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On North Korea, Keep Calm and Carry On

April 11, 2013 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

North Korea has caused more nervousness than usual in the international community in recent weeks. American pundits and political figures have a serious case of the jitters. There is talk by some hawks that the United States needs to consider a show of force.

But cooler heads need to prevail. We should recognize North Korea for what it is: a beggar state with no capability to launch a nuclear attack against the American homeland.

When Pyongyang followed its December 2012 ballistic missile launch with a nuclear test in February, the United States predictably led the charge to impose tighter sanctions in response, and an increasingly annoyed China did not block that effort. Kim Jong Un’s regime has since aimed a barrage of shrill threats at the U.S. and South Korea.

The most far-fetched one was that North Korea would attack U.S. cities with “cutting edge” nuclear weapons. More troubling was Pyongyang’s renunciation of the 1953 armistice that ended the fighting in the Korean War, though North Korean leaders have issued similar empty declarations before, and the severing of a hotline with South Korea.

We should recognize North Korea for what it is: a beggar state with no capability to launch a nuclear attack against the American homeland.”

This is cause for some concern, but we shouldn’t blow the situation out of proportion. The same news media outlets that solemnly intoned that sequestration would strangle the federal government, and who earlier suggested that going over the so-called fiscal cliff would wreak havoc on the entire U.S. economy, are now warning about a dire North Korean threat to American security. The usual hawks in Congress are also demanding action. Senator James Inhofe, R-Okla., declared that the United States needed to have in place “right now” a plan for a preemptive strike on North Korea if the crisis deepened.

But there is little evidence that North Korea poses a threat to the United States. It is unclear whether Pyongyang’s embryonic nuclear program has produced even one deployable weapon. It certainly has not produced sophisticated, compact “cutting edge” warheads that can be married to ICBMs.

Nor is the country’s missile program likely to be mistaken for those of first-rate military powers. The successful December launch followed several spectacular failures over nearly a decade, and a single successful test is a long way from creating a fleet of reliable missiles.

North Korea’s ability to conduct attacks against targets in South …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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