RE not going to waste much time on this, but it needs to be said; North Korea has threatened to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the USA following recent successful tests of a ballistic missile and a nuclear bomb. The prospect may be remote, but Pyongyang would be levelled if it tried.

Three weeks ago, following the successful test of an atomic bomb by North Korea in defiance of international sanctions, I posted an article which highlighted the risks the DPRK’s conduct posed to regional and world security in an already volatile environment.

And specifically — to quote myself in part — I said:

“North Korea is a state that is immune to the repercussions of its actions…it is run by a junta obsessed with obtaining a nuclear strike capacity (and)the intent to use it…any nuclear attack launched by the DPRK’s resident despot Kim Jong-Un on South Korea, Japan or the US would likely result in the instant nuclear annihilation of his country.”

I think it’s fair to state that the last thing anyone wants (aside, perhaps, from the North Koreans) is a nuclear conflict of any description — ever.

And I sincerely think that the latest outbreak of belligerence from the DPRK — ostensibly over joint US-South Korean military exercises it claims are “a prelude to nuclear war” and over the imposition of ever-more sanctions, which even China is supporting — is just that: belligerence.

The capacity to behave like a spoilt brat strapped into a high chair throwing a tantrum is a quality that has remained constant throughout the Communist dynasty of the Kim family, and I daresay latest despot Kim Jong-Un is simply carrying on the tradition.

But as I also pointed out in that article, North Korea’s perspective — or even its “reality” — is difficult to ascertain or quantify, but it does very much seem that the ability to nuke a couple of US cities would be regarded in the DPRK with the belief it is a superpower.

This is where the real danger lies in the whole North Korean equation; it is impossible to know whether anyone in the regime truly realises that the behemoth it plays its deadly game of “footsies” with — the United States — owns thousands of operational nuclear warheads, all of them reliably deliverable, and most of them exponentially larger in terms of yield than anything Pyongyang might possess for the foreseeable future.

But just as the constant ratcheting of tensions is a mainstay of North Korean dialogue with the outside world, those who pay attention to its rantings have noticed the shift this week.

The rhetoric is growing bolder, less restrained, and it’s significant that China — usually a soft touch when it comes to the DPRK, and a brake on the internationally sanctioned punishments meted out to it — agreed to the draft sanctions unanimously endorsed last night by the United Nations Security Council.

Even today — and again, to retaliate over the US-South Korean military exercises currently taking place, which it does whenever such manoeuvres are held — the North not only announced it would abandon the armistice that ended the Korean War (which it always does), but followed that up with a specific threat to “exercise the right to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors.”

My point is that nobody really knows whether there is some tipping point at which the DPRK will go over the edge and do something really stupid or, if there is, what that point might be.

What we do know is that with his father now dead, current leader Jong-Un certainly can’t be accused of senility, even if he’s just as paranoid as Jong-Il was.

There are also signs, and has been for some time, that China is growing weary of defending its problematic neighbour and ally from the retribution the rest of the world seeks to enact on North Korea for its nuclear mischief, nuclear proliferation, and its nuclear blackmail.

In short, the point is approaching where it is no longer a game — if, indeed, that’s what the DPRK thinks it has been playing at.

It may very well be that the North Korean leadership has been repeatedly appraised of the facts about the USA’s military capabilities, and particularly its stockpiles of strategic and tactical nuclear warheads.

Kim Jong-Il probably listened. The early evidence suggests that Kim Jong-Un doesn’t.

It’s entirely plausible that North Korea is now run by somebody who thinks his half-dozen comparatively piddling nuclear weapons are a match for Uncle Sam’s, which could literally blow North Korea away hundreds of thousands of times over.

I should point out that I don’t think the risk of anything developing from this is particularly high. But it’s there, no less, and that risk is probably higher than it was a few weeks ago.

Were it to happen, though, the most likely target would be Los Angeles: short of smuggling a warhead into a harbour or port, say, in a freight container on a ship, LA is the only major US city theoretically able to be impacted by the DPRK’s nuclear arsenal in its current form, and given its apparent current delivery capabilities.

And were it to happen, North Korea would simply vanish five minutes later in the mother of all retaliatory strikes.

The resulting crater, however, would glow in the dark for decades.

For whilst Barack Obama has spent four years busily reducing America’s capacity to defend itself, even he knows that to leave a nuclear strike unanswered would leave the US dangerously exposed to other aggressors, and bring a global nuclear war ever closer.

I think at some point China’s patience with the DPRK will finally run out, and when it does, it will seek some type of accommodation with the US in return for allowing Korea to be reunified under the South’s democratic system and administered from Seoul.

Such an accommodation is likely to involve a shopping list of all of the disputed territories in the South China Sea that China lays claim to, over the objections of Japan, Vietnam, Russia, the Philippines, and the reunified Korea itself.

And if that occurs, it will be a whole new ball game altogether.