Sliding back in my micro-obsession with nuclear deterrent theory (I mean, how could you not find this stuff interesting?) I thought that the current times probably justify a look at North Korea’s little physics project and how it fits into deterrent theory. Back in March, I dabbled briefly with a possible North Korean nuclear policy. With a nuked kid on the block, seems appropriate to look at it again.
A major goal of deterrence is to always maintain a second strike capability. Holding such capacity is a goal not so much for a revenge factor, but rather to create the foundation of your nuclear credibility….Hence the development of nuclear capable submarines which bolsters nuclear capability to one of minimal deterrent or even possibly MAD (depending on the size and stealth of the forces deployed). Globalsecurity.org estimates that North Korean plutonium reserves (as of 2005) allow for approximately 20 nuclear weapons. Given that North Korea lacks a quality delivery system (missiles tests have failed miserably and aircraft wouldn’t make it over the border) a nuclear armed North Korea lacks even a minimal deterrent. So what do I think this means? Provided that North Korea adheres to no-use policy regarding the Korean peninsula, such weapons would only be destined for use against American and/or Japanese targets which, at present, are out of the park for North Korean delivery systems. Even in the event that a first strike by American/ROK forces that did not destroy all weapons, it’s probable that lack of delivery systems, combined with a blockade would isolate whatever force remained. I suppose that within nuclear deterrent theory, I see an equipped North Korea as lacking credibility as a nuclear power, and as such, not nearly the threat they appear to be. This of course, assumes that North Korea is not invaded (I stress the difference between invasion and air strikes) and also assumes the continued failure of their delivery systems.