The Trump Nuclear Factor

Graham: 70 Percent Chance of War With North Korea If It Tests More Nukes

The hawkish South Carolinian is credibly terrifying in describing Trump’s intentions if North Korea keeps being North Korea.

Ed KilgoreDecember 14, 2017 3:07 pm

Senator Lindsey Graham is in his own right a very important foreign-policy spokesman for his congressional party. But of late he has also gotten close to his 2016 presidential rival, Donald Trump. And as most Americans get into a happy zone for the holiday season, Graham is suggesting we could be closer than anyone realizes to a hot war with North Korea. Uri Friedman explains:

[Graham] estimated the odds that the Trump administration deliberately strikes North Korea first, to stop it from acquiring the capability to target the U.S. mainland with a long-range, nuclear-tipped missile. And the senator’s numbers were remarkably high.

“I would say there’s a three in 10 chance we use the military option,” Graham predicted in an interview. If the North Koreans conduct an additional test of a nuclear bomb—their seventh—“I would say 70 percent.”

A 30 percent chance of “the military option” is scary enough, given the horrific consequences of even a non-nuclear war with North Korea. One authoritative estimate suggests that 60,000–300,000 people in South Korea (including U.S. servicemembers) would die in the first few days of such a conflict. But Graham’s suggestion that another North Korean nuclear test would bring Donald Trump very close to a decision to launch a preemptive war is a real warning. Predictions of that seventh nuclear test are not hard to find, as an October article from The Guardian observes:

The North Korean foreign minister’s recent warning of a possible atmospheric nuclear test over the Pacific ocean should be heeded, a senior Pyongyang official has told CNN.

“The foreign minister is very well aware of the intentions of our supreme leader, so I think you should take his words literally,” Ri Yong Pil, a senior diplomat in North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, said in an interview aired on Wednesday.

Perhaps more decisively, the whole logic of the North Korean nuclear program is on a collision course with Trump’s policy of preempting any capability for Pyongyang to threaten the United States with nuclear weapons. North Korea sees obtaining such a capability as the sine qua non of its security against attack. So threats from the U.S. encourage the regime simply to accelerate its development of both weapons and delivery systems. And that means war, Graham suggests:

Graham spoke with clarion confidence about the president’s intentions. He said that one of Trump’s first big decisions as president was whether to adopt a policy of denying North Korea a long-range nuclear capability or of containing that capability by, for example, making clear that North Korea would be destroyed if it used its nuclear weapons against the United States …

Trump eventually chose denial, according to Graham, and that choice is now “in our rearview mirror.”

And so, unless North Korea completely reverses its long-term national security strategy, armed conflict is just a matter of time:

“I don’t know how to say it any more direct: If nothing changes, Trump’s gonna have to use the military option, because time is running out,” Graham said.

Some may dismiss such talk as designed to support a bully-boy bluff from Trump. But remember this is coming from Lindsey Graham, a man who has never been reluctant to consider shooting wars as a lively option, particularly in faraway lands:

Graham downplayed concerns that the eruption of hostilities between the U.S. and North Korea could kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Korea and put tens of thousands of American troops stationed in Seoul in harm’s war, saying Trump needs to think about the American homeland first.

“Put yourself in President Trump’s shoes for a moment — where does your allegiance lie?” he said. “Isn’t your primary purpose as President of the United States to protect the American homeland from a nuclear weapon attack by a guy like Kim Jong-un? … He’s gonna pick homeland defense over regional stability and he has to.”

The unthinkable isn’t unthinkable to Graham or to Trump, and both are locked into a strategy that makes war with the equally implacable North Koreans a good, if horrifying, bet for the near future.

Why Australia is a Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Australia still ‘totally radioactive’ 60 years after Hiroshima-scale nuclear tests

December 12, 20178:10pm

AUSTRALIA is a “totally radioactive” country riddled with hidden cancers and birth defects that risks becoming worse for future generations if the government does not limit uranium mining and the use of nuclear weapons.

That’s according to nuclear test survivor Sue Coleman-Haseldine, 67, who was raised in the shadow of British nuclear tests carried out at Emu Field and Maralinga in the 1950s and 1960s, where bombs on the same scale as Hiroshima were detonated and led to fallout known as “black mist”.

The Kokatha woman grew up in a community where people were blinded, killed or made sick from radiation poisoning with fertility problems and birth defects now common in the district.

The devastating effects she’s witnessed first-hand drove her to advocate for an end to weapons and mining on an international stage.

“Australia is totally radioactive,” she told “There’re so many deaths from different cancers. Myself and my granddaughter don’t have thyroids as they’ve been removed. The defects in newborn babies are heartbreaking.

“If you ask one of the young ones [in her South Australian community], ‘What do you think you’ll die from?’ they’ll say ‘cancer’ because that’s what everyone else dies from. The government is doing nothing at all. They don’t want to know.

“As people of Australia, we all need to join forces — everybody: black, white and brindle — and shame the government to sign this treaty to ban nuclear weapons.”

Nuclear tests carried out at Maralinga have had a devastating health impact on communities still in the area.Source:Supplied

The stark warning has helped capture global attention, with the Australian International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) recently scooping the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo for their efforts. Coleman-Haseldine said it was “absolutely wonderful” to travel with the group of around 100 non-governmental organisations and gain global recognition for those sent like “lambs to the slaughter” to work on nuclear testing sites during British operations in Australia.

“People hadn’t even heard of Maralinga, which was absolutely mind-boggling,” she said. “We’ve been poisoned once, no more. I’ve lived under the shadow of Maralinga all my life. I don’t want the future generation living under a toxic waste dump that they wouldn’t even see coming.”


The British government carried out 12 nuclear tests, including seven at Maralinga, two at Emu Field, both of which are in South Australia, and three at Monte Bello in Western Australia, over the 1950s and 1960s.

The first “operation buffalo” at Maralinga involved a 15 kilotonne atomic device that was the same strength as Hiroshima, to test the “red beard” tactical weapon. It led to radioactive clouds being sent towards the east coast with subsequent clean-up operations in 1964 and 1967 only making the contamination worse according to Dr Liz Tynan, who wrote a book about the Maralinga story called Atomic Thunder.

More than 60 years on, the Australian-founded group won the world’s top peace prize despite problems that persist in Australia. The win was based on ICAN’s work persuading the UN to adopt a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which provides a “pathway” to a nuclear-free world.

ICAN’s Asia-Pacific director Tim Wright has been involved with the campaign since its inception and Australia remains a “big part of the problem” when it comes to nuclear weapons. While the country does not have its own, it is protected under the US “nuclear umbrella” that would mean the US retaliating with nuclear weapons if Australia was attacked.

“We believe that Australia should take a principled stand against them just as it’s done for biological, chemical weapons, cluster bombs and landmines,” he said, adding that “you can’t have 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world” and avoid them being used.

Wright said the team is thrilled to have “shined a spotlight” on the issue that is more pertinent now than at any time since the Cold War given rising rhetoric and hair-trigger tempers of President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“In many ways the world is more dangerous today than it was back then. The question for the Australian public is, ‘Do you feel safer knowing that President Trump has his finger on the trigger for 7000 nuclear weapons or does that make you feel less safe?’ I think most people would conclude it makes them feel less safe.”

His comments echo those made by ICAN’s executive director Beatrice Fihn upon accepting the award, who said “the deaths of millions may be one tiny tantrum away”.

“We have a choice, the end of nuclear weapons or the end of us,” she said, adding that a “moment of panic” could lead to “destruction of cities and the deaths of millions of civilians”.

ICAN is working to encourage countries to ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons adopted in July. However it faces significant opposition from nuclear states including the US, UK and France.

Australia has a hidden and devastating history of nuclear testing that has still not been formally rectified, campaigners say. Picture: from Collisions, by Australian artist Lynette Wallworth, about the Maralinga testsSource:Supplied

More Rumblings Before the Sixth Seal (Rev 6:12)

Jerry Smith, The News Journal

A small earthquake described by a U.S. Geological Survey spokesperson as an aftershock occurred Tuesday night in the Delaware Bay near Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge.

The aftershock hit near the location of a 4.1 magnitude earthquake that shook Delaware and the Mid-Atlantic region on Nov. 30.

Tuesday’s 1.2 magnitude aftershock happened at 7:45 p.m. just 7 miles northeast of Dover Air Force Base just off Port Mahon near the Delaware Bay, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

John Bellini, a geophysicist with the survey’s National Earthquake Information Center, in Golden, Colorado, said that the aftershock could have occurred in the exact location, but because of its size, it was hard to pinpoint.

There were no reports of damage from the Nov. 30 quake, but the USGS said it received more than 6,500 responses within an hour of the temblor from people who felt it throughout the Mid-Atlantic — as far south as suburban Washington, D.C., and as far north as the Poughkeepsie, New York, area.

Bellini said Tuesday’s aftershock is unusual because of the smaller size of the Nov. 30 earthquake.

“You don’t usually get a lot of aftershocks from a quake that size, but they can occur up to two weeks after,” he said. “Aftershocks are usually felt more often and for a longer period of time with larger earthquakes.”

Reach Jerry Smith at follow him on Twitter at @JerrySmithTNJ.

The South Korean Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7:7)

It has been reported that Seoul may be looking into reviving its own nuclear program as Pyongyang has made no bones about the possibility of nuking the United States and its allies after it detonated a hydrogen bomb in September.

If South Korea is able to come up with its own H-bombs, then the security implications for China would be far more complex than the controversial installation of the US-supplied Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, Chinese military commentators have warned, pointing out that northern and northeastern China, including Beijing, might be well within the range of South Korean missiles equipped with nuclear warheads.

They say Beijing may still have peace of mind even with a nuclear-armed North Korea on its doorstep, as Pyongyang remains as its ideological ally and semi-vassal state, but apparently that would not be the case if Seoul pursued a nuclear-weapons program.

Seoul’s dalliance with the idea of having indigenous nuclear weapons has never subsided throughout the decades, despite Washington’s repeated dissuasion.

The Pentagon brought Seoul under its own nuclear umbrella in the thick of the Cold War when the Korean Peninsula was at the forefront of an arms race between Washington and Moscow as well as fearing an ambush by Mao Zedong’s China.

In January 1958, the first nuclear weapons were deployed to South Korea and remained there until late 1991, after incessant lobbying by Seoul for a vital security guarantee.

Since the pullout, Washington has sought to reassure Seoul and signal to Pyongyang that the nuclear umbrella is intact. Despite the absence of nuclear weapons on the ground, the US military has a long reach across the region, including from ballistic missiles on board submarines deployed in the Pacific Ocean.

Still, South Korea decided to press ahead with developing its own atomic and thermonuclear weaponry as early as the mid-1970s, when the prospect of solo defense against the North and two other Communist regimes, China and the USSR, made Seoul jittery.

This was against the backdrop of a fierce debate on troop withdrawal and strategic retreat in the US, after its setbacks in the Vietnam War.

Washington responded with a categorical veto of nukes in South Korea, together with more security pledges to mollify its East Asian ally.

A 1978 deal between Seoul and Paris on nuclear equipment was subsequently called off, as was the Park Chung-hee administration’s roadmap from nuclear power plants to H-bombs.

Recently there have been calls for Washington to consider “dual key” nuclear-weapons sharing to save Seoul and Tokyo the trouble of developing their own atomic arsenals.

“This is not a choice but a necessity, given that [Japan] possesses little know-how regarding practical details in possession, security, maintenance, and procedures involving nuclear warheads,” Masahiro Matsumura, a professor of international politics and national security at St Andrew’s University in Osaka, told Asia Times early this month.

But other experts including Chinese news commentator Hou Zhijian argue that South Korea faces “zero” technical hurdles for building its own nuclear arms.

The key issue here is whether South Korea could get hold of enough enriched uranium and if Washington would ultimately give its go-ahead, but it seems that Pyongyang’s defiant nuclear buildup has been giving Seoul all the justification it needs to pursue the matter.

This first appeared in AsiaTimes here

Image: Reuters.