North Korea nuclear threat: should California start panicking?
From The Guardian:
After five nuclear tests in a decade, North Korea has already shown that it poses a nuclear threat to South Korea and Japan, roughly 80,000 American soldiers stationed in those countries, and to China, its nominal ally. But although Kim Jong-un has dramatically increased missile testing since he took power in 2011, North Korea has yet to test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could cross nearly 5,500 miles of the Pacific.
North Korea would need to overcome two feats of engineering to threaten the American mainland: a working ICBM system and a warhead for one of those missiles. Unlike shorter-range missiles, long-range missiles have multiple engines and flight stages, meaning North Korean engineers have to make rockets – and bombs – that can survive the violent vibrations of launch, the wrenching g-forces of flight, and the temperature changes of takeoff and re-entry from space.
“Producing a warhead that can handle all that is a challenge,” said Joseph Bermudez, an analyst for 38 North, a thinktank affiliated with the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Although Kim has said he wants to test an ICBM later this year, Bermudez doubted the test would be a success. Until North Korea begins ICBM tests, it will be difficult to gauge the country’s capabilities, said Joshua Pollock, a senior researcher at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California.
The US has reportedly made it more difficult for North Korea to get missiles off the ground, with a series of cyberattacks begun by Barack Obama. But government hackers alone probably cannot stop North Korea’s ambitions, Bermudez said.
“It’s likely that any cyberwarfare campaign would not be able to stop either the nuclear program or the ballistic program, only delay it.” Donald Trump vowed on Twitter earlier this year that Kim would not test an ICBM, and his advisers have not ruled out pre-emptive military action.In other words, the Trump Administrations actions are the height of prudence.