Today North Korea can’t seriously threaten North America with missile strikes, but it probably will by 2019. Meanwhile, North Korean nuclear and conventionally-armed missiles (and this could include poison gas and biological warheads) today threaten the 80,000+ US military personnel based in Japan, South Korea and Guam. They would be immediate targets should the US and South Korea attack the north.
Add tens of millions of South Korean and Japanese civilians who are at risk of North Korean retaliation. It would take only three nuclear weapons to shatter Japan and just two to cripple South Korea, not to mention polluting the globe with radioactive dust and contaminating North Asia’s water sources. Nuclear explosions would spread radioactive contamination over northern China and Pacific Russia.
Almost equally important, North Korea boasts one of the word’s biggest armies – 1,020,000 men, 88,000 crack special forces, and an trained militia of over 5 million. The North’s weapons are obsolescent; its small air forces and navy will be vaporized by US power but its troops are deeply dug into the mountainous terrain and would be fighting from prepared positions. War against North Korea would be a slow and bloody slog.
The Pentagon is not eager to tangle with the tough North Koreans. Estimates of the cost of a US invasion of North Korea have run as high as 250,000 US casualties and tens of billions of dollars.
[Excerpts of article by Eric S. Margolis, internationally syndicated columnist.]