Wars are rarely the result of someone having an evil master plan to take over the world. They are much more frequently the result of serious miscalculations regarding how the other side will respond to extremely aggressive actions. Militaries and Governments, not just people, have a tendency to over-react and NOT passively stand by when they are threatened. This is what makes the situation in North Korea so dangerous.
As I have previously noted, the North Koreans have committed numerous Acts of War, and the affected democracies (South Korea, the US, and Japan) have done little if anything about them. The new and naive leader of North Korean had dangerously accelerated the frequency of outrageous acts, and thinks that no-one will do anything about it. In the past, his father might do something outrageous every year or two. He is now doing such things about once a month. In the past, the tension caused by such acts was allowed to dissipate, and this in large measure allowed North Korea to “get away with it”. But now, the democracies are figuring out that this isn’t going to go away, and will only get worse.
There is a very strong likelihood of a military response from the US and its allies. At which point, the North Koreans will over-react in turn, probably to the point of doing something tantamount to invading South Korea. Hopefully they understand the implications of “mutually assured destruction” and don’t actually use a nuclear weapon.
Here is a realistic example of what the democracies might do. They might send missiles against North Korean missile factories and nuclear weapon construction sites. In addition, since neither the Chinese nor Russians want to stop sending supplies and resources to their ally, the democracies also strike to take out infrastructure like bridges and rail lines just inside North Korea. Maybe they even mine the ports of North Korea. They could even hit some command bunkers to show Kim he isn’t safe anywhere.
In response the North Koreans might fire missiles at South Korea and Japan. Worse yet, they might have their submarines torpedo South Korean or Japanese shipping. Or, they could indeed start shelling Seoul. Any of these North Korean responses would then result in all out war with South Korea and America, and maybe even Japan. And Russia and China could easily get dragged in, just like in the original Korean War of the 1950’s.
Such responses would mean the end of the North Korean regime. The problem is, Kim just doesn’t get this. And God help us all if someone decides to use a nuke.
What to Do
It’s more a question of what NOT to do. Being rational about the whole situation is best. And that means not over-reacting. The North Koreans under the latest Kim have yet to commit an Act of War. Yet we are in a dangerous situation because of the bad decisions made up to decades ago. Now, because of the nuclear threat, we have to wait for a flagrant Act of War by North Korea before we should do anything severe.
We should, however, bolster defenses in the region and increase military capability in the area. We need to be able to take out the entire North Korean navy in very short order if we needed to. We need to be able to take out North Korean transportation and military infrastructure quickly. And this means moving our own medium and short range missiles, some of them nuclear tipped, into the region.
The North’s objective is to get the US to abandon its allies in the region. Kim’s path of doing this is backfiring, as Japan and South Korea will now redouble their own efforts to arm and protect themselves. This means that both democratic governments are probably already working on their own nuclear weapon plans. At this point they would be naïve not to.