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Thread: North Korea, again

  1. #1

    Default North Korea, again

    http://www.theonion.com/article/nucl...cape-nor-54962

    So in recent months we have seen a number of worrying signs out of NK - another nuclear test, various bellicose moves and rhetoric, and most recently, a claim at breakthroughs in developing ICBMs. Some US intelligence officials have been quoted as being somewhat concerned there was some truth to this boast - assessments of their improvements in warhead miniaturization and missile technology are obviously partially guesswork, but it seems like they have indeed made some progress. It seems likely NK will have some rudimentary ICBM + nuclear warhead systems functioning in the relatively near term (5 years or less?). The guidance and reentry challenges should not be discounted, but it seems like they are indeed making incremental progress towards this capability.

    From the perspective of NK's neighbors, this is not a particularly new development - NK has had some form of credible nuclear deterrent against SK and possibly Japan for a while, though obviously warhead miniaturization would dramatically improve their deterrence. But I'm curious about how this might change the dynamic of US policy towards NK. Until now, it has been largely limited to hand-wringing and wagging our fingers at China's continued inaction in reining in the NK nuclear program. Various rounds of sanctions have been of extremely limited utility and seem unlikely to change anything in the future.

    So what should we do? Investments in BMD systems are obviously one approach - it seems unlikely that NK will ever have a robust enough capability to really saturate a BMD system the way Russia would be able to. Yet we are all aware of the checkered record of BMD systems in actually intercepting and effectively killing their targets, and one wouldn't want to gamble the West Coast on such untested technology. Diplomacy seems futile in the absence of a substantial change in how China goes about its business. That leaves deterrence - perhaps forward-stationed nukes in, say, Guam, beefed up conventional defenses in SK and Japan, and a very explicit nuclear security umbrella.

    This final option is flawed in that it (a) does little to actually improve security of the US or our allies, and (b) will piss off China to no end, and possibly make matters worse. In the coming confrontations we are likely to have with China over trade and other issues with the new administration (coupled with the administration's obvious reluctance to pursue an aggressive collective security policy with our allies), it seems like a long shot.

    So, what should we do? How do we stop continued improvement in NK nuclear capability? How do we ensure that they do not continue to proliferate nuclear technologies? How do we ensure that command and control over NK nukes remains robust, especially in the event of regime collapse at some point in the future?
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  2. #2
    Senior Member RandBlade's Avatar
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    c) Nothing.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ominous Gamer View Post
    Being upset is understandable, but be upset at yourself for poor planning, not at the world by acting like a spoiled bitch during an interview.

  3. #3
    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    Call their bluff. Nukes usually improve one's regional influence, but North Korea is a complete pariah. They know launching a nuke at us would lead to complete destruction. They can make all kinds of demands on us, South Korea, and Japan, but what bargaining power do they have? They can't credibly claim to nuke anyone because they'd be wiped out in retaliation. They can launch a conventional invasion of South Korea, using nukes to deter an American response. But South Korea would defeat them in that war. They can try to sell the nuclear technology, but we can then simply seize North Korean ships. They can't credibly claim that they'd retaliate with nukes (because once again, it would lead to their own destruction). It seems to me the best policy is to simply leave them alone (while maintaining severe sanctions). As long as we want something from them, they have leverage. But if we ask for nothing, what can North Korea do?
    Hope is the denial of reality

  4. #4
    Senior Member GGT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    Call their bluff. Nukes usually improve one's regional influence, but North Korea is a complete pariah. They know launching a nuke at us would lead to complete destruction. <snip>
    Who is "they"? The NK people don't seem to know their Dictator is insane. (Even if they did, they don't have much recourse.)

    What should "we" do? Continue to pressure China, expand economic/financial sanctions, and beef up our defense systems. Plus, find ways to win the "propaganda war" with NK citizens....by getting them access to real news via internet access. That's the hard part.

  5. #5
    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    Rather odd that the country would have three consecutive "insane" dictators. It's quite obvious it's all an act. One that has paid North Korea dividends over the last few decades.
    Hope is the denial of reality

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by RandBlade View Post
    c) Nothing.
    Would you care to elaborate? As in Loki's approach, or something else? 'Nothing' is not really an option in that we're already doing things - sanctions regimes, bolstering defenses of regional allies, etc. - so do you just mean keep on doing what we're doing?

    I have two concerns about this approach, neither particularly tied directly to American security. First is that our seeming inaction in the fact of brazen nuclear proliferation sends a very bad message to other nuclear aspirants - essentially, if they can get far enough along in nuclear development, we aren't going to do anything to punish them in a substantive manner. Secondly, I think it substantially complicates the Asian security situation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    Call their bluff. Nukes usually improve one's regional influence, but North Korea is a complete pariah. They know launching a nuke at us would lead to complete destruction. They can make all kinds of demands on us, South Korea, and Japan, but what bargaining power do they have? They can't credibly claim to nuke anyone because they'd be wiped out in retaliation. They can launch a conventional invasion of South Korea, using nukes to deter an American response. But South Korea would defeat them in that war. They can try to sell the nuclear technology, but we can then simply seize North Korean ships. They can't credibly claim that they'd retaliate with nukes (because once again, it would lead to their own destruction). It seems to me the best policy is to simply leave them alone (while maintaining severe sanctions). As long as we want something from them, they have leverage. But if we ask for nothing, what can North Korea do?
    I think you have an unreasonably rosy view of the situation. For example, I'm not convinced that the US would nuke NK if, say, they chose to lob a nuke at Tokyo or LA; I think a comprehensive conventional attack is far more likely, assuming we believed that the NK capacity for ongoing nuclear strikes was limited or nonexistent. Even an all-out conventional invasion would get extremely tricky from a number of perspectives, the two largest being the risk to the SK population and the risk of a confrontation with China.

    Let's imagine a scenario where NK lobs a nuke either at a low-population military target (Guam?) or at the US mainland but isn't particularly well targeted (say it hits off the CA coast or in a rural area). Would the US respond with the full power of our strategic nuclear arsenal? I find it highly unlikely. I'm uncomfortable with there being a set of circumstances where the NK leadership can reasonably conclude that a limited nuclear strike against the US or her allies would not have catastrophic consequences.

    I'm not convinced, either, that SK would have an easy time defeating NK in a conventional war without US help. There is a pretty substantial numbers disparity, and NK has amassed a truly scary number of artillery pieces that would likely cause mass civilian casualties in the Seoul environs. SK has the advantage in training and equipment, but NK are no slouches. In fact, the US presence on the Korean DMZ is similar to the role of US soldiers posted in countries near the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War - they aren't there to stop an invasion single-handedly but to act as triggers for a massive US buildup - if a few US soldiers get killed in the initial fighting, the US will have to get involved. And SK forces and USFK really are only there to provide a delaying action until US reinforcements can come to turn the tide. So is there a scenario where NK would imagine their nuclear threat could keep the US from intervening, and make an invasion of SK more likely? It's at least feasible IMO.

    Lastly, as above to RB I'm concerned about the proliferation concerns - both from the signal that inaction on NK sends to other nuclear aspirants and to the ability of NK to directly proliferate nuclear technology. I don't think it's anywhere near as easy to detect and curtail such proliferation before it happens - cf the Syrian nuclear plant that appears to have been based on NK technology.

    I don't actually think NK is likely to start a nuclear war, but I do think that a convincing long range nuclear strike capability might make them more likely to adopt a more aggressive posture (and possibly start a conventional war) in their immediate region. I find this troubling, and no amount of 'bluff calling' will stop it from happening.

    Quote Originally Posted by GGT View Post
    What should "we" do? Continue to pressure China, expand economic/financial sanctions, and beef up our defense systems. Plus, find ways to win the "propaganda war" with NK citizens....by getting them access to real news via internet access. That's the hard part.
    This last bit is highly unlikely to work. NK is an incredibly closed society with very little contact with the outside world.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  7. #7
    Senior Member GGT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    This last bit is highly unlikely to work. NK is an incredibly closed society with very little contact with the outside world.
    That's why I said it's the hardest part. Whether we're trying to 'neutralize' propaganda by the Islamic State (ISIS) or Kim Jun Un or Vladimir Putin....it's still an information battle, fought in cyber space. And that's why President-elect Trump scares me, when he says "let it be a nuclear arms race" in tweets, using social media to suggest a change in international or military policy.

  8. #8
    That's no moon. EyeKhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    I don't actually think NK is likely to start a nuclear war, but I do think that a convincing long range nuclear strike capability might make them more likely to adopt a more aggressive posture (and possibly start a conventional war) in their immediate region. I find this troubling, and no amount of 'bluff calling' will stop it from happening.
    The NK leadership is not "insane" or suicidal and, agreed, are not likely to start a nuclear war outright.

    The only reason to have nuclear weapons is to gain security against the existential threat to the NK regime posed by the US and its allies. But what constitutes that threat? Sanctions? Is it conceivable NK might attempt to use nuclear threats as leverage to loosen economic sanctions? Is it conceivable they will be emboldened to use conventional attacks to bully SK and Japan, again as leverage to loosen economic sanctions, once they believe their nuclear deterrent will scare the US from helping them?

    And if the NK regime gets desperate, maybe finally on the verge of collapse in some way, how likely are they to lash out with their nuclear capability at their most hated enemies? It really does insulate them from regime change, because the failing regime is not likely to give up without punishing their enemies as much as they can. We would almost have an incentive to prop them up!
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  9. #9
    Administrator Dreadnaught's Avatar
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    I like the idea of us trying to shoot it down, but am unclear if the resources are in place to actually do that with a reasonable likelihood of success.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Dreadnaught View Post
    I like the idea of us trying to shoot it down, but am unclear if the resources are in place to actually do that with a reasonable likelihood of success.
    They are not. We have some okay theater based missile defense systems, the most capable of which are Aegis-equipped ships with the latest SM-3 missiles. These probably have a decent ability to intercept a single short to medium range ballistic missile, but it's not a system I would want to rely on against a swarm of missiles or for ironclad protection. It is also - as of now - not equipped to hit ICBMs, which is the real challenge here.

    We also have some acceptable land based systems that have a similar role, most substantially being the THAAD system (which we may or may not be delivering to SK and Japan in the nearish future), and I wouldn't be surprised if we stationed some THAAD systems near critical land-based infrastructure in the Pacific. Also useless against ICBMs and far from foolproof.

    PAC-3 systems also have some (very) limited capability against shorter range ballistic missile threats.

    Our ICBM defense systems are much less impressive. The furthest-along system is the GMD system, which uses some pretty big rockets to send a kill vehicle into space to intercept an ICBM in the midcourse portion of its flight. We have small numbers of missiles deployed in Alaska and California, but the program is plagued by failed tests, deep technical problems, cost overruns, etc. It is not at all clear that the currently fielded technology would be remotely effective in intercepting a real threat, or that it will become more capable at any time in the foreseeable future. I would not bet the West Coast on its efficacy.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  11. #11
    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    I think you have an unreasonably rosy view of the situation. For example, I'm not convinced that the US would nuke NK if, say, they chose to lob a nuke at Tokyo or LA; I think a comprehensive conventional attack is far more likely, assuming we believed that the NK capacity for ongoing nuclear strikes was limited or nonexistent. Even an all-out conventional invasion would get extremely tricky from a number of perspectives, the two largest being the risk to the SK population and the risk of a confrontation with China.
    It doesn't matter if we'd nuke them in retaliation. We'd destroy the entire North Korean regime. From the perspective of that regime, nothing can be worth that cost. Once America is nuked, no one here is going to give a damn about how North Korea will react to a retaliation (nuclear or not). The North Korean regime will be wiped off the map. The North Koreans know this.

    Let's imagine a scenario where NK lobs a nuke either at a low-population military target (Guam?) or at the US mainland but isn't particularly well targeted (say it hits off the CA coast or in a rural area). Would the US respond with the full power of our strategic nuclear arsenal? I find it highly unlikely. I'm uncomfortable with there being a set of circumstances where the NK leadership can reasonably conclude that a limited nuclear strike against the US or her allies would not have catastrophic consequences.
    See above. We did worse over the death of 3,000 on 9/11.

    I'm not convinced, either, that SK would have an easy time defeating NK in a conventional war without US help. There is a pretty substantial numbers disparity, and NK has amassed a truly scary number of artillery pieces that would likely cause mass civilian casualties in the Seoul environs. SK has the advantage in training and equipment, but NK are no slouches. In fact, the US presence on the Korean DMZ is similar to the role of US soldiers posted in countries near the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War - they aren't there to stop an invasion single-handedly but to act as triggers for a massive US buildup - if a few US soldiers get killed in the initial fighting, the US will have to get involved. And SK forces and USFK really are only there to provide a delaying action until US reinforcements can come to turn the tide. So is there a scenario where NK would imagine their nuclear threat could keep the US from intervening, and make an invasion of SK more likely? It's at least feasible IMO.
    Easy time? No. But I haven't seen any military expert argue that North Korea would actually win. Again, see point above. If North Korea levels Seoul, the North Korean regime will be destroyed. The North Koreans know this. They're not stupid.

    Lastly, as above to RB I'm concerned about the proliferation concerns - both from the signal that inaction on NK sends to other nuclear aspirants and to the ability of NK to directly proliferate nuclear technology. I don't think it's anywhere near as easy to detect and curtail such proliferation before it happens - cf the Syrian nuclear plant that appears to have been based on NK technology.
    The signal has already been sent. North Korea has nuclear weapons and we haven't attacked them. If you're worried about the spread of nuclear technology, severely sanction (perhaps even bomb, depending on the situation) anyone who receives it.

    I don't actually think NK is likely to start a nuclear war, but I do think that a convincing long range nuclear strike capability might make them more likely to adopt a more aggressive posture (and possibly start a conventional war) in their immediate region. I find this troubling, and no amount of 'bluff calling' will stop it from happening.
    Only if you consider the North Koreans to be entirely irrational. North Korea would lose a conventional war. North Korea would lose a nuclear war. There's plenty of research that shows that nuclear weapons improve a bargaining position only as long as you have the conventional forces to back it up. North Korea can do a lot of damage, but it cannot win. And the side-effect of causing that much damage is that it would guarantee a regime-change response.
    Hope is the denial of reality

  12. #12
    SEŃOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    https://www.theatlantic.com/internat...-korea/535578/

    “If there’s going to be a war to stop [Kim Jong Un], it will be over there. If thousands die, they’re going to die over there. They’re not going to die here. And [Trump’s] told me that to my face,” Graham said. “That may be provocative, but not really. When you’re president of the United States, where does your allegiance lie? To the people of the United States.”
    One take on what things would be like "over there":

    https://www.vox.com/world/2017/8/1/1...orth-korea-war
    https://www.vox.com/world/2017/7/5/1...war-casualties

    When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    In the past, I did not believe the US would risk an attack on North Korea anytime soon, but, today, I am extremely uncertain, and that uncertainty is distressing. The prospect of a strike on North Korea worries me more than a war against Russia, or a military conflict with China. For all that has been said about Kim Jong Un's purported rationality* it seems clear that, in the event of a full blown conflict or war, NK would not be inclined to show any restraint whatsoever, unlike Russia or China. The thought that the US would willingly take such a risk, even with the recent developments in NK's missile capabilities, is frightening.

    What do you guys think? Will there be an attack on North Korea during Trump's first term? How will NK retaliate? What would China do? Do you think an attack would be advisable? Are you stocking up on canned food?

    * https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/11/w...-rational.html
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog...ing-rationally
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world...1b8_story.html
    http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/04/26/...-not-a-madman/
    https://www.vox.com/world/2017/5/9/1...than-you-think
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  13. #13
    Senior Member GGT's Avatar
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    First off, I'm comfortable calling Kim Jung Un "insane" (or crazy, or a madman). It's a layman's description for dictators that starve their own people of food, and feed them propaganda while restricting information/news instead, engage in brutality/torture and assassinations, all to keep their own power structure intact. It doesn't matter when scholars in international relations/foreign policy say he's NOT crazy, or that he's acting "rationally and strategically", with a deep knowledge of history or whatever -- see how he's avoided all-out war right there on the southern border? -- he's delusional enough to be dangerous.

    Problem is, our own President Trump is also delusional. But he doesn't seem to have a deep knowledge of history, or strategy, or even diplomacy. He just tweets lame statements like "we'll take care of North Korea". And he's used his own type of propaganda by branding the media/press as FAKE NEWS! So yeah, the new wild card isn't NK but our own President. And that's scary.

  14. #14
    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    You're really not good at the English language, are you? You mentioned a set of perfectly good strategies for staying in power and then called the person pursuing them crazy.
    Hope is the denial of reality

  15. #15
    Senior Member GGT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    You're really not good at the English language, are you? You mentioned a set of perfectly good strategies for staying in power and then called the person pursuing them crazy.
    Not all "perfectly good strategies for staying in power" reflect acceptable norms of human behavior or morality.

  16. #16
    Stingy DM Veldan Rath's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GGT View Post
    Not all "perfectly good strategies for staying in power" reflect acceptable norms of human behavior or morality.
    True, but that does not make them crazy.

    Just not someone to invite to tea.
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  17. #17
    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GGT View Post
    Not all "perfectly good strategies for staying in power" reflect acceptable norms of human behavior or morality.
    Amorality ! = craziness.
    Hope is the denial of reality

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    Amorality ! = craziness.
    True but you'd be surprised by how many people think that. People like to use mental illness as an excuse for the worst in humanity.

  19. #19
    Senior Member RandBlade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    Would you care to elaborate? As in Loki's approach, or something else? 'Nothing' is not really an option in that we're already doing things - sanctions regimes, bolstering defenses of regional allies, etc. - so do you just mean keep on doing what we're doing?

    I have two concerns about this approach, neither particularly tied directly to American security. First is that our seeming inaction in the fact of brazen nuclear proliferation sends a very bad message to other nuclear aspirants - essentially, if they can get far enough along in nuclear development, we aren't going to do anything to punish them in a substantive manner. Secondly, I think it substantially complicates the Asian security situation.
    Yes I meant like Loki's approach. Do little more than containment because while I agree that it sends a very bad message to other nuclear aspirants that if they can get get far enough along, we won't punish them . . . the reality has always been that if they get far enough along we won't punish them. We need to act earlier or not at all.

    Combined with the unique conventional military power that could cause sufficient damage to Seoul if not Japan too that would deter taking action. America hasn't direct military action against Iran. If Iran was in a comparable situation to North Korea - possibly having a weaponised nuclear missile already, possibly having enough conventional weaponry to annihilate our ally Israel etc, etc - then I don't think America would actually go to war with Iran as a first acter no matter the provocation.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ominous Gamer View Post
    Being upset is understandable, but be upset at yourself for poor planning, not at the world by acting like a spoiled bitch during an interview.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    Amorality ! = craziness.
    Depends on the cause of the amorality.

    The problem with North Korea is that half of the time we're guessing at what the motives of its leadership might be. We don't even know for certain that the talk about attacking the US is meant for Washington DC as a warning to back the fuck off, or meant for PyongYang hopefulls.
    Greece shows us that there is a kind of politician worse than the ones that break their election promises; the ones that keep their election promises.

  21. #21
    Everything NK has done they have done to protect the current regime. From Kim trying to look more like his grandfather to killing his China-backed brother. The propaganda is there for that "us vs them' solidarity that is used to keep the general population in check. NK isn't winning the culture war its waging with SK so its putting extra effort into the US narrative. NK knows it has no chance against the US, seriously, what type of enemy would announce an attack before hand? At best they want a "fire and fury" speech that can be used as propaganda for their own people, and Donald played right into their hands for that; at worst the US attacks them first and the US gets condemned on the international stage, especially if we do it without the blessing of SK, which they won't give. Whats the saying? R&R, porn and McDonalds invaded Vietnam more successfully than the armed forces could have ever dreamed of.
    Last edited by Ominous Gamer; 08-10-2017 at 07:41 PM.
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  22. #22
    Senior Member RandBlade's Avatar
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    Threats of destruction don't work if nobody believes you'll actually follow through no matter what.

    Sanctions had been constantly watered down by the Chinese especially because they knew that America under Obama wouldn't follow through with any threats.

    Interestingly recently China has been less willing to reject sanctions. Partly that could be a result of NK becoming less deferential to China and the murder of his brother etc - partly that could be a positive side effect of the fact Trump seems just crazy enough that he might attack NK.

    The negative side is that Trump is just crazy enough that he might attack NK.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ominous Gamer View Post
    Being upset is understandable, but be upset at yourself for poor planning, not at the world by acting like a spoiled bitch during an interview.

  23. #23
    In a regime like NK's the only people who have to believe your threats are your own people, and when the leadership can point to Trump and say something like "the threat of our supreme power is keeping you safe from this maniac" its not hard to get people on board. Even China mocked Trump for his last comment.

    Trump might be as dumb as a box of rocks, but he will not fire first on NK, and for that reason NK will continue to play him like a fiddle.
    Last edited by Ominous Gamer; 08-10-2017 at 02:32 PM.
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  24. #24
    Stingy DM Veldan Rath's Avatar
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    But honestly, they could tell their population that Trump said we have missile bases on Mars, and who would argue?

    What I'm getting at is that the regime can say anything it wants to its people, anytime.
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  25. #25
    It could, and thats where the culture war with SK comes in. There are things that the NK people are beginning to question, and SK is finding inroads for disseminating information about the outside world. Especially concerning outside wealth and happiness, they love sharing kpop for some reason.

    Its not so easy to disprove a nuclear armed country just threatened you with fire and fury when it actually is the narrative thats being pushed.
    "In a field where an overlooked bug could cost millions, you want people who will speak their minds, even if they’re sometimes obnoxious about it."

  26. #26
    Stingy DM Veldan Rath's Avatar
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    While I'm all for inroads by SK, I'm not optimistic. A people's revolt by the starving masses does not sound likely no matter who is President over here.

    It's gonna take a military uprising, and I'm not sure we'd get anyone better.
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  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Veldan Rath View Post
    and I'm not sure we'd get anyone better.
    Which is why, as history has shown, americas hands are tied.

    Trump sinking down to NKs level of empty rhetoric does nothing but feed his (and NKs) god emperor base.
    "In a field where an overlooked bug could cost millions, you want people who will speak their minds, even if they’re sometimes obnoxious about it."

  28. #28
    Stingy DM Veldan Rath's Avatar
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    Ok, so status quo...

    I'm not a fan of President Twitter either, but NK has been bungled easily by every president since Clinton to today, if not earlier.
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  29. #29
    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    I'm not sure there were ever better options available.
    Hope is the denial of reality

  30. #30
    Stingy DM Veldan Rath's Avatar
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    Sadly, you may be correct.
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