Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Despite Media’s Claims, North Korea Can’t Strike Continental US

Photo by Stefan Krasowski | CC BY 2.0

Last month, North Korea conducted two missile tests that were designed to demonstrate that the isolated country had achieved a major advancement in its missile technology. North Korea’s missile tests on July 3 and July 28 were immediately declared by the mainstream press to be successful tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which puts part or all of the US in range of a strike. Hawkish “experts” immediately sprung into action and stated the missile tests undeniably proved the North can now strike the United States.

The corporate media’s hyping of North Korea’s “threat” instantly began pushing the country towards a catastrophic war. The Trump administration, which has already been immersed in chaos, sent mixed messages in response and Americans became alarmed. Polling from the beginning of August found that 62% of Americans now believe North Korea posed a “very serious threat” to the United States, a jump of 14 points since March. Fourteen years after the disaster in Iraq was sold to Americans on the pretense of WMDs, which never existed, the mainstream media continue to push war hungry narratives.

It was against this war-frenzied backdrop that Trump unloaded a series of outrageous and off the cuff threats, signifying the US may consider a nuclear first strike on North Korea. An attack along the lines the president was threatening would likely kill at least a million people and possibly trigger China to come to North Korea’s defense.

Then on August 9, a report surfaced that the Pentagon had not only already drawn up plans for the attack, but it has been actively rehearsing a preemptive strike on North Korea since May. The Pentagon has identified “two dozen” North Korean targets, including launch sites, testing grounds, and support facilities. On August 10, a top war planner said the only effective first strike against North Korea would involve multiple nuclear strikes by the US.

“From what we have heard from the way he [the President] stated the ‘fire and fury,’ and from what we got from Secretary Mattis, I have to believe that the plan is to use nuclear weapons against North Korea,” Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner.

We now find ourselves on the brink of a nuclear war. Just six months into office, Trump’s inexperienced and inept foreign policy has already led to a major nuclear crisis. Some experts have compared this week to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

Yet despite the recent events surrounding North Korea, a new report by independent experts contradicts the mainstream media’s narrative. The report, published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, finds that North Korea’s recently launched missiles weren’t actually ICBMs and aren’t able to reach the continental US.

The lead author of the report is Ted Postol, a professor at MIT and a former scientific advisor for the Pentagon.

In an interview with me, Dr. Postol said the media reports on North Korea’s ability to strike the continental US were “news generated from nothing”.

“Nobody knows anything for certain about North Korea’s nuclear program, we only some basic things. For example, we know they probably got the plans to guide them from A.Q. Khan (Pakistani nuclear scientist), so we can make some guesses from that.”

“We know nothing about the utility of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. These could be weapons that are only usable in lab-like setting or they may be deployable. We don’t know.”

Dr. Postol says North Korea’s missiles likely don’t have the capability to carry a missile the weight of a first-generation nuclear weapon to the West Coast of the US. He also finds it very unlikely that North Korea has mastered the ability to create a warhead that can handle the immense forces created when a missile reenters the atmosphere.

On August 8, the Washington Post reported a leaked Defense Intelligence Agency assessment, which stated North Korea had successfully created “a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles”.

The report is “essentially empty”, Postol stated.

“Who knows what is meant by a miniaturized warhead, and we also don’t know the degree of confidence the DIA had in the assessment.”

Skepticism about the widely reported claims on North Korea’s missiles ability is not limited to Postol and his coauthors, Dan Albright, a former UN weapons inspector said the DIA report ignored “uncertainties and caveats”.

Albright said North Korea’s recently used missile system is unlikely to be reliable after just two launches.

“Countries spend a lot of time working this problem to try to build up what they call the reliability of the warhead in a delivery system, and it just takes time,” Albright said. “I think I would be skeptical that North Korea can do it right now.”

Dr. Postol was adamant that his report didn’t intended to portray North Korea as being unable to ever strike the US, but rather, to indicate that we have time to solve the situation diplomatically.

“I think they’re still 4 to 6 years away from having a nuclear weapon that can reach the lower 48 states.”

If the administration feels rushed due to false reports about North Korea’s capability, they may make a rash decision. If the Trump administration did attack and North Korea responded with a missile launched at South Korea, Japan, or Guam, Dr. Postol said the US missile defense system was unlikely to intercept the attack.

“The systems are so unreliable it would almost be an accident if they worked. They’ve never been tested under real conditions and they can be defeated by very basic countermeasures.”

The lack of a reliable missile defense system would seem to be one more reason the Trump administration should slow down and pursue diplomacy.

“We have no choice but to develop diplomatic agreements, though I’m not saying that would be easy. The negotiations have to be done in a way that North Korea doesn’t feel like it has no option, and they shouldn’t be expected to give up their weapons systems as a precondition of talks, right now that’s their only leverage,” Dr. Postol said.

“We have to solve this issue, but we have time.”

More articles by:

Paul Gottinger is a journalist based in Madison, WI whose work focuses on the Middle East. He can be reached via Twitter @paulgottinger or email: paul.gottinger@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Cesar Chelala
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
October 18, 2018
Erik Molvar
The Ten Big Lies of Traditional Western Politics
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail