Ever since I can remember, the world has lived in fear of one side or another using nuclear weapons. At school in the 1950s, we had air-raid drills; hiding under desks, facing away from the windows. As if that would have made any difference, if a nuclear bomb had actually struck central London, some two miles from where I was concealed under my old desk, in a school built during the Victorian era. We had seen the result of the American attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and these new bombs were many times more powerful.
At the time, there were few countries capable of using such weapons. The Soviet Union was the presumed enemy during the Cold War, and Britain had been given the means to retaliate too, by America. The French had also tested atomic bombs in the Pacific, so it was safe to assume that only four countries had these bombs in their possession. We are now in 2018, and that list of countries has not grown significantly. As well as Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and Israel are all known to have the potential to launch nuclear weapons. And if you believe the propaganda by both sides, (I don’t) North Korea may well have a viable delivery system too.
Then there is the issue of ‘sharing’. That sounds very cosy, given what is being shared. The USA has ‘shared’ the option to launch nuclear weapons with Turkey, Belgium, Holland, Italy, and Germany. This basically consists of the USA siting weapons in those countries, then deciding whether or not to fire them. There are also countries that once had nuclear weapons, but apparently no longer have any; South Africa, Canada, Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. One thing we can be sure of, there are a lot of nuclear bombs and missiles out there.
By using published figures, there are 14,900 nuclear missiles and bombs stored around the world. That’s more than enough to wipe out the human race, many times over. Probably enough to not only eradicate all life on Earth, but also to destroy the very fabric of the planet. When we read about the nuclear threat, it is generally in terms of a supposedly limited conflict. The US has hinted that it will use them against the DPRK, should their leader fire rockets at US bases, South Korea, or Japan. But the DPRK has a border with China, so involving the Chinese could not be avoided. India and Pakistan square up against each other all the time, and have been in conflict since 1947. But both sides know that using nuclear weapons would also be self-destructive, so have never launched any. For Israel to use them against their near-neighbours would also result in disaster for their own country, so they are almost certainly not going to launch any.
For almost sixty years, I have lived in the shadow of this Nuclear Threat. The Cold War, The Cuban Missile Crisis, and many other supposed ‘near misses’ over the decades. I have finally decided that nobody will use them. It doesn’t make economic sense, and money rules the world. I stopped living in fear of the Nuclear Threat, and concluded that it is just that. A threat.
Judging by some news reports today, things are getting very heated between the US and North Korea. President Trump has called for a meeting of Congress, and the North Koreans are making ever-more threatening speeches, including suggesting the possible use of nuclear weapons.
Fairly normal events, like the visit of a US submarine to South Korea, something that happens often, are being seen as ‘escalation’ by both sides. North Korean artillery exercises, said to be a ‘celebration’ of the army, are seen as displays of aggression. China is getting nervous. They have asked the US directly not to attack the DPRK, which shows at least some belief that they expect the Americans are about to do just that. China suggests approaching the United Nations, and asking for their approval for military action. Russia has been quiet about the escalation in the region, at least today.
So, what can we conclude? Is Mr Trump really going to launch an attack on Pyongyang, and military targets such as airfields and installations around that country? That appears to be becoming more than a possibility, which makes it a probability. Will the North Koreans retaliate? (Always assuming they have a chance to) That’s almost a certainty. Should the rest of us be worried? Potentially.
If this was two dogs fighting on a hot summer day, someone would throw a bucket of water over them.
We are going to need a lot of water…
Whatever you might think about North Koreans, they are nothing if not resilient.
Faced with the threat of American action against them, their response has been bullish, to say the least. Their Foreign Minister has declared that his country will launch a ‘preemptive nuclear strike against the USA’, if they detect any possibility of an attack against them from America.
Those are serious words indeed, even if they are unlikely to be backed up by the action mentioned in them. I am reminded of a professional poker game; bluffers taking on the bluffers. Both sides know that the other is bluffing, but who is actually prepared to take that chance, when push comes to shove?
This small country, with a population of 29 million, its people generally impoverished, and having one thing to show to the world, Pyongyang, has taken a firm stand indeed. On one hand, it could signal their total destruction. On the other, it could guarantee them a place on the world stage.
So. Who blinks first? Fascinating.