Friday Reads: Nuclear Don and the Duck and Cover Edition

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

A year ago seems like eons ago in the new accelerated march to no hope what so ever we have in our ongoing National Nightmare of Atomic Don.  I’ve written several ledes to the effect of “Do you know where your nearest bombshelter is” with more of a dramatic, click bait kind’ve style than a serious one.  Omens being what they are right now,  we’re seeing stuff I haven’t seen since 1962 when I spent a week with my fellow second graders practicing duck and cover in the halls of Herbert Hoover Grade School in Council Bluffs, Iowa.  Fortunately, neither President Kennedy or Premier Krushchev were insane.  Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump both belong in asylums (preferably together).

His ultimate motives, like many details of his life, are uncertain. Since taking power, Mr. Kim has yet to travel abroad or host a visit from another head of state. Only a few people outside North Korea have been allowed to meet him, among them the former basketball star Dennis Rodman, a Japanese sushi chef and the vice presidents of Cuba and China.

What little is known of Mr. Kim’s record suggests ruthlessness — and some ideological flexibility.

South Korean intelligence officials say Mr. Kim has executed scores of senior officials, including his own uncle, a wily power broker who had been seen as his mentor. He is also assumed to have ordered the assassination of his half brother, who was poisoned by VX nerve agent at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia in February.

Yet Mr. Kim is also credited with loosening state controls on the economy and engineering modest growth, and regaining some of the public confidence that the dynastic regime enjoyed under his grandfather and lost under his father, whose rule is remembered for a devastating famine.

“Smart, pragmatic, decisive,” Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Kookmin University in Seoul, said of Mr. Kim. “But also capricious, moody and ready to kill easily.”

One subject on which Mr. Kim has not wavered is the nuclear program. His father held out the possibility of scrapping the program in return for economic aid and security guarantees and even struck a deal with the Clinton administration, though the North later violated it. But Mr. Kim has taken a more aggressive approach.

Three of North Korea’s five nuclear tests have come under his watch, and there are signs that the country is preparing for another one. North Korea has also conducted about 80 missile tests under Mr. Kim, more than twice as many as under his father and grandfather combined.

The nation crossed a major threshold with the last two missile tests, on July 4 and July 28, which analysts said demonstrated intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of hitting Alaska and, in the most recent test, the mainland United States.

North Korean state media showed Mr. Kim present at both tests, wearing a suit with a Mao-style collar, surrounded by soldiers and smiling broadly.

Today, we have an eager belligerent meeting that nuclear threat challenge.  Last year’s you would not believe the headlines this morning.  This is the kind of bellicose rhetoric that buys us a front seat to war.

Peter Baker / New York Times:
Trump Says Military Is ‘Locked and Loaded, Should North Korea Act Unwisely’

Simon Denyer /Washington Post:

Shane Savitsky / Axios:
82% of Americans fear nuclear war with North Korea

The headline that got to me was that the Homeland Security is actively working with Guam on preparing for a potential nuclear attack. I just want to call all the family in Japan and apologize to them for putting them through this again. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings happened on August 6, 1945. It may have ended a war last time.  This time, it will not and no one in that region elected a madman US President.

Guam Homeland Security issued a new fact sheet Friday, which the agency says will help residents prepare for an imminent missile threat.

The information was released following this week’s threat by North Korea to launch a missile attack against Guam.

The advice includes tips such as: “Do not look at the flash or fireball – It can blind you” and “Take cover behind anything that might offer protection.”

“Lie flat on the ground and cover your head. If the explosion is some distance away, it could take 30 seconds or more for the blast wave to hit,” the sheet states.

During a press conference at Adelup late Friday afternoon, Gov. Eddie Calvo told reporters that the threat level remains the same and that the island is “safe and sound.”

“There are no changes,” Calvo said. “Everyone should continue to live their lives.”

While the governor said there’s no imminent threat to the island, he said families should still be prepared any situation, including inclement weather, and establish a family emergency plan.

Homeland Security says residents should prepare an emergency supply kit and a family emergency plan. During an imminent missile threat, authorities recommend taking cover as quickly as possible under a concrete structure or below ground after an attack warning is issued.

People should also avoid going outside for at least 24 hours to avoid any possible radioactive material, unless otherwise told by authorities.

If possible, take a shower with lots of soap and water, shampoo but avoid using conditioner that will bind to any radioactive material in your hair, the fact sheet states.

After the explosion, people are encouraged to keep an eye and an ear out for official information so they know where to go, what to do and places to avoid.

You have to wonder if any of the Generals wandering the West Wing approved of the “locked and loaded” rhetoric. Meanwhile, South Korea and the US have a scheduled Military exercise. You also have to wonder if continuing on with that is in any one’s best interest at this point but I’m an economist not a military strategist and yet I wonder every day if you can even do strategy or game theory or even assign probabilities to the unpredictable minds of two mad men.

The annual joint exercises, named Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, have long been planned for 21-31 August, but now come at a time when both Washington and Pyongyang are on heightened alert, raising the spectre of a mishap or overreaction.

The timing is doubly concerning as it is within a timeframe in which Pyongyang says it will be ready to fire four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles toward the US-run island of Guam, an unusually specific threat against the US.

Washington and Seoul say the exercises, involving tens of thousands of American and South Korean troops, are a deterrent against North Korean aggression.

In the past, the practices are believed to have included “decapitation strikes” – trial operations for an attempt to kill Kim Jong-un and his top generals, further antagonising a paranoid leadership.

Trump kept the pressure up with a tweet on Friday morning threatening Pyongyang but indicating he wanted to avoid hostilities.

A US-led move that brought the United Nations security council to impose broad sanctions on North Korea was passed on Saturday, sparking a furious response from Kim’s regime, promising “thousands-fold” revenge.

Speaking off the cuff, Trump then added further heat by threatening to unleash “fire and fury”, to which Pyongyang responded with its plan to fire four missiles to land in waters near Guam. On Thursday, Trump suggested his comment “maybe … wasn’t tough enough.”

How could any of this play out?

It’s the no-win situation that can only be imagined by US military officials tasked with preparing for a worst-case scenario — conducting a preemptive strike on North Korea.

With little time to evacuate, millions of innocent citizens would be caught in the crossfire if the US and its regional allies were to initiate a first strike, that would almost certainly result in high casualties on both sides.

Friday morning, President Donald Trump warned on Twitter that “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded,” though he said “hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”

A military operation would consist of a swift and multi-dimensional attack, as the fight would be defined by the first minute of combat, according to Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain and senior fellow at the Center for New American Security.

While Hendrix has not been briefed on the specifics of a possible preemptive strike option, he told CNN that the operation would likely include several strategies aimed to neutralize North Korea’s defensive and counterstrike capabilities.

Countering North Korea’s relatively formidable surface-to-air missile defense capabilities, stealth American F-22s, F-35s and B-2 bombers would likely lead a joint air campaign with the help of Japanese and South Korean F-15 or F-16 fighters, he said.

Unmanned aircraft could also be used to limit risk to pilots.

It is surreal to think that the US would ever exercise a first strike ever again. It is naive to think that any one in South Korea or the region would not have their lives ended or upended for years to come.  The US has had a strict “No first use” policy in place for decades.  China has announced that it would fight a US first strike but not support a NK first strike.  

China will prevent the US and South Korea from carrying out strikes on North Korea and trying to overthrow the leadership there, but will remain neutral if Pyongyang launches missiles at American targets first, the state-run Global Times said.

The warning, delivered through an editorial in the Chinese state-run newspaper on Thursday, comes as both the US and North Korea continue to exchange incendiary remarks, raising the risk of overreaction or miscalculation amid the crisis.
Beijing should make it clear that “if North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral,” the Global Times wrote.

But if the US and its ally South Korea take on Pyongyang and try to “overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so,” the paper stressed.

The widely-quoted newspaper, published by the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, also noted that the latest developments are seen in Beijing with growing frustration and deep concern.

“If war really breaks out, the US can hardly reap any strategic harvest and North Korea will face unprecedented risks,” the paper cautioned. “North Korea aims to propel the US to negotiate with it, while the US wants to put North Korea in check.”

Beijing was unable “to persuade Washington or Pyongyang to back down at this time,” the Global Times said, adding it primarily pursues peace and stability in the region. All sides involved in the crisis should understand that “when their actions jeopardize China’s interests, China will respond with a firm hand,” the government paper explained.

China – North Korea’s long-standing economic partner and ideological ally – reiterated on Friday that all sides involved in the crisis must “speak and act with caution” as well as build up trust rather than “taking turns in shows of strength,” according to a Foreign Ministry statement quoted by Reuters.

I for one join the 82%.  Wall Street has taken notice too.  Stocks will likely fall for a 4th day in a row.   I don’t trust anything coming out of the White House because the President is insane.  It’s time Republicans stand up for sanity and our country.

What’s on your blogging and reading list today?