US and South Korean officials believe that North Korea is on the brink of firing multiple Musudun intermediate range ballistic missiles. The Musudun is an untested weapon that is believed to have a 3500 kilometer range which would put US bases in Japan, Okinawa and Guam in range. US and South Korean intelligence services also note that a number of other mobile missile launchers been moved about the country.
This comes on the heels of a number of unprecedented escalations by Kim Jong Un and North Korean military leaders. In the past few days the North has closed the last remaining joint project with the South, the Kaesong joint industrial zone sending tremors through the South Korean business and banking industries. They also warned foreign diplomats in Pyongyang that it could not guarantee their safety and warned foreigners to leave South Korea. Those warnings followed nuclear tests, the firing of a long range missile and threats of a nuclear attack on the United States.
Admiral Samuel Locklear, Commander of US Pacific Command said today that he “couldn’t recall a time of greater tension in the region since the end of the Korean War.” The US and South Koreans now believe that unlike past missile tests that the North could launch without warning. In preparation for any contingency US, South Korean and Japanese Aegis Guided Missile Destroyers have been deployed,the US has deployed THADD ballistic missile defense systems to Guam and the Japanese have deployed Patriot anti-missile defense batteries in Tokyo.
Both the Chinese Communists and Russians have sent warnings to the North about their displeasure with its provocations and escalation.
To add an additional measure of seriousness to a potentially grave situation former US Vice President Dick Cheney told a group of Republican lawmakers that “we are in deep Doo-Doo.” Since Cheney is very knowledgable about Doo-Doo and its consequences we have to take this serious situation even more seriously.
But seriously, despite Dick Cheney’s levity we are facing a potentially volatile situation which through a miscalculation by any side could lead to a general war. Since we know little about the inner workings of the post-Kim Jong Il led North Korea, and even less about the current leader Kim Jong Un it is hard to predict what will happen. In the past the former leader Kim Jong Il would push to the brink of war but then pull back after getting some kind of concession. However Kim Jong Un has not seemed to know any limits in pushing the envelope, thus placing the world in very uncharted and dangerous waters.
A launch of one of the longer range missiles could trigger a war if it tracks toward Japan, Okinawa or Guam. Any missile intercept of a North Korean missile by the US, Japan or South Korea could be a trigger for the North to push even more and maybe even attack South Korean territory.
As Barbara Tuchman said “war is the unfolding of miscalculations.” I do hope that Kim Jong Un will back down and not push the region into a war that could kill, wound and displace millions of people, damage the world economy and plunge the region and maybe the world into the abyss of war.