De­spite missile fail­ure, North Korean threat real

The Chatham Daily News - - OPINION - AN­THONY FUREY afurey@postmedia.com

Dur­ing the week­end, North Korea sig­nalled to the world that they may be in pos­ses­sion of mis­siles ca­pa­ble of strik­ing the United States and, in turn, Canada.

There is no down­play­ing the se­ri­ous­ness of the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion. Two in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles (ICBMs) were on show Satur­day dur­ing a mil­i­tary pa­rade for the an­niver­sary of the birth 105 years ago of the rogue state’s founder, Kim Il Sung.

Al­though by the time Mon­day rolled around, the news cy­cle had turned to fo­cus on what hap­pened the day af­ter the pa­rade, when North Korea at­tempted to launch a missile.

“North Korea missile test fails af­ter mil­i­taris­tic pa­rade,” was the head­line one news site placed above their Reuters story de­tail­ing the failed launch.

Don’t let that word “failed” make you think the is­sue is any less ur­gent. Sure, a suc­cess­ful launch would have been even more trou­bling news. But for all of North Korea’s fail­ures and for all of their the­atri­cal rhetoric, when they move two steps back it’s only af­ter mov­ing three steps for­ward. They are with­out doubt mak­ing progress on be­com­ing a nu­clear state that can se­ri­ously harm the West.

The ICBMs are a prob­lem be­cause they are ex­actly what they sound like — mis­siles that can travel across con­ti­nents. While dif­fer­ent ICBMs have dif­fer­ent ranges, most of the mod­els on the mar­ket can travel from North Korea to ma­jor cities in­clud­ing Wash­ing­ton, D.C., New York City, Ot­tawa and Toronto.

Due to the scarcity of cred­i­ble in­for­ma­tion com­ing out of the her­mit king­dom, it’s un­known what ac­tu­ally was in those ICBM can­is­ters on pa­rade. Maybe they have the mis­siles. Maybe they don’t. But based on the sever­ity of the is­sue, we need to in­clude the worst-case sce­nario in our threat as­sess­ments.

The sec­ond big is­sue is their nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The ICBM may be able to make it over, but it won’t cause harm if it’s not loaded with a weapon.

North Korea’s nu­clear pro­gram has in­creased the fre­quency of launches and the size of kilo­ton yields un­der Kim Jong Un’s lead­er­ship. Seis­mic read­ings from the most re­cent tests last year in­di­cate they are ex­per­i­ment­ing with ex­plo­sions about the same size as those det­o­nated on Ja­pan dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.

While the var­i­ous failed launches tell us that North Korea’s weapons are far from sta­ble, the regime may not wait un­til they feel they’ve per­fected their ap­proach to per­form an ac­tual launch against a live tar­get. Af­ter all, the United States only con­ducted the Trin­ity test — the first ever nu­clear det­o­na­tion — two weeks be­fore drop­ping the bomb on Na­gasaki on Aug. 9, 1945.

The other alarm­ing sce­nario is that North Korea may be plan­ning to launch an elec­tro­mag­netic pulse over the United States. This is an at­mo­spheric det­o­na­tion that cre­ates a wave­form that de­stroys most elec­tri­cal com­po­nents within its line of sight. If it’s launched high enough in the sky, it can take down the U.S. elec­tric­ity grid, which in turn shuts off the clean wa­ter sup­ply, trans­porta­tion net­works, re­gional food ter­mi­nals, and more. Due to how in­te­grated our sys­tems are, this would dis­able the Cana­dian grid too.

I write about this is­sue in depth in my forth­com­ing book, Pulse At­tack: The Real Story Be­hind The Se­cret Weapon That Can De­stroy North Amer­ica.

The im­pli­ca­tions of a nu­cle­arca­pable North Korea is an ex­is­ten­tial threat not just to our neigh­bours in the south, but to Canada as well. The is­sue has to be front of mind for our po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship.

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