It would be unwise for the United States to preemptively attack North Korea while Vice President Pence is in the Asian region. It would also be suicidal for North Korea to attack any target that would potentially harm Pence. But, when Pence completes his 10-day Asian trip, all elements of a US preemptive strike against North Korea will be in place, namely:
- Pence will have met with all major stakeholders in the region, including South Korea, Japan, and China, and likely appraised them of US intentions, in an effort to avoid miscommunications if hostilities start
- Coupled with Pence’s Asian trip, the US will have sent a clear message that it will use its military force when it deems necessary, namely:
- The US Cruise missile attack on Syria’s Shayrat air base, suspected of being the launch site of Syria’s chemical weapons attack
- The US’s use of the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) against ISIS’s system of tunnels and caves in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar Province
- The US antiballistic defense system, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (Thaad), deployed in South Korea, will be fully operational
- The US will have two aircraft carrier strike groups in the region, the USS Ronald Reagan, currently at the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, and the Carl Vinson, considered to be the US’s top supercarrier
- A squadron of Whiteman Air Force Base (in Missouri) B-2 stealth bombers, each loaded with two of the US’s largest bunker buster bombs, the 15-ton GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), will be ready to strike North Korea’s most hardened bunkers
While the news media has given significant coverage of Pence’s Asian trip, the US’s recent use of military force, the deployment of the Thaad missile defense system, and the aircraft striker groups, little has been discussed about B-2 bombers, each able to accommodate a payload of two MOPs. The B-2s have a range of slightly over 6,000 miles. With refueling in flight, the B-2s would be capable of striking North Korea in a round trip from Whiteman Air Force Base.
While recent news coverage of the US MOAB has correctly labeled it the “largest non-nuclear bomb” in the US arsenal, most did not emphasize the MOAB is not a bunker buster. So let’s understand the difference between the MOAB and the MOP.
No matter how you view the North Korean problem, it is a nightmare. Even with a relatively successful US preemptive strike, what is the next move?
The Pentagon developed the MOAB for use as an anti-personnel weapon, not as a bunker buster. In fact, the MOAB has a light 2,900-pound aluminum casing surrounding its 9-ton payload and is primarily an air burst munition. As mentioned in my previous HuffPost April 17, 2017 piece, “United States ‘Mother Of All Bombs’ And Other Nanoweapons,” the MOAB likely achieves its 11-ton equivalent TNT blast via the use of nanoaluminum. As defined in my book, Nanoweapons: A Growing Threat to Humanity (Potomac 2017), “Nanoweapons are any military technology that exploits the power of nanotechnology.” This means even the largest munition, such as the MOAB, is a nanoweapon if it uses nanotechnology.
In sharp contrast, the MOP is a 15-ton earth/concrete-penetrating weapon, with a classified payload specially developed by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to destroy weapons of mass destruction. I judge the MOP payload also uses a nano-enhanced explosive payload. This is speculation, but considering the military’s decade-long experimentation with nano-accelerants to boost conventional explosives, the dots appear to connect.
With the above understanding, it is clear that the first elements of US preemptive strike against North Korea would involve B-2 bombers hammering hardened bunkers thought to be housing nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. Concurringly, the US would also use:
· Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers, like the USS Lake Champlain in the Carl Vinson supercarrier group, to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles to strike strategic or tactical targets, especially anti-aircraft missile launch sites
· Carrier launched fighter aircraft to attack North Korean artillery and rocket launchers, once anti-aircraft missile sites have been destroyed
· Thadd to counter any North Korean attempt to launch its ballistic missiles hidden in its vast mountainous forests
· US attack submarines to destroy North Korean submarines and warships
The US goal of a preemptive strike would be to prevent North Korea from launching attacks, using artillery and missiles tipped with nuclear, chemical, or conventional warheads, against South Korea, Japan, other targets in the Pacific, including potentially Hawaii and US warships.
Will a US preemptive strike prevent North Korea from launching a counter-attack? The answer is probably not completely, considering North Korea has up to 15,000 cannons and missile launchers in hardened bunkers.
A US preemptive strike is almost certain to result in some allied civilian, military, and US casualties. The question is how much, but US intelligence agencies are not providing estimates.
No matter how you view the North Korean problem, it is a nightmare. Even with a relatively successful US preemptive strike, what is the next move? China has about 150,000 troops stationed on the China-Korean border. Will they invade North Korea? Will the US invade North Korea? Again, US intelligence agencies are not providing answers.
We know that we cannot allow North Korea to obtain strategic nuclear weapons capable of hitting targets in the US. It is possible that Pence’s visit to the region is to set the stage for a US preemptive strike, by via strategic understandings with South Korea, China, and Japan. The US would likely see China as a more stable occupying force in North Korea than Kim Jong-un’s regime. President Trump has made it clear to Chinese President Xi Jinping that China’s help in resolving the North Korean problem would lead to a more favorable trade deal with the United States.
When Pence returns to the United States, what he reports to the president is likely to determine the next US move.