Home / Robert Farley / Nork Nukes

Nork Nukes


My latest at The Diplomat:

The Goldboro incident is one of afamily of near-nuclear accidents, situations in which a nuclear weapon came far too close to unintentional release. The Cold War experience of the United States and the Soviet Union with nuclear safety suggests a uncomfortable truth: There is a far greater likelihood that North Korea will accidentally drop a nuclear weapon on itself than on South Korea, Japan, or the United States. Managing this problem requires input from all the stakeholders, including China, and may eventually demand a rethinking of the Western position on North Korea’s nuclear program.

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  • Alex

    The obvious solution presents itself: help North Korea develop more bombs in the hope that lil’ Kim nukes himself and thereby solves the problem, “What to do with North Korea.”

  • Malaclypse

    Was writing this Sept 26 an incredibly subtle reference, or coincidence?

  • jon

    Accidents will happen, and possessing nukes suggests that are willing to tolerate substantial blowback. Perhaps that declaration is the primary deterrent mechanism. It also illustrates the remarkable self restraint of nations that possess nukes against employing them. DPRK accidentally nuking itself is superficially appealing. But it might not mean self decapitation, and the hapless populace would enjoy no decrease of their suffering.

  • Murc


    Undoubtedly, North Korea’s grim experience with the utility of nuclear weapons is weighing upon Tehran, which appears to be having second thoughts regarding the wisdom of pushing forward with its own program.

    The countervailing weight, though, is what other deterrents does Tehran have on tap?

    It is almost certainly a very high priority of Iran to not end up like Iraq or Afghanistan; they are probably well aware that if Senator Uncle Grandpa had won an election in 2008 the US would probably have invaded. They’d like for that to not happen, and history has demonstrated that one of the best ways to stop the US from fucking with you directly is a nuclear deterrent.

    North Korea, it can be argued, doesn’t really NEED nukes as a deterrent. The ability to turn Tokyo into a sea of fire if they get invaded is a powerful turn-off, but they can turn Seoul into said sea of fire using conventional artillery, which isn’t as flashy a deterrent but still gets the job done. Iran, however, doesn’t have a Seoul-equivalent, which means it is caught between a rock and two hard places; it can make nice with the west (politically problematic both inside Iran and for many western powers) it can develop a nuclear deterrent (resulting in making it even more of a pariah than it is now and probably for a longer time, as it lacks the sugar daddies other states in its weight class that developed nukes had) or it can just freeball it, go deterrent-free and run the risk that President Ted Cruz and Senate Majority Leader Rand Paul decide in 2017 that what they need is a shiny new war to distract the proles.

    Or that’s my take on it, anyway. I don’t have the fancy book learnin’ Robert does.

    • jon

      There is no evidence that Iran has had any sort of a nuclear weapons program, particularly after 2003. Iran is almost certainly developing the capability to more rapidly develop a nuclear weapon, while not actually violating any treaties. Much like Japan and Germany have done. They have also engaged in some indirection, goading of Israel and the US, and playing rope a dope with negotiations. But the mullahs have eyes, and they saw Iraq and Libya shorn of strategic deterrents and invaded, while DPRK and Pakistan go their merry ways. Iran is working on a ballistic capability that would allow it to reliably reach Tel Aviv. That’s all the deterrence they really need. Israel has had much more deterrence pointed at Iran for quite a while now. Of course, Iran may also be looking at Saudi Arabia now as a potential existential threat.

      • Murc

        I honestly don’t think the Saudis have either the political will or the warmaking capability to pose any kind of existential threat to Iran. Maybe if they could make the US do the dirty work. Otherwise no.

  • Stan Gable

    There is a far greater likelihood that North Korea will accidentally drop a nuclear weapon on itself than on South Korea, Japan, or the United States.

    Does NK possess a viable method of even dropping a bomb on itself?

    • Lee Rudolph

      Would dropping it off the back of a truck count?

    • DPRK scientists are currently working on the Taepo-o-shit 3 missile.

  • JBJ

    Rob, it’s Goldsboro with an S. (Dunno if it’s worth the effort to fix)

    Love, your North Carolina correspondent, JBJ

    • Cody

      I’m so jealous, how do I become the Northern Indiana LGM correspondent?

  • Nukemap: hours of destructive navel gazing.

  • Steve LaBonne

    Many more examples of disastrous nuclear accidents that nearly happened in the book reviewed here. Apparently Arkansas once came very close to being wiped off the map. I’d love to read the book but I don’t know if I’d ever be able to sleep again.

  • JoyfulA

    “Curds LeMay”?

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