Inching towards nuclear war? It’s terrifying. North Korea’s use of missiles threatens a new global flashpoint which could suck in South Korea, China, Japan and the US
By NEIL TWEEDIE
16 March 2017
At 8.30 in the morning, rush hour is in full swing in the South Korean capital Seoul, home to some 25 million people.
Those commuters crammed into the underground system are the lucky ones — initially, at least. When the missile hits, they are protected from the blinding light of the 20-kiloton detonation.
But above ground, in the area centred on the Yeouido financial district, all is destruction. Buildings up to a mile from Ground Zero have been vaporised or reduced to rubble. Some 70,000 people are dead, killed by the heat and the blast wave. Many more will succumb to radiation burns and radioactive fall-out over coming days.
The nuclear nightmare that has long bedevilled South Korea — America’s key ally in the region and one of the world’s most dynamic economies — has become reality.
North Korea, most rogue of rogue nations, has struck. The nuclear explosion, similar in size to that which levelled Hiroshima, signalled the start of a blitzkrieg-style ground invasion intended to swiftly overwhelm its richer, more advanced neighbour.
A second atomic warhead, inbound on a crude Rodong rocket, has been successfully intercepted by America’s THAAD (Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence) anti-ballistic missile system. But Seoul’s torment is only beginning as hundreds of North Korean heavy guns rain down shells on the capital, many containing Sarin nerve gas.
The city, bunched up against the North-South border, is hopelessly vulnerable to a mass sneak attack of the kind now taking place, as hundreds of thousands of North Korean troops, and thousands of tanks, pour out of innumerable underground bunkers built within miles of the Demilitarized Zone between the two countries.
The rest of the world watches as the horror is relayed via 24-hour rolling news and on social media. And waits for the next move …
Could such a scenario ever come to pass? Will Kim Jong-un, latest incarnation of the cult dynasty that has ruled the Communist northern half of Korea since 1948, exchange bluff for action and, one day, deploy his small but lethal nuclear arsenal?
That terrifying possibility moved a step nearer this month when, without warning, Kim Jong-un ordered a salvo of missiles to be fired towards his other nervous neighbour, Japan.
The latest in a series of escalating acts of provocation by the North Korean dictator this year saw three (non-nuclear) missiles land in Japanese waters. North Korean media, which released photographs of the launch ‘supervised’ by a delighted Kim Jong-un, said the missiles had been aimed at American bases in Japan.
International condemnation was swift and wide-ranging, with the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, describing the launch as a ‘new level’ of threat. The U.S. appears to be losing patience.