Saturday 15th April 2017: This week America bombarded a Syrian air base with 59 cruise missiles and dropped 'the mother of all bombs' in an IS occupied cave/tunnel complex in Afghanistan. It also moved a carrier battle group to patrol off the coast of North Korea to let the North Koreans know that the USA would not tolerate their acquisition of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of hitting mainland America; sabre-rattling stuff and a clear indication that President Trump has departed from ex-President Obama's more diplomatic approach.
This morning, the North Koreans staged their annual anniversary parade, displaying their military might to the world. They also announced that if America carried out a pre-emptive strike, they would launch a nuclear counter-strike, presumably against South Korea and possibly Japan as their missiles can't yet reach America. Today, the media are fulminating over the prospect of nuclear war. Should we be worried?
Let's go back in time. The Cuba missile crisis in 1962 did bring the world to the brink of nuclear war. The Soviet Union had secretly provided President Castro's Communist regime, similar to that in North Korea, with intermediate range nuclear missiles capable of striking most of the USA; and Castro declared that he would launch a nuclear strike if America invaded Cuba, an intolerable situation for President Kennedy. The situation was saved by President Kruschev backing down and withdrawing his missiles. The difference now is that North Korea has built its own nuclear weapons; no one can withdraw them.
In 1968, all countries signed the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, which limited nuclear weapons to the USA, USSR, China, Britain and France, but there were four abstentions: Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. Of the latter, the first three acquired nuclear weapons some time ago and have now been joined by North Korea. All four countries sought nuclear weapons because they considered themselves to be under threat; North Korea is technically still at war, the Korean War ending only in a ceasefire (1953).
So what's new? During the forty-four years of the Cold War, both sides had nuclear weapons but they were never used because of the principle of Mutually Assured Destruction. If North Korea were to use its nuclear weapons, its destruction would be guaranteed, and that is the last thing the Kim Jong-un regime wants. Even if they fill their streets with nuclear weapons, it won't change the price of fish - except in Pyongyang. They have simply entered the world of Mutually Assured Destruction. Possession of nuclear weapons offers them the national security they crave, not military victory. Can't fault them for that.
The Cold War ended because the economy of the Soviet Union collapsed, not because nuclear weapons were used. The economy of North Korea is in dire straits; just look at the vast economic gulf between free South Korea and the dictatorship-managed North. If Pyongyang continues to invest in massively expensive nuclear weaponry, sooner or later something will give. Let them stew in their own juice.
However, if President Trump were to authorise a pre-emptive strike, then the world would face nuclear war. North Korea is not a cave system in Afghanistan.