This Is How America Would Wage A Nuclear War Against North Korea

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Dave Majumdar via The National Interest,

"It is time to think about the unthinkable..."

The standoff between the United States and North Korea continues to escalate with neither side willing to back down.

With each passing day, the possibility of open warfare breaking out seems to increase as each side ups the ante. Indeed, President Donald Trump has ratcheted up his rhetoric in recent days—seemingly threatening to launch a nuclear first strike against North Korea.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.


“They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

Just hours later, Kim Jong-un’s regime in Pyongyang threatened to preemptively strike at American forces given even a “slight sign of the U.S. provocation.” That, according to the North Korean statement, would include a “beheading operation” such as a special operations forces raid aimed at assassinating Kim.

“The U.S. should remembered, however, that once there observed a sign of action for ‘preventive war’ from the U.S., the army of the DPRK will turn the U.S. mainland into the theatre of a nuclear war before the inviolable land of the DPRK turns into the one,” reads a North Korean Foreign Ministry statement.


“We do not hide that we already have in full readiness the diversified strategic nuclear strike means which have the U.S. mainland in our striking range.”

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis—while taking a more measured tone—issued a statement on August 9 warning North Korea that it must give up its nuclear weapons. “The DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Mattis said. “The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”

Mattis also warned that the United States would continue to maintain overwhelming nuclear superiority over Pyongyang. “While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth,” Mattis said. “The DPRK regime’s actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates.”

If tensions with North Korea boil over into open warfare—or if Trump decides to launch a preemptive strike—there are military options available to the United States. However, the collateral damage that might be wrought onto South Korea and Japan could be devastating.

“We would not necessarily need to resort to a nuclear strike,” one retired Defense Department official told The National Interest.


“We have conventional capabilities and capacity to take out many of the threats we are most concerned with. It wouldn't be easy, of course.”

Another high-ranking former senior defense official said that North Korea is a complex, multi-dimensional problem. It is not an issue that can be solved by the military or even the United States by itself. All of the stakeholders in the Western Pacific including Japan, South Korea, China, Russia and United States have to be part of the equation. “Endorsing Japan and South Korea seeking their own nuclear deterrent force may get China’s attention,” the former senior defense official said. “There are many such options available and that needs to be played out before resorting to the military option is the best way ahead.”

But what are the military options available to the United States should it come to war?

Arms control advocates note that a preventative nuclear first strike would be a gross violation of international law. “Talk of targeting North Korea with nuclear weapons is delusional and should be off the table,” Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association, told The National Interest. “In addition to the gross illegality of a preventative nuclear strike, the humanitarian, economic and environmental consequences would be devastating—and not just contained within North Korea’s borders. Washington would be putting U.S. allies at serious risk, both from the fallout, but also from a North Korean counter attack.”

If Trump’s words are taken at face value and a nuclear first strike is a real option that he is considering, the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of twenty Northrop B-2 Spirit stealth bombers will likely have to shoulder the burden.

“We haven't had tactical nukes in the fleet since the Bush I administration, so no first strike will come from the sea,” James R. Holmes, professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College—speaking in a personal capacity—told The National Interest.


“An ICBM or SLBM strike could be misinterpreted by China and Russia as against them, so that's probably out as well. My guess would be that USAF bombers, probably B-2s, would carry out the mission.”

As for conventional options, the B-2 can carry a pair of 30,000 pound GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator bombs, but the U.S. Air Force only has a handful of those weapons in its inventory. It is not clear if there are enough GBU-57s available to substantially damage the North Korean nuclear program, let alone destroy it.

“On the conventional side, there are bunker-busting munitions. We're back to the USAF as the primary executor of the operation, with THAAD and Aegis ships providing the defense against missile launches,” Holmes said.


“How effective bunker busters would be would depend on how many sites need to be struck, how deep and extensive the bunkers are, and whether we could concentrate enough fire on them to do the job.”

Davenport agreed that the United States has conventional military options—but there is no guarantee of success. Moreover, North Korea could retaliate with its road-mobile ballistic missiles, which are designed to ride out a first strike by dispersing.

“The United States has non-nuclear options in the region for targeting North Korea’s nuclear assets, such as airstrikes and cruise missiles,” Davenport said.


“But while a conventional strike would be less devastating, there is still no guarantee that the United States would hit all of Korea’s nuclear assets. The U.S. has fewer intelligence options at its disposal in North Korea, and Pyongyang has mobile nuclear-capable missiles that are more difficult to track.”

Even if Trump were to resort to the nuclear option, there are questions as to how effective such an attack would be.

“I guess the answer depends on how you define effective,” Holmes said.


“One imagines we could take out the program with nukes, but at what cost? Even apart from the obvious loss of life and material damage, you're talking about nuking a country that is centrally located among American allies and prospective foes.”

In fact, the collateral damage to the United States’ network of alliances and Washington’s standing in the world could be catastrophic.

“There would be a very real prospect of breaking our alliances with Japan and South Korea and assuring permanent enmity from China and Russia,” Holmes said.


“We would also place our position as guarantor of the international order in jeopardy. As you suggest, it's hard for an international pariah to lead by example. So my answer would be: a first strike wouldn't be effective even if it worked. The returns don't justify the enormous costs.”

Another factor to consider is that a military attack that is intended to disarm North Korea’s nuclear forces might actually prompt a nuclear retaliation.

“If the North Korean regime thought is nuclear deterrent was at risk, either from a nuclear or conventional strike, Pyongyang might miscalculate and launch its own nuclear weapons,” Davenport said.


“A nuclear exchange of any size would have devastating regional consequences. Even a strike targeted solely at taking out North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missiles runs the risk of being misinterpreted by Pyongyang as part of a larger military operation.”

Indeed, as former director of national intelligence, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper told CNN, North Korea is looking at the world in strict realist terms. Pyongyang—from its vantage point—is surrounded by enemies that are overwhelmingly more powerful than it is. The Kim regime’s only trump card against those foes are their nuclear weapons. Because the survival of the Kim regime is dependent on their nuclear capability, Pyongyang will never give up those weapons under any circumstances. Thus, America’s best response is containment and deterrence.

“We need to have dialogue with them,” Clapper told CNN. “But accept the fact they are a nuclear power."

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Magnix's picture

Yeah, go get em!

New_Meat's picture

- 5027

get your head outta' your ass



philipat's picture

First time I agreed with Clapper on anything! He's right that Kim will not give up the nuclear weapons because, in essence, Kim doesn't want to become the next Iraq or Libya.

knukles's picture

Ya' know kid, sometimes a goat with a hardon can be mistaken for a unicorn

Winston Churchill's picture

If you're not sure feel it.

Old toolmakers sayimg.

new game's picture

one hellofa diverse mamal. hell, something for all cultures...

Doom Porn Star's picture

Once upon a time, the atomic bomb was a unicorn.

This time the new unicorns that the US has been secretly breeding may be deployed. 

Everyone is discussing the publicly known arsenal of weaponry such as bunker busters, ICBMs and nukes.

I would not rule out the use of experimental and/or highly unconventional weapons systems for this unique theater and problem.  

In a real old-style WAR, a conflict with the binary choice of survival and a ost-conflict prosperity, or death and enslavement; ALL options are considered.

GMOs,/biological, chemical, pharmacological, emp/pulse, laser, microwave, cyber., haarp.. who knows???


Winston Churchill's picture

The only thing about those Secret weapons is the fact all those black funds have been stolen.

Wake the fuck up,since 2000, TPTB have looted everything in sight,after looting everything

out of sight.

Zer0head's picture

Kim is being paranoid, just give up your weapons MR. Un and the west will leave you alone

spyware-free's picture

Yes. Like they left Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Ghaddafi & Assad alone

man from glad's picture

Lost me in the opening paragraphs... Trump is not going "nuclear first strike". Complete BS.

Rusty Shorts's picture

Good listen, Dr Samuel Cohen inventer of the Neutron Bomb

New_Meat's picture

Yo, Rusty, how they hangin' ?

Taint Boil's picture

What exactly did North Korea do again that justifies a war? Did they attack someone? …. I’m a little confused.

If I’m walking down the sidewalk and someone spits on me, as bad as that is, it doesn’t give me the right to pull out a gun and kill them (although I would like to).

Please state in one sentence what North Korea did to justify an attack by the USA on their country.

clade7's picture

..that pumpkin pie haircut for starters...severe fashion violation...?

matermaker's picture

No other country on the planet has been so horrific to its people.  Not even those in Africa.  It is literally a starving black hole when the lights are out.  The dictator is actually worshipped as a sun god for the third generation.  Slave labor, millions starved to death, sedition is punishible by killing your family for 7 generations out.  Fed his uncle to dogs.  Executes people with anti-aircraft guns.  Not even the Chinese want this guy to be brought 'back to the table of global commerce' much less a nuclear power.  As a child he was in a Swiss boarding school being paranoid.

All that said, he's a tool.   What the world REALLY wants to know is how good are our untested anti-missle systems.  If they work, it is much of a game changer as the great wall of China or when bombers could no longer penetrate Soviet air space.  The concept of MAD is over and all of a sudden the USA is WAY ahead.

We will know in the next hour or three.  Trump and Xi are to talk on the phone.   Soon after [it is dawn over that way now] We either will or won't here from Lil Kim.  I suspect Trump will argue that we are going to take him out and Xi can argue with Russia who is going to take over all that massive amount of natural resources.

historian40's picture

Were you going for how many lies you could pack into one post?  Do you people even bother getting to the bottom of your accusations before wishing death on millions and mass destruction on nations?

Gotta blow them up to save them.  How often is this going to fail before you idiots stop with it?

Oh, that Gaddafi is so terrible, he killed al-CIAda protesters, so the empire goes in and mass murders far more people who did nothing at all.

Half a million murdered in Syria for the empire's regime change schemes.

Mass murder in Afghanistan and Iraq, based on false accusations and no evidence.

Your horror stories about North Korea, even if they weren't lies, would be nothing compared to the misery and death resulting from yet another imperial war on them.

Drop the self-righteous excuses of "for the people".  It just adds hypocrisy to your list of sins.

haha-clinton-dix's picture

ok so how many nukes should we get hit with then? This isn't a war of choice. They are trying to nuke us.

Poor Afghanistan, Syria and Libya. My heart really goes out to them. Pan Am. Dancing in the streets on 9/11. Yeah, they're completely blameless and really did nothing.

Medical researchers and charity workers in America should die, so feral delusional monsters get to have fun. Got it. Thanks. Next Russophile, please chime in.

Kobe Beef's picture

Since when did the White Man get afraid of causing a little death? If there is an International Law, we wrote it. If there are Human Rights, we made them. If you have food, we grew it. If you have oil, we drilled it. If ye have infrastructure, we built it. We are the Makers of the World, and We shall make it how we wish, in the way that is best for Us. 

These savages have forgotten to praise those who gave them life. So let them curse We who brought them death. So long as their primitive tongues stain the earth, let them scorn. It will not be long. Their memory will be as short as their contribution to humanity. Washed away like tears in the rain.

We have suffered enough to see the truth: Our Mercy means their Multiplication. Our Generousity is their Grabbiness. Yea, our tolerance is at an end. 7 billion hominids on Planet Earth. Death to the 6 who don't measure up, and never will.

Should they wish to live, let them fight. Since they are less, make them die.

Exterminate the Brutes, wherever they may be found.



ReturnOfDaMac's picture

Yes, release thy inner neanderthal!   Feel better?

Tarjan's picture

Kobe Beef, if you really believe all of the shit you wrote, you are one really sick character.


kochevnik's picture

Deep State fucks suddenly care about lives when their power at stake, never otherwise

Taint Boil's picture

Bingo …... Hmmm …. I didn't see our aircraft carriers on CNN for the Rwandan genocide ……. An estimated 500,000–1,000,000 Rwandans were killed during the 100-day period.

Oh wait … you don’t have any oil over there, sorry - we can’t get involved with other people’s business.


Oliver Jones's picture

Oh, wait ... we don't have any oil over there...


SilverRhino's picture

What the world REALLY wants to know is how good are our untested anti-missle systems.

Nailed it with this. 

This is EXACTLY what China and Russia want to know.  


Which is why we should eradicate that country with space based kinetic weapons.   That's the hole card we're sitting on. 

A Sentinel's picture

Excellent insight I think.

During Iraq 1, CNN showed (live?) vehicle tip video from a cruise missile hit some telecom building in Baghdad. Then they showed a second missle fly into the hole made by the first.

That showed pinpoint nuke device delivery capability-- and consequently the US's new (in the 1980's) ability to directly hit hardened silos-- aka true first strike capability.

I remember reading some Russian generals recounting their impression watching that, and they all were thinking the same thing "we lost."

If functional abm and guided delivery vehicle neutralizing tech is demonstrated as publicly as those cruises were back in the 80's then the US will get another decade as the toughest kid on the block.

Oliver Jones's picture

Right up until the first Type 6 surfaces in the Hudson, pops a hatch and raises a flag with "Bang!" written on it.

Russia already foresaw this development some time ago, and in a classic chess move, they decided on a strategy that would nullify any advantage the US could gain from ABM defences.

Taint Boil's picture

[No other country on the planet has been so horrific to its people.]

OK - agree ...... What the fuck does that have to do with us. You can't bomb someone because you don't like what they do in their own house. If my neighbor puts bubble gum in his wife's hair to get off it doesn't mean I can file for divorce on her behalf, it is up to her to do.


haha-clinton-dix's picture

So North Korea gets to do whatever it wants?

Can the USA do whatever it wants too?

Taint Boil's picture

WTF !!! Exactly you stupid fuck - what did NK do is the question.

Yes, NK can do what ever it wants in their own country.

meowmix105's picture

Can the US do whatever it wants?? Hmm, I'm trying to figure out whether you're being serious or meant as a rohtorical question? 


Since US does and will do whatever the fuck it pleases! At home or wherever else it damn wants to_ unfortunately 


cocksukin' joos 

ReadyforLiftoff's picture

They have a nuclear bomb pointed at your (USA) head and are threatening to use it. You'll have to get off the drugs to make it any clearer.

historian40's picture

Lie.  Bald-faced propaganda.  You'd think people would make certain before wishing mass murder and mayhem on a whole nation.

ReturnOfDaMac's picture

+1 U'vd my good historian.  Another chickenhawk at the ready, always willing to send other folks kids to the woodchipper.

Mineshaft Gap's picture

Yes, you're confused.

Let's dispense with the simple-simon metaphors. This isn't spitting on a sidewalk...unless you pack plutonium between your cheek and gum.

Here's the sentence you begged for: NK is a belligerent dictatorship led by a megalomaniac that's been firing missiles into the territorial waters of other nations while threatening nuclear war against us.

This doesn't mean we should necessarily attack them. I'm in favor of containment, if it can still be done. It depends, really, on China, and that depends on whether we continue the self-destructive policy of importing portloads of their shit and kowtow to its expansionist territorial aims. Meanwhile, they hold the fraying NK leash. We have to decide whether and on what terms we can live with the mad dog on the end of it.

ReturnOfDaMac's picture

Pray tell, which mad dog do you refer?  Norks have not bombed anyone, 'cept maybe some fish.  Our mad dog hadn't even been in office 6 mos before he bombed someone who did attack us at all.

haha-clinton-dix's picture

No bombs in the Korean War?

What brought us to Asia in the first place? Pearl Harbor?

Why were we still there? Psycopathic communists, who in between torturting each other to death, played a game of who wants to kill Americans the most?

America when it was first founded, everyone left, just went home. We keep trying to get rid of this awful garbage, but everyone else in the world continually tries to kill us.

We really do a number on them though when they try. Kim has about 10 layers to go before he gets to us, and one of them is China. That will be funny.

ReturnOfDaMac's picture

Why were we still there?  We 'Muricans just can't seem to ever mind our own beeswax ...

meowmix105's picture

I truly mean no disrespect haha clinton, but for fuck sake are you ignorant as fuck all! Call me whatever name (s) you wish, here on ZH. 


Although that won't change anything. Honestly I'd love to and prefer your assessment and or outlook of certain countries throughout the world. Unfortunately, due to the hijacking of our nation by a very sophisticated criminal banking cartel, who wish nothing more than the destruction of one nation after another! 


I cannot support your theory/opinion _ peace 

Give Me Some Truth's picture

Re: Please state a reason for attack in one sentence.

Well, I watched some CNN today and they had an interview with the former CIA director, who said North Korea's leader was (paraphrasing) a tad crazy, or maybe not the most stable person in the world. For CNN, this guy's characterization was more than enough to start a war that could kill millions.

iampreparedru's picture

Your walking down the sidewalk with your kids and a guy pulls a knife and says he is going to kill your kids. You have a gun, what do you do?

secretargentman's picture

To complete the metaphor, the guy needs to be in a wheel chair being escorted by a medical team. When he pulls a knife you laugh and continue on with your business. 

KFBR392's picture

what is the problem? u serious? the problem is that an insane rogue nation with nothing to lose is threatening repeatedely to nuke us. thats a fucking problem when they actually can bc of inept western foreign policy for the last 25 years. u wanna keep rolling the dice that kim wont launch while they continue to strengthen their arsenal? a show of force of some kind is needed. pay me now or pay me double later. what a bunch of confused pussies we are now in the west. we have every right to end this beligerrent little fuck. trump has balls abd knows the appease and escalate game cannot continue. for fucks sake grow a pair. there is no bargaining with an insane regime.

Greed is King's picture

What N.Korea did is unforgiveable, they REFUSE to drop their knickers, bend over and get screwed by Uncle Sam like most of the rest of the world are being screwed by the avaricious American Establishment, including the American people.

HRClinton's picture

How dare NK not have a private (((oligarch-owned))) Central Bank, beholden to the (((Fed))) and (((BIS)))?

How dare they keep out GS and Wall st., when there are so many resources to "invest in", i.e. stripped and stolen?

How dare they deny us the encirclement of China, and us not having CIA assets on their border, to sneak into China?

How dare they have WMDs as their "Sampson Option", to retaliate against us for having 1000x in WMDs?

How dare they...

Grumpy6's picture

North Korea is a very poor country.  We do not fully understand how such a poor country can afford to develop and produce nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles.  It costs a lot of money to develop, acquire, operate, and maintain the precision technologies required to make these weapons systems.  Are they getting the money from Iran?  Taiwan?  Algeria?  Who else thinks they need nukes?  Who knows?  While North Korea may have legitimate reasons to counter the U.S., a larger threat is the North selling these weapons to the Iranians (some of the Iranian leaders have some scary apocalyptic beliefs).  The Iranians, inventors of the truck bomb, are already in bed with North Koreans on weapons development, we just don't know to what extent.  So this beef with North Korea is also a strong message to Iran.   We should communicate to the Chinese that we do not intend to invade North Korea, just wreak it so badly they will not pose a mililtary threat to anyone for another 20 years.   And let's be clear, when disarming a nuclear power one does not fool around with MOABs,  MOPs, or other conventional bombs -- you fight nukes with nukes because you don't have time to do the usual Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) before going after his nuke or missile facilities.  Oh, and we can tell the Chinese to relax, there won't be that many  North Korean refugees, either.