by Nicholas Moran ’19
What had been a normal day in Hiroshima disappeared in a great white flash, as August 6, 1945 quickly turned into hell on earth. For the past 72 years, the horror of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings has never been forgotten. Yet if the status quo does not change, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un will have the power to unleash the carnage Japan witnessed over 70 years ago.
Kim Jong-un, a tyrant who, according to a 2016 article by The Guardian, sends 120,000 political opponents to “the most wretched” concentration camps, where they suffer “systematic starvation, torture, rape… executions… [and other] unspeakable atrocities” for standing up to the despot. This is a man who executes opponents with devastating anti-aircraft guns, and who does not think twice about using chemical weapons banned by the Geneva Convention in a crowded airport.
This brutal tyrant absolutely cannot have his hands on nuclear weaponry that can reach the Continental United States, and the United States must be incredibly cautious in preventing this nightmare scenario.
Faced with a growing North Korean nuclear program that already has 10 small nuclear weapons, how bad is the threat now for the U.S. and its allies? And how can it worsen?
According to experts at the Rand Corporation, the Koreans are capable of a nuclear strike in a 500-kilometer range, putting major cities like Tokyo and Seoul and American military bases in Okinawa and possibly Guam in jeopardy. While the Continental U.S. is currently safe, experts for The New York Times warn that the U.S. will be in range by 2026. As North Korea continues its missile tests, the threat only grows.
How can America stop this crisis? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters on Friday military intervention “is on the table” if North Korea refuses to halt its program, yet a conflict with North Korea would come at heavy cost.
American General Curtis Scaparrotti warned that the conflict “would be more akin to the Korean War and World War II… [than recent wars,] very complex, probably high casualty.” Unfortunately, American war simulations and other experts have painted a similarly grim picture. Faced with certain annihilation, the North Koreans would launch what the Times calls “a full scale, last-ditch effort” to shock their enemies. Artillery would rain on South Korean cities like Seoul, turning it into a lunar landscape.
Other Korean and Japanese cities could face chemical or nuclear strikes, a horrific prospect. Additionally, war simulations show 90,000 American troops would be deployed in a deadly 56-day initial invasion, and if they succeed, they would then have to scour the countryside finding every last North Korean weapon before it falls into the wrong hands.
However, these predictions are still just that—predictions. America has 10 years to use its full diplomatic powers to halt their program before the continental U.S. is in reach, but they must be cautious in avoiding an incredibly costly war. The horrors that thousands witnessed at Hiroshima must never happen again; stopping the North Korean nuclear program will greatly help that cause.