What Will We Say About the North Korea Situation in 2021?

Published with Permission by:
Lint, James R., “Potential Worst-Case Scenarios from North Korea’s Nuclear Threat”, In Homeland Security, 19 Sept. 2017, Web, http://inhomelandsecurity.com/will-say-north-korea-situation-2021/

By James Lint
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Military University
Senior Editor for InCyberDefense and Contributor, In Homeland Security

Correctly anticipating attacks is a difficult science. Years after Pearl Harbor, historians and academics still study why we were so surprised by the Japanese attack on our largest Pacific naval base.

All Events Have Indicators and Warnings

On July 26, 1941, about five months before Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt froze Japanese assets in the United States, which effectively ended commercial relations between the two nations. A week later, Roosevelt placed an embargo on oil exports to Japan. This action followed a string of other sanctions placed on Japan for its military aggression in Asia.

Similarly, the Korean War began in 1950 when North Korean troops invaded South Korea. We entered the Korean War at a time when U.S. military strength was at a much lower level than it was five years earlier at the end of World War II. When the North Koreans built up their troop strength, the U.S. and South Korea should have increased their troop strength and defenses to prevent the surprise attack that came on an early morning.

In addition, we remember the 9/11 attacks and how we later discovered that the terrorists attended flight schools in the U.S. We should have anticipated potential trouble when we discovered that those pilot terrorists were more interested in learning takeoffs than landings.

Foreign Policy Magazine stated: “Thinking about risks we face today, we should reflect on the major conclusion of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission established to investigate that catastrophe. The U.S. national security establishment’s principal failure prior to September 11, 2001, was, the commission found, a ‘failure of imagination.’”

Unfortunately, indications and warnings (I&W) are always clearer after an event.

How Should We Interpret North Korea’s Launch of a Potentially Nuclear Missile?

On July 4, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) which he said could carry a nuclear warhead. Launching the missile on America’s Independence Day was a strategic message to the United States from North Korea.

According to Newsweek magazine, Kim said, “the test should be considered retribution for the U.S.’s ‘arrogant’ decisions, ‘hostile policies’ and ‘nuclear threats.’ With a smile on his face, Kim also called on his officials to ‘frequently send large and small “gift packages” to the Yankees.’”

On September 16, Kim said there will be more missile tests in North Korea. The New York Times reported Kim as saying “all future drills should be ‘meaningful and practical ones for increasing the combat power of the nuclear force’ to establish an order in the deployment of nuclear warheads for ‘actual war.’”

Two days earlier, the Washington Post reported, “U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pressed China to cut oil exports in a bid to prod North Korea toward talks after Kim Jong Un’s regime threatened to sink Japan ‘into the sea’ with a nuclear strike and turn the U.S. into ‘ashes and darkness’ for agreeing to the latest UN sanctions.”

The Post continued, “In comments reflecting North Korea’s penchant for apocalyptic rhetoric, the state-run Korean Central News Agency [KCNA] said, ‘Japan is no longer needed to exist near us.’ Citing a statement by the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, KCNA said, ‘The four islands of the archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche,’ a reference to the regime’s ideology of self-reliance.”

KCNA labeled South Korea’s military as “puppet forces.” It then blamed the South Korean “traitors and dogs of the U.S. for backing sanctions against their fellow countrymen.” According to the Post, KCNA added that the “group of pro-American traitors should be severely punished and wiped out with fire attack so that they could no longer survive.”

Pyongyang’s latest verbal assaults come while South Korea is considering providing $8 million in humanitarian aid to North Korea.

Do All of Kim’s Warnings Constitute Indications of a Potential Attack By North Korea?

When Kim stated in 2015 that he was ready to detonate an A-bomb and an H-bomb, few people believed him. But in 2017, Kim did precisely what he promised. Maybe people should have believed his statements.

So what will the U.S., Japan and South Korea do regarding Kim’s actions in 2017? Have they had enough indicators and warnings?

Will We Wonder in 2021 Why No One Saw the Loss of an American City?

Will we look back in 2021 at Kim’s statements over the years and wonder why no one foresaw the loss of an American city to North Korea’s nuclear weapons? In retrospect, most people in 2021 will probably see that we received plenty of warnings.

Kim’s warnings were credible because Kim said he would have ICBMs and he does. Kim said North Korea would soon have an atomic bomb and it does.

Kim also said North Korea would have a hydrogen bomb, and he has demonstrated that claim is also true. Kim seems to speak the truth.

The military often produces After Action Reports (AARs) or reviews of recent exercises or tests. They do so to look for lessons learned and to improve U.S. capabilities.

This AAR was conducted before the problem occurred to aid in predicting and analyzing the future and to prevent a disastrous AAR in 2021.

What we might see in 2021 AARs will be more of Kim’s claims about his nuclear capability and his intent to destroy other areas of the globe. Hopefully, it will be nothing more than that.

About the Author

James R. Lint recently retired as the (GG-15) civilian director for intelligence and security, G2, U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command. He is an adjunct professor at AMU. James has been involved in cyberespionage events from just after the turn of the century in Korea supporting 1st Signal Brigade to the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis as the first government cyber intelligence analyst. He has 38 years of experience in military intelligence with the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, government contracting and civil service.

Additionally, James started the Lint Center for National Security Studies, a nonprofit charity that recently awarded its 45th scholarship for national security students and professionals. James was also elected as the 2015 national vice president for the Military Intelligence Corps Association. He has also served in the Department of Energy’s S&S Security Office after his active military career in the Marine Corps for seven years and 14 years in the Army. His military assignments include South Korea, Germany and Cuba, in addition to numerous CONUS locations. In 2017, he was appointed to the position of Adjutant for The American Legion, China Post 1. James has authored a book published in 2013, “Leadership and Management Lessons Learned,” a book published in 2016 “8 Eyes on Korea, A Travel Perspective of Seoul, Korea,” and a new book in 2017 Secrets to Getting a Federal Government Job.”

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