back to article Can North Korean nukes hit US mainland? Maybe. But EMP blast threat is 'highly credible'

When they said a week is a lifetime in politics, they weren't kidding. One moment, President Donald Trump talks of "fire and fury," the likes the world has never seen, in response to an increasingly aggressive North Korea, which is trying to menace the US with nuclear weapons. Then that's shoved to the side by neo-Nazis …

  1. Paul Crawford Silver badge
    Unhappy

    "Suppose they launch it and it does no damage," he posited. "What do we do then? No one is asking that."

    I strongly suspect that massive retaliation would be under way before the damage had been assessed, not that it is going to help anyone else in the world (least of all those moderately close to NK).

    The issues here of power grid resilience to major country-wide effects though are something the whole world should be considering, not just the fast EMP effects on electronics, but rather that risk of a solar flare causing extensive power grid damage. It would only take a couple of days without fresh water, sewage disposal, or fuel pumping for food delivery to seriously cripple any nation for decades.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_storm_of_1859

    1. Phil W

      "I strongly suspect that massive retaliation would be under way before the damage had been assessed, not that it is going to help anyone else in the world (least of all those moderately close to NK)."

      I think that very much depends on whether Trump decides the strategy or someone with more intelligence i.e. one of his Generals. Nuking the entirity of North Korea would be bad for everyone, neighbouring countries would be worst off but the fallout from that kind of sustained strike would have global effects.

      Nuking the capital with a few lower yield warheads, to hopefully take out most of the leadership, followed by conventional airstrikes on military facilities rounded off with ground invasion would be far more effective and have far less impact on the neighbouring countries and none (directly anyway) on the rest of the world.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Generals (and other stuff too)

        "very much depends on whether Trump decides the strategy or someone with more intelligence i.e. one of his Generals."

        http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/almost-everything-in-dr-strangelove-was-true

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Nuking the capital with a few lower yield warheads, to hopefully take out most of the leadership, followed by conventional airstrikes on military facilities rounded off with ground invasion would be far more effective and have far less impact on the neighbouring countries and none (directly anyway) on the rest of the world.

        Except that the moment the first American soldier steps into North Korea from the south, ten PLA soldiers will enter from the north-west - taking us all back to where we left off in 1953, except with nuclear arms all around.

        Hopefully, American generals will have enough moral fibre left to refuse to follow an insane order from a deranged commander-in-chief, so we won't ever go there.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Why would China start a war with the US to protect a state that had just nuked the US? Bearing in mind a war with the US would disrupt their trade (not to mention risking nuclear war) - and if China's economy goes South then the people may decide they no longer want the Communist Party in charge. The "experts" have been saying for a while that China needs to keep growth above 5% in order to avoid social unrest, and that's a pretty widespread view so far as I can tell. The Party may not entirely share it, but I don't think they'd feel safe entirely ignoring it either.

          Anyway if China was pushed a choice between having diplomatic and trade relations with their largest trading partner and the world's leading military power or the North Korean rogue regime that had just nuked them, it's basically a no-brainer. They support North Korea now, only because it's perceived as less trouble than not doing so.

          I'm sure China wouldn't be happy about an invasion of North Korea, and might well give covert help in order to keep the US on the hop. But then the US can't invade North Korea on its own anyway. They've only got 1 division in South Korea, and that's not enough - and I'm sure they've got national agreements that they can't attack from Korean bases without permission. They always did in Europe.

          The US has the troops and airpower to invade, given time to build up, and permission of the South Korean government. Or obviously say 5 carrier battle groups and their strategic bombers can reach almost anywhere in the world, with nobody's permission. That's at least 300 front-line fighter-bombers and lots of heavies and cruise missiles - with which you can't win a war, but you can make a point.

          1. Mad Mike

            Chinese control

            I think people are missing the point a bit about the relationship between North Korea and other countries, most notably China. In the past, China has exerted massive control over North Korea and has been able to use them as a deniable asset to do various things for them. This might just be generally keeping people on their toes, but also other stuff. What about cyber attacks. North Korean attacks are often traced back to China. This and other information implies a good deal of cooperation. For China, this means North Korea can do things for them (such as cyber warfare) and if things get a bit hot, they can simply be cut loose or sacrificed. Not so if the PLA are doing it.

            However, the above only works if China has positive control of what goes on. In the past (prior glorious leaders), this always seemed to be the case. However, with this latest change of North Korean leadership, Chinese control seems to be waning. The glorious leader seems to be doing things that are annoying China and even directly against their wishes. In other words, China is loosing positive control of North Korea. At this point, North Korea becomes a significant issue to China and if anyone is going to invade North Korea, China is best placed to do so. They could even sell it as a humanitarian act.

            Comments about China being worried about a US influenced state on their borders (if say South Korea invaded north or whatever) are really wide of the mark. China knows nobody is going to try and invade them. Their forces are so numerous that nobody stands any chance of victory and would be dragged into a massive war of attrition. So, China isn't worried at all about who's on that border. Even if it was a unified Korea with the USA standing behind them, it wouldn't worry Beijing.

            North Korea is a handy puppet for China, but when they become too hard to control, China will deal with it, probably through leadership change. Be in no doubt about that.

            1. Bubba Von Braun

              Re: Chinese control

              If one looks at the history of the region, Chinese interest has been in securing the border with a buffer. In some respects this is no different to the Soviet approach to eastern Europe.

              While the North started the fight, and took it up to the then deployed forces pushing them south to the Pusan peninsula, a counter-offensive cut-off the North forces in the south and headed to the Yalu River. At this point China felt directly threatened and given Gen. MacArthur behavior at the time requesting nuclear weapons, may have had some cause to be concerned.

              The Chinese crossed at Yalu en-mass and then this turned into a war of attrition, the Chinese objective met, the land buffer from the west forces established its the status quo they sought.

              Prediction is if the glorious-leader/nut job does indeed target the US or US interests, expect China to invade and take control rapidly, replacing the regime with a more friendly puppet, just as they have in Tibet. The last thing China wants/will allow is reunification as it wants the buffer, having western forces on a land border is unacceptable to China.

              US wont nuke the North, the fallout would impact key allies, and ultimately the US itself.

              BvB

          2. Timmay

            > "Why would China start a war with the US to protect a state that had just nuked the US?"

            They wouldn't - they actually said they would only attack the US if it was a pre-emptive strike against North Korea. If it was a retaliatory attack, they'd remain neutral.

            1. Mad Mike

              @Timmay

              "They wouldn't - they actually said they would only attack the US if it was a pre-emptive strike against North Korea. If it was a retaliatory attack, they'd remain neutral."

              Do you really think the Chinese would go through with this? Start a nuclear war (in which they would suffer badly) to avenge some tinpot dictator? I think this is diplomatic speak of the highest order and a completely meaningless threat.

          3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

            Why would China start a war with the US

            Both China and USSR (and as a consequence Russia) have a mutual assistance treaty with North Korea and are obliged to assist it in the event of an aggression by a foreign power. In fact, if memory serves me right, China is in the unenviable position where they are obliged to assist even if NK is the aggressor provided that the attack is coming from USA/South. Russia is supposed to be upon aggression. Both have classified annexes which are not available for public consumption so we do not know exactly what is in each of them.

            Neither has rescinded sections or withdrawn in entirety from their treaties. They may do so if Fat Kim The Third does something really stupid, but have not done it so far.

            In any case - finally someone saw the same thing I saw when we were discussing their last nuclear test. They do not need any fecking reentry vehicles. All it takes is 4-5 nukes to take out 95%+ of USA infrastructure. Two above East coast, one or two above West Coast, one above Texas.

        2. Mad Mike

          @AC

          "Except that the moment the first American soldier steps into North Korea from the south, ten PLA soldiers will enter from the north-west - taking us all back to where we left off in 1953, except with nuclear arms all around."

          Why would the PLA risk this? A direct confrontation. Do they need North Korea? Do they have any loyalty to the leadership or people of North Korea? No. They would simply bolster their border defenses on their side of the border and wait. If anything, a merging South/North Korea would hamper South Koreas economy and political leadership for several decades, much like with Germany. China don't need the land or anything else. Risking conflict with the USA would be for nothing China wants.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "Except that the moment the first American soldier steps into North Korea from the south, ten PLA soldiers will enter from the north-west - taking us all back to where we left off in 1953, except with nuclear arms all around."

            Not likely. Remember, just THREE WEEKS AGO, China issued a "warning" that the U.S. should not shoot first. The implication is clear that they expect the U.S. to defend herself AFTER first attacked. If North Korea launches an atomic weapon, I suspect that the PLA is going to be pulling WAY back from the front for a while.

        3. JEDIDIAH
          Mushroom

          > Hopefully, American generals will have enough moral fibre left to refuse to follow an insane order from a deranged commander-in-chief, so we won't ever go there.

          You sound like the unhinged Congresswoman who allegedly was whining about Trump dragging us into a nuclear war after a North Korean attack.

          If NK decides to lash out then there's really no other option than to deal with them. Otherwise we're just betraying all of our friends in the region.

          Is that really how you think? Things get tough so you abandon your friends. Sucks to be your friend then.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "Nuking the capital with a few lower yield warheads, to hopefully take out most of the leadership,"

        Unlikely. The Norks know they are on to a hiding to nothing if they do a first strike. All the leaders and senior military will be scattered and underground long before they launched anything. No doubt the USA have a number of satellites and maybe one of their space planes tasked with surveillance of the Norks and will be very carefully watching the movements of anyone "important". I'd expect a very highly targeted response with conventional missiles, aircraft and drones.

      4. IGnatius T Foobar

        military strategy

        I think that very much depends on whether Trump decides the strategy or [...] one of his Generals.

        If recent events are any indication, President Trump (PBUH) knows he needs to listen to the Generals when it comes to anything involving the military. From Syria to North Korea to Afghanistan right down to deciding whether to allow trans to serve, he seems to be perfectly willing to listen to what the Generals are recommending.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      One thing China are worried about is that they would likely bare the brunt of the refugee crisis if/when the NK state collapses.

      1. Mad Mike

        @phuzz

        "One thing China are worried about is that they would likely bare the brunt of the refugee crisis if/when the NK state collapses."

        That presupposes the Chinese have anything approaching morals. We all know most politicians are pretty lacking in morals and the Chinese more than many. If this really happened, I would expect to see the Chinese close the border and simply deal with it in North Korea. I can't imagine they'd allow millions of refugees across the border.

  2. a pressbutton

    Never understood the obsession with ICBMs

    Why not just put it into a s. korean shipping container - or a chinese one - or a vietmanese one etc

    Put it in with other heavy engineering components, Use thick lead etc.

    Send many

    Better yet, don't use nukes, just send 2,000,000 norks in groups of 50 in little boats and only arm one in 5 boats.

    The world gets to see the us navy killing 500,000 unarmed starving people.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Never understood the obsession with ICBMs

      Or better still, bang both leaders heads together in some diplomatic approach?

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Never understood the obsession with ICBMs

        Just bang Kim Jong "Fatass" Un's into a wall someplace. It's obvious who the aggressor is.

        Didn't anyone learn how to STAND UP to a bully, especially when he's basically "all talk"?

        Trump is doing the right thing, up to and including having CHINA involved in this, in an actual good way. The USA isn't going to pre-emptively "glass" N. Korea, so having China threaten us just let's them 'save face' on the issue. The REAL issue is China "going neutral" if N. Korea launches missiles at the USA (including Guam, I might add) or an ally (like Japan or S. Korea). THAT should have Kim Jong "Cartman" Un relieving himself without the benefit of a toilet bowl. And THAT is what we want. Because _SANE_ negotiations don't work with people who are INSANE. Like Kim Jong "fat boy" Un.

        We (the world) have been collectively appeasing and paying this ass-hat (and his ass-hat father, Kim Jong "So Wonewy" Il) off with various deals, favors, etc. expecting proper response, i.e. NOT developing their nuke program. Of course, we kept OUR end of the bargain. The Kim family doesn't keep THEIR end of ANY bargain. So it's time to play HARDBALL with these idiots. And China _IS_ with us (even if they won't admit it).

        1. jimdandy

          Re: Never understood the obsession with ICBMs

          Bob - just exactly what are your qualifications for dealing with international, and I might add, Nuclear opponents in our so-called Free World? I know exactly how nuclear EMP attacks on the West Coast will arrive, and how much chaos they will cause. That's why I have both solar and battery-backup

          "stupid" systems that can survive said EMP.

          You may live somewhere east of the targeted areas, and that may make you feel safe. But I suggest you re-think that idea. Unless you do as I did, and have 30 - 60 days of clean water, frozen/dried foods and a big-assed tank of gasoline at your farm, you are going to suck big time when that pissant chump/tool of China rubs his missile hard enough to make it go off.

          Say good bye to that massive amount of food that is grown in California that normally feeds your family. I hope you and your kids can get out there and do more than reap wheat or corn, because you can't live off of that - at least not for long. Your cows can (oh, wait - you don't have cows?), but how many of your family know how to milk cows? By the way, try not to milk the male cows; they have a weird way of showing their appreciation. Then again, you may like that.

          1. Richard 81

            Re: Never understood the obsession with ICBMs

            "just exactly what are your qualifications for dealing with international, and I might add, Nuclear opponents in our so-called Free World?"

            One might ask you the same question.

        2. Farnet

          Re: Never understood the obsession with ICBMs

          I thought Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump are interchangeable.

          Both fat, small handed, stupid, egotistical and liars, and they both want to press the nuke button, just finding an excuse.

          Looking forward to the negs from the obvious 'members'

    2. Smooth Newt Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Never understood the obsession with ICBMs

      Better yet, don't use nukes, just send 2,000,000 norks in groups of 50 in little boats and only arm one in 5 boats.

      The world gets to see the us navy killing 500,000 unarmed starving people.

      I don't think that would happen because the North Korean government rules by terror and is doubtless loathed by most of its population. Instead virtually all of those people would immediately ask the nearest US naval vessel for political asylum.

      1. Craigie Bronze badge

        Re: Never understood the obsession with ICBMs

        'doubtless loathed by most of its population' - sadly I think you have underestimated the leadership cult and brainwashing in NK. From what I have seen, most of the populace are true believers.

      2. fajensen Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Never understood the obsession with ICBMs

        rules by terror and is doubtless loathed by most of its population

        This is not how people out in the real world works. What most people actually want is Meaning and Purpose, something that can convince them that their existence is not useless, futile and wasted. This "rule by terror thing" is totally subjective - if there are predictable rules and stable structures yielding predictable outcomes, then people will see the meaning and buy into the project.

        The Roman Empire, Medieval Catholic Church, Sharia Law - people are totally fine with those kinds of terror and totalitarianism. The rebellion comes when the rulers become corrupt and capricious so that the structure and order decays, outcomes become unpredictable, not over any atrocities; that's family entertainment, in many cases.

        The North Koreans no doubt love their great leader for purging the weak, protecting them from the evil Americans and generally making the sun rise each and every morning. Every North Korean alive has had a grandparent who was bombed or napalmed by the Americans, it will not be the Americans they will seek out for protection.

        Kim Young Un made one mistake though in killing his relatives. It shows people that Gods can be killed, which is never a good thing for the current God and it is capricious too, outside of the normal rules which will lead to doubts, also not a good thing for the current God.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Never understood the obsession with ICBMs

      A fiction story in the 1970s postulated a Chinese prawn trawler arriving at the US coast and unloading its catch into a lorry - together with a nuclear bomb. Said truck then drove to Washington DC.

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Never understood the obsession with ICBMs

        @AC

        A fiction story in the 1970s postulated a Chinese prawn trawler...

        In "The Fourth Protocol" by Frederick Forsyth, a device is assembled from parts smuggled into the country

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fourth_Protocol"

        also a 1987 film with Michael Caine...

        http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093044

        and Pierce Brosnan, before he was turned and started working for MI6 recruitment

        1. Patrician

          Re: Never understood the obsession with ICBMs

          It was also a computer game....

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fourth_Protocol_(video_game)

    4. Dave 32

      Re: Never understood the obsession with ICBMs

      "Why not just put it into a s. korean shipping container - or a chinese one - or a vietmanese one etc"

      Shipping containers are monitored for gamma/x-ray emissions prior to entering the country:

      https://www3.epa.gov/radtown/shipping-port-security.html

      Given that a fission warhead, based on Plutonium-239 has a fairly high spontaneous fission rate (both from the Pu-239 itself, and from higher order enrichment products), and that the criticality of a bomb core is awfully close to 1.00 to begin with (such that it just needs a slight bit of compression to push the criticality above 1.00), it's going to be sitting there fissioning like crazy (so much so that the core of a fission weapon feels noticeably warm to the touch). And, all of those spontaneous fissions, and the secondary fissions they induce, are going to be spewing gamma rays like crazy. Thus, all one has to do is to look for gamma rays of the energy of those fissions. And, as hot as those gammas are, they're going to be awfully difficult to shield.

      Dave

      1. Blank Reg Silver badge

        Re: Never understood the obsession with ICBMs

        Unless they are checking the containers while the ship is still out at sea then it doesn't help. A ship at port, with a nuke the size of a shipping container would wipe out a large chunk of a city.

      2. TheElder

        gamma/x-ray emissions

        From what? Plutonium that isn't fissioning emits alpha rays. That can be stopped by a piece of paper.

        I worked at the Rad Lab when I was 14. The bomb will NOT be close to fission until triggered. If it was it would change shape. Plutonium is very unstable with even small changes in temperature. I suggest you research plutonium metallurgy.

        1. fedoraman

          Re: gamma/x-ray emissions

          The main decay mode is alpha, true, but plutonium does undergo spontaneous fission, so there are neutrons given off. The daughter products, some of which have quite short half-lives, will be emitting gammas and beta particles, so the warhead will be fairly easy to detect.

        2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

          Re: gamma/x-ray emissions

          "Plutonium is very unstable with even small changes in temperature."

          I liked the entry in Smithells which shows the phase changes in plutonium with temperature and observes that the specimen was self heated.

      3. samzeman

        Re: Never understood the obsession with ICBMs

        Hold on a sec; If bombs emitted a lot of gamma, even while they were armed, then the submarine pilots that carry and live around nuclear bombs would all have quickly gotten radiation poisoning, right?

        The bombs are probably radioactive, sure, but not fissioning like crazy, and not warm to the touch... They don't have control rods in or anything. They fission like crazy when they explode. That's the point.

        Nuclear armaments are made of Pu-239 and Pu-240. The Pu-240 is the very, very radioactive part, but the 239 has a half life of 24,000 years, so it's not too bad. Supergrade weapons, used in subs because of their prolonged exposure to the crew, have >95% Pu-239 and so are relatively safe to be around (when not exploding).

        Although, I doubt NK could make supergrade bombs, to be fair. So far they're only proven to have weapons grade, which is safe to be in the same plane as for a short flight. I grudgingly have to agree you may not have been entirely wrong, but most modern plutonium bombs aren't "fissioning like crazy"

      4. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Never understood the obsession with ICBMs

        DAve 32 suggested that "...Shipping containers are monitored for gamma/x-ray emissions prior to entering the country..."

        You're implying that they're scanned 200 miles off-shore.

        They're scanned ON THE PIER AT THE CONTAINER PORT, at the Port of Entry, which is (for example, possibly) just a few km from downtown (some are zero km from downtown). And this is after the container ship possibly steamed right past the downtown core on its way to the container port.

        It's all a bit perfectly stupid.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Never understood the obsession with ICBMs

        Shipping containers are monitored for gamma/x-ray emissions prior to entering the country:

        ALL Shipping containers, everywhere!? And they are of course doing a better job than the TSA does?

        A professionally designed warhead is not sitting there cooking away really close to the edge, polluting all the good bang-stuff with decay product. Weapons designers simply don't want that, they want stability and they especially want to be sure that the thing goes 'BooM' when needed - with a generous margin for neglect of specified service intervals. Too much radiation degrades all the systems around the warhead.

        If one want to detect a warhead inside it's casing, one usually has to "ping" it with neutrons and see what gamma / neutron spectrum comes back. This is not so easy to do properly, it is the kind of test equipment the specialists use on the verification side of nuclear arms reduction treaties to prove that someone is not sneaking some of the good stuff away and selling on the side. Without having to disclose the nature of the warhead design to the enemy by physical inspection.

    5. Orv Silver badge

      Re: Never understood the obsession with ICBMs

      Why not just put it into a s. korean shipping container - or a chinese one - or a vietmanese one etc

      While that would work after a fashion, it's not a very effective use of a bomb that powerful. Atomic weapons don't explode at ground level, they're used in air bursts. (You'll notice even in static atmospheric tests, the "gadgets" were invariably on tall towers.) That's not to say it wouldn't be effective as a terrorist weapon -- it would irradiate a lot of dirt and throw it into the air, for one thing -- but it's not the best bang for your buck. At that point you might be better off with a conventional "dirty bomb."

      Also, nuclear weapons are first and foremost about a deterrent effect. If you're trying for a deterrent, having a ship loitering offshore all the time is not ideal, especially since, for a proper deterrent effect, you'd have to make it known you had a ship loitering offshore (although maybe not which one.)

    6. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Never understood the obsession with ICBMs

      Why not just put it into a s. korean shipping container

      Take out 2-3km radius instead of the entire Eastern Seaboard. Unless you use a super-dirty bomb like Russian Status-6 project, but that would require NK to make a 50+ year step technologically so it is not yet on the menu.

    7. Gustavo Fring

      bACK CHANNEL

      I would say that trump is in talks with China regarding NK and saying we'll let you have your south china sea island if you let us attack and destroy NK conevntionally, you can then put ina more stable leadership.I bet even chinese troops could help in the plan, portray NK as a foolish nation needing re-education, patriotism comes to the fore, gets to test all their latest stuff under real battle conditions. What would India and Russia do in all this? stand back and watch I suspect . Why dont they cover the data centres in Tin foil?

  3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    I say Chaps...

    "We'd better dust off all those Cold War Plans."

    "Here's the '2' stamp to update them."

    "Minister? Phillips here. All the preparations are complete."

    "Right team. Who bought the custard creams today?"

  4. Smooth Newt Silver badge
    Meh

    Telecommunications cables

    The telecommunications cables that make up the communications backbone of the US, and the world, would also be extremely vulnerable.

    Twenty years ago perhaps, but most trunk cables are optical now.

    1. jamesb2147

      Re: Telecommunications cables

      Lots of old ones used powered electronics to regenerate the signal, even on fiber optical cables. Modern ones apparently use some kind of photonics regenerative laser pump signal thing, which I 100% don't understand. The old ones would certainly be taken out.

      Now, what's interesting is that very few of these cables are within their designed lifetime anyway (generally 10-15 yrs), so if they're *at all* vulnerable and something happened, they'd probably be more likely to have issues than those few newer cables.

    2. TheElder

      most trunk cables are optical now

      The amplifiers aren't. Neither is the metal shielding. I used to have a nice section of that cable. It had six fibres. Two were in use, the other four were backup. I friend of mine was an installer.

    3. kurios

      Re: Telecommunications cables

      The light sources driving the fiber optics are laser diodes running on power supplies that can be killed by EMP.

  5. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    "there are still hurdles to overcome – chiefly reentry and targeting."

    As the old saw goes, "close only counts with hand grenades and thermonuclear devices." I think we're in that regime. Anywhere on US territory is fine. Even the ocean, if it sends a "radioactive" tsunami on shore.

    1. TheElder

      close only counts with hand grenades and thermonuclear devices

      And MOABs.

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        Re: close only counts with hand grenades and thermonuclear devices

        "And MOABs."

        Okay, so the full version is now "close only counts with horseshoes, hand grenades, moabs, themonuclear devices, meteorites lobbed at the planet from orbit, dumping enough mass in the host star that it goes supernova, or triggering the universe's metastable vacuum state to decay to a lower energy level."

        1. Hero Protagonist

          Re: close only counts with hand grenades and thermonuclear devices

          "Among our weaponry are such diverse elements as..."

          1. Steve Evans

            Re: close only counts with hand grenades and thermonuclear devices

            I wasn't expecting that.

            1. Anonymous C0ward

              Re: close only counts with hand grenades and thermonuclear devices

              Our chief weapon is surprise.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      The Norks don't have thermo-nuclear.

      Their tests have all been under 10kt. I may be wrong on the last one, as I haven't seen a final report on it, but the first indications was it was around 9kt-ish. The others were smaller, such that it was thought possible they could have faked them by rigging a fuel-air explosive in a cave. I seem to remember at least one left no traces for the radition sniffer planes - which of course may just have been that they kept the cave it was detonated in sealed. Or they faked it.

      So we're still talking the kind of bombs that will be causing mass casualties within a mile or two of detonation. So if set off in a container port would do limited damage, modern ones usually not being in city centres.

      So even with a working missile, and re-entry tech, they'd struggle to even hit a city at several thousand miles. And that's assuming everything works at once.

      EMP avoids re-entry, but you've still got to get the warhead into the right place, and their one satellite launch attempt failed to do that.

      Plus the US and Japan have the capability of shooting down any of their missile launches, whenever they want, from SM3-armed ships in the Sea of Japan. It's only a political decision that they don't, and that can be changed at any moment. Assuming the US can keep it's Arleigh Burke class ships from crashing into random oil tankers...

      1. Michael Thibault

        "The Norks don't have thermo-nuclear."

        That's what we'd like to think.

        "at least one [test] left no traces for the radition sniffer planes - which of course may just have been that they kept the cave it was detonated in sealed. Or they faked it."

        That's what we'd like to think.

        All this calculation and speculation is interesting and enlightening. Probably very close to the money. One of the things we're assuming, though, is that NK is doing their testing publicly and earnestly -- in keeping with received dramaturgical wisdom about emergent nuclear weapons programs in small, isolated, secretive rogue nations run by hereditary dictators.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Headmaster

      As the old saw goes, "close only counts with hand grenades and thermonuclear devices."

      Pedant mode: I recall it being "horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear warheads."....

  6. Dave Bell

    The Geneva Conventions class using indiscriminate weapons, or any kind, as a War Crime.

    Does that matter?

    Apparently not.

    The last time things blew up in Korea, both North and South almost lost. Both countries suffered horribly. Each has reason to be scared of the other and its allies.

    If China, backing North Korea said they would back a deal, it might be possible to trust them. Would anyone want to trust the current UK or USA?

    Oh well, do we even matter any more?

    1. annodomini2 Bronze badge

      North and South are still technically at war.

  7. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Whipping boys

    When it is impractical or inconvenient to retaliate against the real culprit, America has a history of attacking a weak country that it knows it will easily defeat. After the Saudi-initiated attack on the WTC, Iraq (a country that did not harbour any terrorists and presented no threat) was annihilated. After a lot of tough talk about N.K., America has decided to attack ... Afghanistan.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Whipping boys

      knows thinks

      Because every final "US Victory" promised always ends up with Jack and Shit (except that Jack has moved on to another town)

  8. jamesb2147
    Pint

    Cheers

    Thanks for a well researched and informative article, Iain!

  9. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Where?

      "Fat-boy" Kim wants to use submarine launched missiles. I imagine his subs squeak and ring like a bellfry full of bats, and would be heard by every hydrophone up the coast of California, but that doesn't mean we can just fire a torpedo at it when he first shows up [in international waters, anyway]. When that missile hits the atmosphere, it's almost too late without a pre-emptive strike.

      except, of course, for anti-missile systems. We just hope they're adequate. And of course, our sub that's been trailing his for DAYS would blast it to Mars.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: our sub that's been trailing his for DAYS (@BombasticBomb - how appropriate)

        " our sub that's been trailing his for DAYS would"

        collide with a stationary rock?

        Oh hold on, that was the Brits in 2009.

        Or the Brits and a French sub in 2016.

        The yanks currently seem to be having trouble navigating things that only move in 2 dimensions, never mind three.

      2. Ledswinger Silver badge

        Re: Where?

        but that doesn't mean we can just fire a torpedo at it when he first shows up [in international waters, anyway]

        Why not? Back in the days of the Cold War proper, before over-the-horizon radar, and when radio capabilities were less advanced, both sides would opportunistically or even deliberately plan-and-execute a shoot down of the other side's aircraft in remote locations to try and glean intelligence on flight, defence capabilities or to examine the wreckage. All in breach of various laws and treaties, but so long as you weren't caught, it didn't count. U2 spying flights in Soviet airspace fell into the same innocent-unless-caught category, until the Ruskies showed they could shoot them down.

        In this case, if the USN destroyed a Nork submarine seventy miles of the US coast, publicly nobody would know, nor care. And if wreckage or bodies were found then it could be attributed to an on-board explosion caused by poor equipment. Obviously if the USN sank a Chinese sub in error there'd be some embarrassment, but with the Norks restricted to clanky old 1950's design Kilo class diesel electric subs, I think the USN wouldn't have that problem.

        1. Boothy

          Re: Where?

          Quote: "U2 spying flights in Soviet airspace fell into the same innocent-unless-caught category"

          No they didn't, spying is not 'innocent', not unless it's in international airspace (and even then debatable), and flying through someone else's airspace with a military aircraft, without permission, is also not 'innocent'. Put both together, and that's a perfectly good reason to shoot them down.

          It's why the U2's were built for such high altitudes, in the hope that it would keep them out of range of the USSR anti-air missile systems. Which of course worked, for a while anyway!

          1. Ledswinger Silver badge

            Re: Where?

            No they didn't, spying is not 'innocent',

            I think you're missing my meaning here. What the law or international agreements say has no meaning unless people abide by it regardless, or you can enforce it.

            The point I was making was that nobody intended to comply with the rules on either side, and if you can get away with it, you do it. Even after the Powers incident, the US continued in the US case with the SR-71. In the era of electronic warfare, all sides aim for false flags and plausible deniability, so this continues unabated.

      3. JEDIDIAH
        Devil

        Re: Where?

        Fortunately this isn't the 80s. We aren't trying to deal with the Soviet Union and thousands of warheads. Decades old SDI tech that was woefully inadequate for dealing with mutual assured destruction with a comparable superpower should be more than good enough to deal with what North Korea has.

        The news media wants to pretend that North Korea is much more threatening then they really are.

        Desperate for ad revenue I suppose.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Where?

          The problem is the personality of the enemy leader. At least the Soviets were averse to MAD; they were rational, that's why MAD worked for them and works for China as of present. But what if your enemy leader is of the mind of, "Oh, screw it" and ACCEPTS MAD?

        2. Orv Silver badge

          Re: Where?

          Decades old SDI tech that was woefully inadequate for dealing with mutual assured destruction with a comparable superpower should be more than good enough to deal with what North Korea has.

          Color me skeptical. Missiles can easily deploy countermeasures, sometimes even accidentally. In the 1990s Iraq's extended-range SCUDs were unstable on reentry, and the upper stage would would break up. The much-vaunted Patriot missiles would then happily go for the bigger chunk, the booster, instead of the warhead. And that was just a theater ballistic missile defense, not an intercontinental one, where the problems all happen on a bigger, more challenging scale.

  10. Dave 32
    Coat

    Bigger is not better

    "He points out that the Starfish Prime tests in 1962 used a 1.4 megaton device and caused limited damage. The much smaller device attributed to the North Koreans, even supposing that it and the missile delivery system work, would cause less damage."

    The problem is that bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to EMP weapons. The issue is that a 1.4 megaton device is a fission-fusion type weapon, and the small fission type primary very well may cause ionization of the atmosphere, such that the gamma rays released by the fusion secondary are "shorted out", minimizing the EMP effect of the larger device. Thus, you may get almost as much bang for the buck by using a thin cased fission weapon, as you would with a two or three stage thermonuclear fusion design.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_electromagnetic_pulse#Weapon_yield

    "Hence, small pure fission weapons with thin cases are far more efficient at causing EMP than most megaton bombs."

    Now, take that approach, and use somewhere between three to five fission bombs, strategically spread across the continent and timed to go off within a few milliseconds of each other, and bad things happen.

    Dave

    P.S. I'll get my coat. It's the one with the Aluminum foil beanie in the pocket.

    1. LazLong

      Re: Bigger is not better

      The weapons that the Norks have detonated to date have been relatively low-yield fission devices, the most powerful of which was estimated to be no more than 30KT. Depending on design, it is true that low-yield fission devices can be more efficient at producing E1 effects than fusion devices, but the effects are limited to line-of-sight. The E3 effects are what knock out the power grid, and the E3 effect of low-yield fission devices is insufficient to produce anything other than regional outages. Thus, NK would be best served attacking the northeastern part of the US where its financial and federal centers are concentrated, but their current delivery vehicles are incapable of reaching this area from their territory. To overcome this NK could develop a ship-launched weapon.

      1. TheElder

        Re: Bigger is not better

        Enhanced EMP devices only need to be maybe 6 KT yield to act like a megaton or more. Kim has Russians working for him, the same people that developed those devices. It is even possible than one is already in orbit.

        EMP can also be done with conventional weapons.

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Obvious question. Could you split the whole grid into smaller sections to be more survivable?

    And could you do it if you received warning of the Norks launching?

    And is there a system for the power utilities to receive such warnings?

    Incidentally the steel those big transformers are made of is probably made by in vacuum arc or vacuum induction furnaces, which also use these transformers.

    1. Dave 32
      Pint

      Re: Obvious question. Could you split the whole grid into smaller sections to be more survivable?

      At one point, the US electric grid was divided into 10 regions. But, it's been a decade or two since I was involved with emergency planning/management, and I believe that some of those regions have been merged. Still, even with 10 regions, almost all of those regions were large enough to cause significant issues due to an EMP event.

      Plus, look at how much damage an errant tree limb can cause, even within a single region:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northeast_blackout_of_2003

      As for the special steel used for transformer cores, quite a bit of that is "Cold Rolled Grain Oriented" Silicon steel:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrical_steel

      Dave

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        ..10 regions, most..regions..large enough to cause significant issues due to an EMP event.

        So still not small enough to by survivable?

        It's not looking good.

      2. TheElder

        Re: Obvious question. Could you split the whole grid into smaller sections to be more survivable?

        Last I checked it is a DC powerline that runs from in or near Canada all the way to California. Take that out and the west coast of the US is dead. It does depend on weather now since California is not able to even sell all the solar power they generate. There are also independent power systems. In the Central Interior of BC one small city runs on it's own co-generation plant that runs on wood chips. It is usually not connected to the grid at all. There are other places that are powered by hydroelectric systems that can be disconnected in Canada.

        1. kurios

          Re: Obvious question. Could you split the whole grid into smaller sections to be more survivable?

          It isn't that the west coast is dead. It is that there's no longer the ability to allocate power between widely separated areas.

          Those areas with an insufficiency of power will shed load until demand matches the isolated supply. Obviously, the folks who comprise "shed load" will go dark.

          But it is not the case that taking down large HVAC or HVDC distribution lines will black out the west coast. There have been many lessons learned from the blackouts of 1977 and 2003.

        2. jimdandy

          Re: Obvious question. Could you split the whole grid into smaller sections to be more survivable?

          No, not so much. There is a DC line from just south of BC that is a major source of electricity from the hydro sources in the northwest to SoCal. It doesn't exist in isolation from other sources. But it is a big deal when there are major water flows up there in the northwest. These days, there is enough Solar power with natural gas back-ups to manage most of the load in California (and therefore Oregon and WA). When the drought dropped most of that source due to lack of Hydro, the local solar, NatGas, (and other hydro, aka Colorado River) picked up the slack.

          I'm not saying there aren't issues, and risks. I'm saying that so far, there hasn't been an emergency that couldn't be handled by the existing system.

          Now that is not saying an enemy attempt to prong the Western US couldn't succeed with the proper EMP attack. It's never happened before, and - oh by the way - why would profit making enterprises worry about that? Force Majeure is not something that is actionable under most international law.

          In other words, the electric utility companies can just say "Oops, not our fault!' And then get away with it.

        3. Orv Silver badge

          Re: Obvious question. Could you split the whole grid into smaller sections to be more survivable?

          Last I checked it is a DC powerline that runs from in or near Canada all the way to California. Take that out and the west coast of the US is dead.

          I think you mean the Pacific Intertie. It runs from the Washington-Oregon border south to the LA area. It's not as vital as all that, though -- it serves mainly to ship cheap hydroelectric power from the Columbia River to the power-hungry but dry LA area. California currently has a massive over-capacity for power generation, to the point where some brand new natural gas stations almost never run. (This was partly an over-reaction to the artificial supply shortages created by Enron to manipulate the markets, and partly a failure to anticipate how big solar power would get.) If the Pacific Intertie fails, the most likely result is significantly higher power bills for Californians, and a possibility of rolling blackouts on really hot days.

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Could you split the whole grid into smaller sections

      I thought that had already happened, using HVDC converters and transmission to do the sectionalisation, as a mitigation against another Carrington event . But I could be misremembering.

    3. kurios

      Re: Obvious question. Could you split the whole grid into smaller sections to be more survivable?

      Some grid reconfiguration is done in response to solar coronal mass ejection events of sufficient magnitude. We get at least one day's warning of these.

      I'm not sure what could be done within the less than half an hour maximum time between launch and impact of a NOK nuclear ICBM.

      1. Real Ale is Best

        Re: Obvious question. Could you split the whole grid into smaller sections to be more survivable?

        But this is done with the intention of keeping everything running right until the point of a possible CME hit.

        If the NOK launched, how quickly could the US disconnect all power stations and open all EHV circuit breakers? Would that help?

        Yes, it would be damn inconvenient not to have power, but much better if you could then restart everything with minimal damage sustained.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Obvious question. Could you split the whole grid into smaller sections to be more survivable?

          Theoretically, as I recall, the entire power grid could be shut down pretty fast at the main points. However, the restarting and reconnection will take some time... probably at least a week or two. Depends on well the shutdown and isolation downstream of the main points is done. If downstream didn't open the breakers, that will cause the main trunks to shut back down. Basically, if the downstream aren't open, the mains are dumping into a short circuit and then shutting down to protect themselves.

    4. joea

      Re: Obvious question. Could you split the whole grid into smaller sections to be more survivable?

      For some time I have floated the idea that "point source" generation (or "point of use" or "neighborhood" if you prefer) was a much better concept than the "mega plants" and the distribution system that was conceived so long ago.

      Hydro, solar, fuel cell, and small "conventional" plants could all come into play.

      Has not gained much traction for the standard reasons.

  12. ST Silver badge
    Mushroom

    US Nuclear Retaliation Posture

    The current US Nuclear Posture Review [PDF] stipulates that the US will not use a nuclear response on any country that does not posess nuclear weapons and that is a party in good standing to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

    That is not the case with North Korea. They have nukes, and they have not ratified the Non-Proliferation Treaty. And they have threatened the US with a nuclear attack.

    The Nuclear Posture Review carves out explicit exemptions for North Korea and Iran.

    So, yes, the US will nuke North Korea without giving it a second thought if North Korea tries to send a nuke this way.

    See icon at right for a helpful visual.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: US Nuclear Retaliation Posture

      The US will Nuke Norks (no not North Yorkshire...) and hope that China does not retaliate.

      The only hope would be for the US to use Tactical Nuclear Weapons. These are much much smaller and have limited blast area. A few of those on strategic sites might just do the trick without angering the Chinese too much.

      However with DC giving a decent approximation of Trumpton at the moment, Postman Donald may well go Huge, Bigly, Magnificent. God help all of us if he does.

      1. ST Silver badge

        Re: US Nuclear Retaliation Posture

        > Postman Donald may well go Huge, Bigly, Magnificent

        I am sure that's what Cheeto would like to do, but I seriously doubt anyone in the Joint Chiefs listens to anything Cheeto has to say. Especially when it comes to military strategy or tactics.

      2. Ledswinger Silver badge

        Re: US Nuclear Retaliation Posture

        A few of those [tactical nukes] on strategic sites might just do the trick without angering the Chinese too much.

        I think the Chinese would be apoplectic about one of their "allies" on their own border being given the nuclear treatment, and they'd take the chance to do things like perhaps finalize their seizure of the South China Sea "for defensive reasons", possibly do something like arbitrarily extend Chinese territorial waters out to 200 nautical miles, maybe imposing an export embargo on a tiny number of industrial categories that would be intended to make life difficult for the US, enhance the exploitation of expropriated US intellectual property, etc Moreover, if the US toppled Fat Boy Kim, then what becomes of North Korea? China doesn't want reunification under Sork control, because that brings US influence right up to the Chinese border.

        You have to then think, how much is Fat Boy Kim's belligerence currently harming China? The answer is not much at all. China don't care about the suffering of the Nork population. They're not threatened by FBK's homemade fireworks. But the Chinese are enjoying the huge difficulty that FBK is causing the USA, and probably want that to continue. And they're equally happy with the technology sharing between the Norks and other third rate powers that atagonise the Yanks (so Syria, Iran, and perhaps Pakistan). For the Chinese Communist Party, FBK is the gift that keeps on giving.

      3. Farnet

        Re: US Nuclear Retaliation Posture

        If Dumper Trump does hit Korea with a nuke he will single handedly do what all enemies of the USA could never do.

        Ignoring potential loss of life, just the act will instantly ostracise the USA from the world arena, sanctions, economic embargoes will be put in place, and the world would literally turn their back on the country... it is something that no country would tolerate, and Id imagine all major foreign companies would pull out of America as being associated with them would destroy their reputation.

        I doubt even our sycophantic UK government wouldn't support USA after a nuke strike

        I'm being devils advocate, because what would happen if another country did it, how would the USA (for example) treat that country.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: US Nuclear Retaliation Posture

          I'm not quite so convinced. If it was a first strike sure, then yes, it's going to result in instant ostracasion.

          If NK launches a missile at the USA though and the USA conducts a retaliatory nuclear strike while their missile is still in the air as per cold war nuclear plans? It's hardly as if NK hasn't been warned quite bluntly that they are playing with fire.

          Geopolitically, what would be the response to that?

          China, Korea, Japan and countries in the area will immediately get quite irate about the (non metaphorical, radioactive) fallout. There will be no sanctions, as it'd have to be done through the UN security council where the USA has a veto which they certainly wouldn't hesitate to use. Nations around China that want the USA around to prevent them being bullied by China will keep quiet as they don't want the USA to withdraw from the area.

          Again geopolitically, the UK's actions will be dictated by the EU. The EU is effectively dictating that the UK will be a strong supporter of the USA by what looks to be an attempt to make sure that there will be no deal done with the UK leaving the EU. It suits the EU for Britain to not have any agreement so Britain is given a choice of crashing out of the EU with no deal, or remaining in the EU anyway on the terms that the EU chooses to offer.

          Because most EU countries would give in at the threat the EU thinks the UK will. As neither of the British political parties could survive meekly turning around and saying that they'd remain within the EU (given the majority of their core voters voted to leave), then they probably won't be bullied into this as it'd be political suicide for them.

          Hence, the USA's promised trade treaty becomes critically important to both of our main political parties survival, and therefore we won't do anything to upset the USA. We might use bad languade (in diplomatic terms such as "We deeply regret to note", and "we are severely concerned by") but this is severely unlikely to extend to any actions that might actually annoy the USA.

          1. Farnet

            Re: US Nuclear Retaliation Posture

            I thought about that and if we weren't in a Brexit position it would be clearer that we'd stand with Europe, but like you said as we really will only have one powerful ally after Brexit and it being the USA, it would be hard to for the government to turn their backs without either cancelling the Brexit, or become almost as isolated.

            I would hope that the former would happen and the Brexit would be voided and we would stand alongside the rest of Europe, but the realistic part of me seeing the weak and ineffectual government the UK currently has, realises that we'd still be holding the shirt-tails of the USA in all instances other than a complete Trump meltdown and he becomes a crazed red button pusher

    2. JEDIDIAH
      Linux

      Re: US Nuclear Retaliation Posture

      That's all fine and dandy, but nuking North Korea is simply impractical even if all other legal and military consequences could be ignored. Seoul is simply too close to the action. Japan would probably get a nasty whiff of the fallout too.

  13. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Diversionary tactics?

    What does everyone do at a fireworks display? They look at the pretty rockets.

    But what if the space-based delivery system is just there for show? Is it not possible that KJU is only developing them because he wants to be the envy of every other major government (that *ahem* does not have the ability or will to lob their own products spaceward).

    Might the plan for the nukes be to sell them to some well-financed quasi-national group - maybe one that is currently losing it's war - and saying "There ya go. Have some fun with one of these"

    So while the USAians are focusing all their attentions on NK launched "research" rockets, the actual nukes are headed off in an entirely different direction, towards some other western destination.

    Whatever you hit, call that the target

  14. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Mother Nature?

    We're always a day late and a dollar short on this sort of preparation - forget the NORKs, worry about a Carrington Event instead ...

    1. Brian Miller Silver badge

      Re: Mother Nature?

      Even a limited strike would be bad. Remember the L.A. riots? Remember how people acted when New Orleans was hit by a hurricane? There are way too many people who will "behave badly" given the slightest opportunity. Popping something over southern California or the north east would be catastrophic for those areas. Yes, Kim would be blasted back into the stone age, but the U.S. would be significantly hurt.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Mother Nature?

        It wouldn't be a surprise to everyone if the "Big One" hits one day along the California faults and rewrites the local geography with the Pacific coast moving to Sacramento.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Mother Nature?

          It wouldn't be a surprise to everyone if the "Big One" hits one day along the California faults

          Werdsmith! By jove, the fellow's cracked it! Fat Boy Kim, in between his pie-munching mega meals has obvious seen the execrable Superman: The Movie (1978). And because he knows nothing, he thinks that his answer is to plop his crummy shed-manufactured weapon into the San Andreas fault.

          Presumably he's got a white long hair cat, a pool of piranha.

      2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: Mother Nature?

        The bad actors when New Orleans was hit by Katrina was the "heck of a job Brownie" US Government that kept the locals from getting into their boats to go into New Orleans to rescue people, and then transported the bulk of the local population to other states, thus ensuring that the formerly solidly Democratic voting state of Louisiana now votes Republican because they moved millions of voters to other states.

        We're used to things like Hurricanes in Louisiana, they are not a big deal and most locals survive them quite happily - it's the Damn Yankees that have the problems.

        1. JEDIDIAH
          Mushroom

          Re: Mother Nature?

          Sure. That's JUST the thing when a Hurricane of biblical proportions is coming your way.

          "Let's get in our boats!"

          How do people like you come up with that stuff?

          It's a good thing that STUPID of that magnitude was dispersed, even if those of us in surrounding states get contaminated with that.

          1. Orv Silver badge

            Re: Mother Nature?

            Sure. That's JUST the thing when a Hurricane of biblical proportions is coming your way.

            "Let's get in our boats!"

            It is, however, an excellent response after the hurricane has passed, when people are trapped by floodwaters. I suspect you know that's what he meant.

          2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

            Re: Mother Nature?

            "Let's get in our boats!"

            No - you weren't there, I was. After the hurricane had moved on up into Mississippi (where it did much more damage), New Orleans was flooded - and everyone outside the city with a boat headed down to the city to start getting people out of their houses.

            But the National Guard stopped about 90% of the rescuers and sent then back home - a few got through and pulled their relatives out but the majority of the folks were just left there until the Coast Guard pulled them out days later.

            Locally, we may party during a hurricane (not much else to do) and shelter in place - afterwards we get out and pick up the pieces and help our neighbors - unless we're the New Orleans cops in which case we shoot them.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The simple solution

    Bomb North Korea with Nazis.

    You kill two birds with one stone.

    1. quxinot

      Re: The simple solution

      Screw that.

      Bomb NK with politicians. When those run out, start on the lawyers.

  16. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    An Observation

    When you're faced with an individual who's seriously paranoid, it's not a good idea to stare at them, and if they are staring at you, the best thing you can do is quietly move away. You most certainly don't challenge them - unless of course you actually like being beaten to a pulp by someone with sudden quite unexpected strength and ferocity.

    The problem here is that I'm not sure which of these two is more paranoid.

    1. jimdandy

      Re: An Observation

      You are half right. You duck your head, assume the position of obeisance and try to move gently out of their line of sight. Once you have done so, you either assemble your weapon, or signal your team to move ahead on the plan.

      Boom.

      And then the remnants of your team head for their extraction site.

      There is no paranoia; just duty and the assignment.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: An Observation

        "Once you have done so, you either assemble your weapon, or signal your team to move ahead on the plan."

        Unless, of course, you think he's crazy enough to carry a Dead Man's Switch...

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: An Observation

      Is he paranoid? Or just an NK version of a millennial? Or a very shrewd card player? The previous leaders understood brinksmanship, playing the bluff, etc. They grew up in WWII and the Korean War. Current Dear Leader seems to have no clue or perhaps that's the game he's playing.

      It's a dangerous game at best. If he's listening to the old guard even a little and done his homework, he knows the game and the limits. If not, there's a whole bunch of hurt headed his way and probably from the very old guard he's surrounded himself with.

      1. Orv Silver badge

        Re: An Observation

        I don't think he's as paranoid as the US military would like you to think.

        I think he's observed how we've treated other countries, and come to the entirely logical conclusion that we overthrow the governments of countries we don't like, but ONLY if they don't have nuclear weapons. If they have nuclear weapons, we negotiate.

        This is a risky, but actually pretty canny survival strategy for his regime.

  17. The Bionic Man

    Read "One Second After" by William R. Forstchen

    Damn good book in which he warned the US about an EMP attack in his military service.

  18. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Capabilities

    Most of the 'analyses' ignore one key fact; all the technology needed to make an ICBM is 50+ years old. It is well understood and the only issues are engineering and material. Engineering should be fairly straightforward even for the Norks; all it needs to do it go and come down near enough to something juicy with a big bang. The materials needed may be the harder part for the Norks; can they make or buy the necessary materials for some of the specialized parts. Also, they only need an ICBM to hit North America from Korea. Shorter range missiles will be more than adequate to hit ROK, Japan, or Guam.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Capabilities

      NASA, the Russians and SpaceX regularly blow up their rockets. And that's in cases where they've planned the launch several years in advance and are using rockets from a proper production line. With Q&A, and no parts built by slave labour.

      NASA's annual budget is bigger than North Korea's total GDP by the way...

      As the joke goes, it's not rocket science that's hard. It's rocket engineering.

      Now you need to add in warhead engineering too. And enough space engineering to get your warhead or EMP to target. Britain's Chevaline programme cost £5 billion. In 1970s money. And that didn't even get MIRVs, it was to design star-trackers and some decoys to get through Moscow's ABM defences.

      Now admittedly a lot of these costs don't equate, because North Korea won't be paying its top scientists top money. They'll just be telling them what to do. But to do this really complex stuff takes a large chain of scientific and engineering capabilities. And every time you bodge something to get round a problem, that's another bodge that might go wrong when you launch.

      This doesn't mean the Norks aren't a threat. But it's not one to be over-stated, given how crappy their whole infrastructure and capabilities are.

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        Re: Capabilities

        "NASA, the Russians and SpaceX regularly blow up their rockets."

        2016 orbital launch statistics. There are two failures total in 2016: one Russian and one Chinese. (It excludes the Space X incident.)

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Capabilities

        This doesn't mean the Norks aren't a threat. But it's not one to be over-stated, given how crappy their whole infrastructure and capabilities are.

        Rule number 1 of warfare... Never, ever underestimate the enemy. Basically a variation of the Fool's Rule.... they'll always find a way do something foolish.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Capabilities

          Mark 85,

          Possibly. But rule number 2 then has to be don't over-estimate the enemy either. Otherwise you'd be too scared to do anything. This is even more true in diplomacy, where you don't want to be bluffed into letting things all go another state's way, just because they've got military force at their disposal. There are costs to using it, and you hopefully have the threat of your own (or your allies') force to couter it.

          This is why the US Navy does those "freedom of the seas" patrols through the bits of the South China Sea that the Chinese bizarrely claim. And have built military installations on some of the reefs.

          China are mad, or bluffing. So we could give them that area for free, or force them to accept that they can't just move forces in for a free win. At some point, if the surrounding countries want to get at all that oil, then they're going to have to do a mutually acceptable deal. After all, oil insulations are very fragile - and there's no way you can keep them going against hostile militaries.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Capabilities

            But there's a conundrum concerning Rule #2. What do you do if your opponent shows a willingness to go MAD?

  19. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    New Scientist covered some of this a few years back

    An additional problem becomes that you need fuel to keep factories up and running (to make new parts) and fuel transportation and delivery (think petrol stations, among others) requires electricity. No grid means no fuel, at least at the start. Expect that martial law would have to be introduced, with strict fuel rationing until repairs to the electricity grid could be carried out, which, as the article states, won't be overnight. Of course, you've probably also got to power water pumping stations and the like.

    In a society like the US with so many inequalities, it's hard to see how calmness could prevail. It's not like POTUS can just go on TV and convince people it'll be OK, especially if he's the one that egged on the attack.

    1. vistisen

      Re: New Scientist covered some of this a few years back

      People won't be able to see him on TV anyway if there is no power.

  20. Nick Z

    Only the naive and the gullible believe war propaganda

    I think people need to be more concerned about USA attacking first, rather than North Korea.

    Because USA doesn't just threaten other countries with words, the way North Korea does. They actually attacked Iraq and Libya not too long ago.

    Last time North Korea started a war was in 1950, when they had a reasonable chance of winning. It's laughable to talk about them doing it now. The best they can do now is deter USA and its allies from attacking them first.

    I understand that there is a lot of war propaganda going on from both sides. But only the naive and the gullible believe it.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Only the naive and the gullible believe war propaganda

      I understand that there is a lot of war propaganda going on from both sides. But only the naive and the gullible believe it.

      This applies to so many things that we only have the lens applied by the media channels to view through.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Only the naive and the gullible believe war propaganda

      Nick Z,

      North Korea attacked the South with artillery only 2 years ago, several times. Without provocation or warning. Oh and sank one of its ships. And has regularly launched commando raids over the border (often by submarine) since the war. As well as threatening nuclear war, and launching supposedly nuclear capable missiles into both Japanese and South Korean territorial waters. All of those are acts of war by the way, if you hadn't noticed...

      I suppose they haven't kidnapped any Japanese or South Korean actresses and film directors since the 70s though...

    3. JEDIDIAH
      Mushroom

      Re: Only the naive and the gullible believe war propaganda

      Libya was attacked by the US at the request of the Arab League.

      Obama didn't just randomly decide to bomb Khdaffi one day.

      People like to forget the little details when it suits them (not that I am an Obama apologist by any stretch).

  21. PhilipN Silver badge

    The main point is this :

    China wants North Korea to be there, for two reasons :

    1. As a buffer between itself and a strongly-American influenced South Korea. They would not want hostile military just the other side of its border - nobody would - any more than Kennedy wanted Soviet missiles on Cuba 50-some years ago.

    2. Mash together South and North Korea and ethnic Koreans in North-East China and the Eastern tip of Russia. There's maybe as many as 100 million of the energetic little buggers. Just look at what the rump of South Korea achieved in the 50 years after WWII and the Korean War, after which it was left an even more devastated mess than Japan. All together a force to be reckoned with, to put it mildly.

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: The main point is this :

      Hogwash. They have American-influenced Taiwan and Japan not far off, and UK influenced Hong Kong is not exactly distant either. As for the Chinese fearing a Korean Diaspora, you don't make any sort of case for it other than they're energetic. Unsubstantiated conclusion, wild conjecture, C-

      1. JEDIDIAH
        Linux

        Re: The main point is this :

        If anything, an united westernized Korea that's not a total basket case would be much less of a security problem for them.

        The current state of NK is about the WORST possible option for China. NK doesn't even resemble China as it currently exists now.

      2. PhilipN Silver badge

        Re: The main point is this :

        Urrrrmmm ... do you have the faintest idea what you are talking about?

        Hong Kong is part of the P.R.C.

        The USA has previously dropped Taiwan like a hot brick.

  22. RLWatkins

    Er, OK. Let's meet problems halfway.

    You may recall that the first North Korean "nuclear" test had the seismic signature of a big coal-dust explosion. Since then they may have built actual, working nuclear devices, but how many? Two or three at the outside?

    Moreover, we can be pretty sure that the Japanese have nuclear bombs, since they did buy twenty tons of plutonium from France. And a treaty the Taiwanese, Israelis and South Africans signed 35 years or so ago suggests that they also have some (aside from the evidence of Israel's own, independent efforts).

    But where would the Norks get the plutonium, or how would they refine the uranium? They just don't earn enough selling iron ore to the Chinese to buy the stuff, nor enough to buy the equipment to refine it themselves. And there's no one nutty enough to sell it to them.

    So who's Kim Jr. going to shoot with his handful of bombs? His best bet *is* the US, since if he hits any of his close neighbors they won't have many compunctions about turning Penang into a smoking crater... and at the moment neither would the US.

    Un is a jackass, and is out of touch, but he just isn't that stupid.

    1. IT Poser

      Re: the Japanese have nuclear bombs, since they did buy twenty tons of plutonium from France.

      Are you talking about this plutonium sale?

      https://phys.org/news/2017-07-sixth-mox-nuclear-shipment-france.html

      I guess someone could separate weapons grade plutonium from MOX but I have to wonder why anyone would bother. There are far easier ways to build a bomb.

      No, I am not telling you what they are.

    2. jimdandy

      Re: Er, OK. Let's meet problems halfway.

      Um, how about the loose nukes and fissionable materials bleeding out of the former USSR? As usual, everything is about the money, and given the lack of effort to restrain that trade (versus the profits to be made) there could be Ukrainian warheads at the least copied (or sold) on their way to NK. And elsewhere.

      Pakistan, anyone?

      1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

        Re: Er, OK. Let's meet problems halfway.

        "there could be Ukrainian warheads at the least copied (or sold) on their way to NK"

        Whut? Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan transferred their nukes to Russia in 90's. As per Lisbon treaty. Other states did not have any nukes to begin with.

        en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisbon_Protocol

        en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-Soviet_states

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Buy a small, remote, island

    Place a vanity mirror in the centre, with a big knife next to it

    Land Korean Fat-Boy and American Fat-Boy.

    Telecast it.

    Profit.

  24. Milton Silver badge

    RV

    One point: the challenge of miniaturising a warhead - especially a two-stage design with a yield in the 100s of kT range rather than the squibby <20kT stuff seen so far - is greater than the oft-hyped "re-entry" problem. If you have the math, modelling and engineering nous to sort #1, you shouldn't have much difficulty with #2. Uranium itself makes a serviceable primary component for an RV shell.

    So I think we should watch closely for evidence of a successful 2-stage >100kT test: the seismic signature is unmistakable. THAT would be a huge deal.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The advantage of EMP

    is that you can nuke yourself "just a bit" after NK has launched any kind of missile, China don't get involved because "everyone can see NK launched something" and few have the ability track missiles outside the atmosphere. NK's goes into the ocean and a black budget EMP takes out mostly seafront (with a view) stuff where land resale values are good. The dogs of war get to pee on some new cabbages and after a polite stop the cities around "lovely view" get redeveloped for the ruling classes.

    Cynical much?

  26. Andy 97
    Joke

    Protect your expensive kit/drives now..

    It's easy to do, take some tin foil, wrap the device, then earth it.

    Admittedly, you iPhone won't be much good while wrapped, but you can spare all of your kitten pictures and "jazz film" collection.

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: Protect your expensive kit/drives now..

      An insulator between the foil and the device would also help.

      The classic method is to line a biscuit tin with a towel and earth it.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Protect your expensive kit/drives now..

        Thank heavens for that. We'll need biscuits after the nuclear dust has settled. It's a well known fact that you can't undertake any major building project without tea and biscuits.

  27. Richard 3

    Are We Really That Superior?

    You know, I always thought that the terrorist threat is manufactured by governments for the sole purpose to control people.

    Consider this:

    A person tries to smuggle explosives into airplane, if he could put it in the baggage loaded into cargo and take only remote with him to cabin. It happen a few times.

    When making a terrorist car attack, a person could steal a car instead of renting it and leaving an ID in it. It happen a few times.

    There are hundreds more examples.

    As to Our Superiority:

    I love when everyone think that we have a bigger stick, so we are safe. Maybe.

    But consider this.

    Some 15 years ago, there was an article on internet about a way Russia can win a Nuclear War with the West. It was argued that it is very simple. Not to attack the West directly.

    Instead, drop only one nuclear bomb on Antarctica - The South Pole. The consequences?

    Immediate ice melting, immediate Pole shift, earthquakes, tsunamis of Biblical proportions, etc.

    Now, with the almost immediate pole shift the GPS everyone uses to guide the nuclear missiles will be down, so shooting a missile towards Russia would be useless. The tsunamis would flush clean the West and Russia, which would only experience a water level rise, would win.

    I think, President W. Bush got so scared of this idea that he purchased a land in Paraguay in 2004, which probably will not be affected by all this.

    I bet you that N Korea knows about this and they could exactly do the same using only one nuclear bomb.

    So, what you think?

    We should be nice to N Korea and not to try to make any false flag / pretext for war.

  28. Milton Silver badge

    RV#2

    Notwithstanding my point above (RV) about the significance of a successful test of a two-stage warhead of say ~100kT, I note that CNN has a story today about some photos from a visit by the Fat Little Psycho to one of his missile centres: much is being made of a pic which seems to show a filament-wound missile casing. The CNN story frets that this may mean (a) the Norks continue to be further long and making faster progress than anyone predicted, and (b) specifically, this type of construction offers stronger, lighter rocket motor casings and therefore promises greater range for the missile. (It also strongly implies progress with solid fuels, though it can also be used to construct pressure vessels for liquid fuels—in principle it's not so different from those translucent propane canisters you can buy for your BBQ, which allow you to check the fuel level with Mk#1 Eyeball.)

    What the story didn't mention is that similar construction methods are relevant to building very tough RV aeroshells—in this case, using stuff like quartz cloth and phenolic resins. Without overstating the case, if you can successfully industrialise the production of effective filament-wound rocket casings, you are another big step closer to building very resilient RVs. And the quartz phenolics are handily resistant against the effects (e.g. neutron flux) of nearby nuclear detonations, meaning they are (a) better able to withstand a nuclear ABM, (b) more resistant to fratricide if used as part of a MIRV spread.

    There's been some chatter about whether the Norks have been getting some sub rosa help from more advanced powers, and this is quite understandable given their progress.

    Of course, there's always the much more obvious probability, to wit: they thoroughly penetrated US/UK/Russian/Chinese/everyone's projects on this years ago, have all the data they could possibly want, and are presently restricted only by how quickly they can get materials and spool up sufficient high-precision production facilities. With the Russians or others willing to make some mischief by supplying materials, it feels all too horribly plausible.

    1. handleoclast Silver badge

      Re: RV#2

      The first Chinese Shenzhou capsule used water-saturated bamboo for the re-entry shield. And it worked.

      So a re-entry shield that protects the payload is well within Kim's capabilities.

      A bigger problem with re-entry shields is that if they ablate unevenly they degrade the targeting accuracy. Bamboo is probably not going to ablate evenly.

      So, if Wan Kee Sok wants the biggest bang for his won an exo-atmospheric burst is the way to go. Avoids those RV design/implementation problems and does a lot more damage in the long run.

      1. Orv Silver badge

        Re: RV#2

        As a Santa Barbara resident I tend to favor targeting accuracy. The only way I get hit is if they aim for LA and miss. ;)

  29. DeeCee

    pull the russian

    blow up that fat moron and tell everybody it was done by north korean farmers who found a few missiles and a stealth plane in their sheds

  30. lorisarvendu

    Welcome back to the 1980s

    Frankie Say...War! Hide Yourself.

  31. Cellco Cabal Buster

    Why not just plant schrapnel in Satellite orbits?

    Nukes are very emotive things - so if Nork wants a decent commercial blackmail plot without nuclear reprisals, it could just blow up a skip full of BBs at 36k km to take out satellite TV and communications - and 20km to make GPS useless. With GPS, goes most driverless car tech and much else that we take for granted ... including plane and missile guidance. (Also see Kessler syndrome).

    The cloud of general junk might make all space flight impossible for an indeterminate time.

    There are the old ground-based radio navigation schemes from the old days (Loran, Decca etc) that could be brought somewhat up to date - but nothing would be anywhere as cheap, precise or convenient as modern GPS. And an interesting new industry in cleaning up space debris would be accelerated...

    FBK could send up a small demo "grenade" to disable a couplel of satellites and get the attention of the operators for a big ransom demand.

    Now - would the world sanction nuclear retaliation for such a nerdy but essentially non-nuclear attack..? Interesting dilemma.

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: Why not just plant schrapnel in Satellite orbits?

      Now - would the world sanction nuclear retaliation for such a nerdy but essentially non-nuclear attack..? Interesting dilemma.

      China and Russia have space programmes and their own satellites. They wouldn't tolerate such a behaviour, and (unlike the US) they have the will to use special forces capability to go in and neutralise Fat Boy Kim and his weapons programme if needed. FBK knows that without Chinese protection, he'll be hanging from a lamp post, so he won't do anything to annoy the Chinese. Chinese sanctions to date are merely for show to the wider international community, and being China there's no way of knowing if they actually enforce the sanctions, so I don't read anything into those for the Norks, other than a message that FBK can annoy the Yanks, but will be clobbered if he threatens or embarrasses Beijing. And rather than nuke the Norks, China would merely want regime change if FBK gets out of hand - that's why FBK assassinated his own brother, and many family members have been executed - FBK thinks that he's less likley to be replaced if he kills all the obvious candidates.

      I think that ultimately that's how this pans out, unless FBK quickly backs down. If he doesn't thing escalate, FBK becomes too dangerous to Beijing. So Chinese special forces and ethnic Korean divisions go in and kill all the current senior Nork leaders, at the same time as neutralising the nuclear weapons sites. Then China either introduces a puppet government, or declare Nork territory as a Chinese region. I think on balance I'd expect the absorbtion of Norkea into China, since in international law, possession is 10/10ths of the law if you're hard enough to hold what you've stolen, as Israel or Russia have shown (and many other countries before them). And that would frighten Vietnam into conceding the South China Sea to Beijing.

  32. Stu Mac

    "90 per cent of the American population would be dead after 18 months due to famine, disease, and societal breakdown"

    The article lost all credibility at this point....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes. The claim was comprehensively debunked by Radio 4's More Or Less.

      "Testimony to the US Congressional EMP Commission" did not state that claim. One of the committee members had read this 90% number in an entirely fictional sci-fi novel. He asked the testifying expert whether it was plausible. The expert gave a fairly non-committal answer that could be construed as an affirmative. Bingo, every two-bit newsertainment organ starts repeating the claim that an EMP would kill 90% of Americans.

  33. steviebuk Silver badge

    I'd rather....

    ....be under the nuke when it goes off than live after. Just play Project Zombiod when the water gets shut off to realise how annoying it is to live without the basics.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: I'd rather....

      ....be under the nuke when it goes off than live after. Just play Project Zombiod when the water gets shut off to realise how annoying it is to live without the basics."

      I often wonder if the amount of US lawlessness when society breaks down, even in a small way, eg riots etc. is partly because it's what is expected by the populace because of a steady diet of "end of the world" films which, needing to outdo each other, always portray such lawlessness and violence in an exaggerated way.

    2. Orv Silver badge

      Re: I'd rather....

      For much of the US -- those in earthquake zones or hurricane zones, which means both coasts and the Gulf of Mexico -- preparing to go days without water is routine. We put together earthquake kits and hurricane kits. I think you underestimate us.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'd rather....

        What about Tornado Alley in the heartland? And these can come unexpectedly, so aren't heartlanders encouraged to keep supplies (preferably in basements and cellars which are harder for the tornadoes to reach) at all times?

  34. nickx89

    They won't allow it.

    It would be stupid for North Korea to go all nuclear because of neighboring Russia, China, and South Korea who'd not let the nuclear attacks. Anything affecting North Korea will affect the neighboring countries as well. Moreover, NK would be sending messages to other countries as well. EMP is highly likely but it wouldn't be a wise move as well.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    neo-nazi's marching?

    I didn't read the articles on that occurrence but who labeled them that? themselves or some liberal fake news site like cnn or google news? I only read theregister, theinquirer, and anandtech anymore because of all the fake liberal garbage coming from everywhere else.

    1. Florida1920 Silver badge

      Re: neo-nazi's marching?

      @AC:

      I didn't read the articles on that occurrence but who labeled them that?

      The neo-Nazis labeled themselves, dipstick.

      http://abcnews.go.com/International/germany-responds-charlottesville-violence-sharp-condemnation/story?id=49210521

      1. JEDIDIAH
        Linux

        Re: neo-nazi's marching?

        There were a variety of groups attending.

        That's why it was called "unite the right".

        Compare that picture to an actual Nazi rally where you've got an entire crowd in uniform all with matching armbands.

        Although the news media doesn't even need this much to brand your a Nazi. They will happily do so without any effort to identify who you are or what you're actually saying.

        1. Florida1920 Silver badge

          Re: neo-nazi's marching?

          That's why it was called "unite the right".

          Call it Unite The Flower People; that doesn't make it so. If "The Right" wants to march alongside people who carry Nazi flags, then it is fair to condemn The Right as Nazi sympathizers. That rally wasn't about uniting anything. It was about white supremacy. Get your head out.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: neo-nazi's marching?

        i didn't click on your link because it was abc news, another one of those liberal newsites I avoid much like foxnews... i'm being fecitious there. i know fox doesn't call themselves liberal but they lie just as much as the liberal sites do. i enjoy theregister and theinquirer because they have a lot of humor and don't seem to be pushing some political agenda or if they do, it's english agenda and being in the states, i can just laugh whereas anything from the states, just gets me upset at how degenerate america has become.

        dipstick? is that an english term much like canadians use when they call you a moose? i think i like you. :)

  36. Florida1920 Silver badge

    Transformers

    If a global nuclear war occurred, taking out power transformers in countries where they are made -- how will we make replacements? I thought it was a risky time when the former heads of KGB (Andropov) and CIA (George H.W. Bush) were running the world. Now we've got a couple of armed and dangerous Peter Pans, stroking their ticking crocodiles. China is wise to sit this one out. They'll be the main beneficiary if the crocs belch.

    Personally, I'd rather be at ground zero for the first wave and just get it over with.

    1. Orv Silver badge

      Re: Transformers

      Transformers are not actually something gated by high technology. The main ingredients in a large transformer are steel, copper, kraft paper, and mineral oil. The reason they take a long time to make is they're big items, low-volume, and have a long service life, so they aren't the kind of thing you keep sitting in stock waiting for someone to order it. The basic technologies needed are over 100 years old, and there are transformers still in use now that were made in the 1940s.

      1. 's water music Silver badge

        Re: Transformers

        They're just robots in disguise. I mean, someone had to say it.

  37. This post has been deleted by its author

  38. Hardrada

    That may depend on accuracy requirements.

    "[E]ven accepting reports that they have a nuclear bomb that can fit inside a missile, there are still hurdles to overcome – chiefly reentry and targeting.

    "After its boost phase, an ICBM will travel through space and then reenter the atmosphere. That's a really tough process, because it involves compressing the air around it at such a rate that it quickly heats up the rocket. Without a nose cone capable of withstanding these temperatures, and there appears to be no sign of one on Nork missiles, the bomb would burn up before it could detonate."

    The metrologist (not METEORologist) that I trained under told me that according to Livermore's Jim Bryan (https://www.llnl.gov/community/retiree-and-employee-resources/in-memoriam/james-bevan-bryan-2), Soviet ICBMs used pine heat shields.

    Jim's story about how they got the information was a little far-fetched, but he was always a straight shooter when I worked with him. It's possible that they really did what he said, or that he was protecting a foreign source.

    I can't find the link now, but I believe that I read in an article on FAS.org that balsa could be used as a heat shield if the reentry trajectory was shallow enough. (It chars and is decently insulating.) The problem is that shallow trajectories are less accurate, but that might not matter to Kim if he's targeting a city like Los Angeles.

  39. Orv Silver badge

    Random musings:

    I agree with the article's suggestion that your computer-heavy car will probably be fine. Car bodies are good shields, and cars don't have the long lengths of wire in them that are needed to pick up a strong surge. I would wager that for a bomb to substantially damage a car's electrical system it'd have to be close enough that the bigger problem would be extinguishing the tires.

    Exceptions might be electric cars that are plugged in (although I suspect the charger would take the brunt of it) and cars with extensive external antenna systems. (If you have a Texas Bugcatcher it may not do you any favors.)

    One interesting point is that more and more of our communication infrastructure is fiber optic cable, which is immune to EMP.

    Low-orbiting satellites near the bomb will be toast, which could be a problem for GPS, satellite phones, XM/Sirius, etc. Geosync ones will probably be fine, but if your line of sight to the Clarke Belt is through the fireball it'll probably block the signal for hours. Shortwave will also be useless for a while, as a high-altitude blast effectively shuts off ionospheric propagation.

  40. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
    Trollface

    It makes a refreshing change

    For the USA to be in the firing line instead of shipping their military hardware to Europe in the hope that we would soak up most of the nukes and also the ground war over the glowing rubble.

    Never fear, when your industry collapses and your people are having to ration food we will be there for you.

    Technology and food at very reasonable prices paid for by loans at very reasonable interest rates.

    We have, after all, a special relationship.

    We will support the Government in Exile and may even allow the golf course to be recognised as US territory.

  41. BPeterF

    Am I the only one who thinks that to with incognito/unannounced surgical precision "cut off of the dragon's head" would be the best (or most humanely radical) way to remove a tortured nation's top dog domestic torturers"?

  42. Sanguma

    carrot and stick

    as far as I can see, the stick is the only thing certain US officials can think of. It's been waved around since Dubbya decided to lump North Korea in with Iraq and Iran as the Axis of Evil.and threaten all three at once. We know how well that turned out with Iraq, don't we?

    I find it unconvincing, boring and after a while, nauseatingly like some big boys at Primary School who bullied smaller boys ...

  43. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Little Kim has no friends

    If Little Kim lobs missiles towards the US mainland or even a US possession way out in the pacific, it won't have struck before the US has fired a return volley. That response may be non-nuclear with the big rockets warmed up in case it turns out that the NK missiles are nucs and one makes it to a target. DPRNK has so little modern infrastructure that knocking it back to the fist axe stage will only take concentrated attacks on a few areas. Tomahawk missiles, MOAB bombs, etc all delivered from high above or far off-shore to the right place could turn a country with very few lights to start with to nearly black.

    I knew all along that China wasn't going to squawk much if NK started the exchange. I doubt Russia would either. They know about these things. If President Trump uses restraint and doesn't push the Big Red Button as a first move, he won't have a serious political issue to deal with.

    The best move right now would be for China and Russia to sit down with the spoiled brat and firmly let him know that if he attacks the US, SK or Japan, he's on his own. China probably doesn't want to be saddled with half of the NK population streaming over the border (mostly the too old, too young and infirm).

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Times like this

    When a "tactical time weapon" would be incredibly useful.

    Obviously in this situation if you know when and where an attack will take place, you permit it to launch BUT take out the weapon's detonation systems with a (redacted neutrino ion cannon redacted) and then once the thing fails to detonate send in the SAS armed to the teeth and go "Full John Wick" (tm) on the idiot(s) responsible.

    Alas its at least 29 years away possibly more depending on several factors. It is predicted that advanced AI might be able to exploit time travel via quantum wormholes etc that we haven't considered but at this point it is just conjecture. CTCs are at best a theoretical construct and very hard (read impossible) to use with even extrapolated future technology.

    1. 's water music Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Times like this

      When a "tactical time weapon" would be incredibly useful.

      I'm pretty sure that future me would have sent one back by now if it were so no, it wouldn't

  45. Wisteela
    Mushroom

    Time to use...

    ...valves (tubes)

  46. HWwiz

    EMP

    Possibly why the USA's largest bank has 5 data centres in the UK. One of them is the largest DC in the UK.

    Paranoid ?.

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