The headlines are fueling fears that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un could fire a “tactical nuclear warhead” at targets in South Korea or perhaps Japan. It’s unclear how much death and destruction a “tacnuke” will cause. Like other weapons, they come in different sizes and ranges, but any one could possibly destroy several thousand soldiers. Then there will be fallout over a wide area that will endanger the lives of thousands of people and will always leave them at the mercy of wind currents.
But now, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is showing a much easier way to threaten the South, despite being proud of his nuclear bombs. On Wednesday, South Korea unleashed 250 artillery shells into “marine buffer zones” on the east and west coasts, which are seen as its primary weapon rather than missiles and tactical nuclear bombs, after South Korea launched more military exercises from the South’s conservative president, Yoon Suk. -yeol believes it is necessary for defense against the North.
To ensure South Korea gets the message, Pyongyang’s Korea Central News Agency said, quoting a military spokesperson, “Our military strongly warns the enemy forces to immediately stop the highly offensive provocation action in the frontline areas.”
The latest North Korean artillery comes on top of hundreds of shells fired last week, signaling what Kim can seriously do if cornered, especially if he’s personally compromised or just angered by the American and South Korean war games.
It is believed that Kim is much more likely to use artillery in a showdown than tactical nuclear bombs, as North Korea’s cannonballs make clear. North Korea has possessed more than 10,000 cannons above the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas since the Korean War and has replaced the old ones with new ones capable of firing 60-mile rounds. It’s in range, as is Camp Humphreys, the largest US base, the headquarters of US forces in Korea, and Osan Air Base, the headquarters of the US seventh air force nearby. Kim tests them for accuracy and distance, as he tests dozens of missiles.
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“Long-range artillery can now attack the far south areas of Seoul,” Bruce Bechtol, a former intelligence specialist at the Pentagon and author of numerous books and articles on North Korea’s military stance, told The Daily Beast. “Also, with the systems they deploy along the DMZ, they can completely invade Seoul almost immediately. This is the closest tactical threat. It is also most likely to be used in the early days of any conflict.”
David Maxwell, a former US Army special forces officer who served five rounds in South Korea, told The Daily Beast when asked to compare the effectiveness of tacnukes with artillery, “he thought it was apples and oranges.” “They create different effects,” he replied. “Artillery units along the DMZ led the tyranny of proximity by the alliance that led to strategic paralysis. The alliance will not respond kinetically anywhere deep in North Korea as it fears the response to Seoul.”
The irony, Maxwell added, is that “artillery, and especially the threat to Seoul, has long been an effective deterrent, and the regime never really needed nuclear weapons because they could hold Seoul hostage without having nuclear weapons.”
Bruce Bennett, a Korea specialist at RAND Corporation, agrees. “Whoever wants to push South Korea (Republic of Korea) can do so with normal or long-range artillery without the incremental effects of using nuclear weapons.”
Also, Bennett said the tacnukes probably won’t be enough to “disable airports” in South Korea or Japan. “An airspace with aircraft shelters would likely require a nuclear warhead that could cause a much larger explosion at hundreds of kilotons. Warheads this large will often be interpreted by the US as strategic nuclear weapons and would require much more serious US intervention.”
Bennett believes that Kim will “continue to use his conventional weapons for limited attacks” knowing that “when he switches to his own tactical definition of nuclear weapons, he will start a major war”.
More than four years ago, General Vincent Brooks, then-US commander in Korea, declared before a U.S. Senate committee that long-range artillery was “a serious, credible threat to 25 million citizens and approximately 150,000 U.S. citizens” in the northern region of South Korea. He testified that he created. The implication was that artillery was the primary concern, although nuclear weapons and missiles were clearly “related”.
Americans like Agent Orange spread through the jungles of Vietnam in a frenzied effort to destroy and expose the hideouts of the Viet Cong and the “North” Vietnamese enemy during the Vietnam War, tactical nuclear weapons would not only lead to immediate death, but would leave generations. in pain. Still, they wouldn’t be as devastating as “strategic nuclear warheads” that could conceivably destroy San Francisco or Los Angeles.
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Talking about a nuclear war is compelling, but the probability of North Korea deploying strategic or tactical nuclear weapons is not very high, although the latter may seem useful against limited targets. Shooting just one into the South risks a far more deadly revenge than in the Korean War, when American warplanes bombarded North Korean cities almost to oblivion. Also, while China has made a fortune from its extremely favorable trade balance with the United States and its business with South Korea, China would not want the North Koreans, to whom they provide oil, food and more, to start a war. .
But cannonballs are another matter. Currently, the danger of cross-border bombardment is more severe than it has been in almost seventy years since the end of the Korean War.