The warning comes as the Pentagon begins an extensive review of its nuclear arsenal.
On Sept., 26, 1983, shortly after midnight, the Soviet Oko nuclear early warning system detected five missiles launched from the United States and headed toward Moscow. Stanislav Petrov, a young lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Force, was the duty in the Serpukhov-15 bunker that housed the Oko command center. Petrov was the man in charge of alerting the soviets about a nuclear attack, which would trigger a retaliatory strike. He determined that the Oko had likely malfunctioned and the alarm was false. The Americans would not start World War III with a quintet of missiles (risking total annihilation.) It was a daring judgment call. He was, of course, right. As the U.S. prepares to undertake a new nuclear posture review to determine the future direction of the nation’s nuclear weapons, a report from a United Nations research institute warns that the risks of a catastrophic error — like the one that took place that early morning in 1983 — are growing, not shrinking. Next time, there may be no Lt. Col. Petrov in place to avoid a catastrophe.
On Monday, the U.S. Defense Department commenced a new, massive study into its nuclear weapons arsenal, looking at how weapons are kept, how the U.S. would use them in war and whether they present an intimidating enough threat to other countries not to attack us. The review was mandated by President Trump in a Jan 27, memo.
The Pentagon is scheduled to complete the review by the end of the year, an essential step as the military seeks to modernize different aspects of its nuclear deterrent. But a new report from the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, or UNIDR, argues that as the modern battlefield becomes more technologically complex, crowded with more sensors, satellites, drones, and interconnected networks, the risks of another nuclear accident are on the rise.
“A greater reliance on automated systems can lead to misplaced confidence while introducing new points of vulnerability,” says the report. Those new points of vulnerability include so-called “hidden interactions.” That means a sensor or computer program misinterpreting some bit of data and possibly presenting false information in a way that could cause an accident.
The 1987 incident provides a good case in point. Oko satellites mistook a very unusual sunspot on top of a high altitude cloud as a missile strike, hence the false alarm.
Take those satellites, combine them with sensors on drones and data from other sources as well, including new, perhaps unproven technologies to detect missile launches and the picture becomes much more crowded and murky.
According to a report by Korea JoongAng Daily, China appears to be preparing measures in case North Korea tests a nuclear device or performs another provocation, including possibly suspending oil to the regime, and adds that relations between Beijing and Pyongyang appear frostier than ever before.
Additionally, the Korea publication references the Chinese-language Boxun News, which cites a Beijing source, according to whom Chinese President Xi Jinping attempted to send Wu Dawei, China’s special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs, to Pyongyang after his summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, but North Korean leader Kim Jong-un allegedly rejected Wu’s visit.
Boxun adds that it was unclear if North Korea did not conduct a sixth nuclear test last Saturday because of Beijing’s warning not to do so, however it adds that according to “analysts” there’s a high likelihood of a provocation on the 85th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean People’s Army next Tuesday and the days leading up to the South Korean presidential election on May 9.
Citing its Chinese source, Boxun said that “China believes there is the “highest possibility” of a nuclear test on April 25, but “does not leave out the possibility it might take action in early May.”
One assumes the Carl Vinson, wherever it may be in the world currently, will eventually make it to North Korea by then.
Meanwhile, South Korean officials cited by JoongAng Daily confirmed that Wu, China’s top nuclear envoy, during a visit to Seoul last week said he proposed to visit Pyongyang in person to persuade the North to refrain from further provocations but he was spurned.
After warnings yesterday, and on the heels of a “very good call” with President Trump, China has escalated its threats to North Korea over its nuclear tests. In another Global Times op-ed, China warns “if the North makes another provocative move this month, the Chinese society will be willing to adopt severe restrictive measures that have never been seen before…”
Yesterday’s editorial in the military-focused Global Times tabloid, owned and operated by the Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper, said that North Korea’s nuclear activities must not jeopardize northeastern China, and that if the North impacts China with its illicit nuclear tests through either “nuclear leakage or pollution”, then China will respond with force.
“China has a bottom line that it will protect at all costs, that is, the security and stability of northeast China… If the bottom line is touched, China will employ all means available including the military means to strike back. By that time, it is not an issue of discussion whether China acquiesces in the US’ blows, but the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will launch attacks to DPRK nuclear facilities on its own.”
This, as the editorial puts it, is the “bottom line” for China; should it be crossed China will employ all means available including the military means to strike back,” warned the editorial.
On the same day as Kim Jong Un threatens the US with “first-strike’ nuclear ICBM and unveils propaganda showing the destruction of American forces, AP reports U.S. military officials expect another North Korean missile launch in the next several days.
Earlier today a Pyongyang envoy stated that North Korea will pursue “acceleration” of its nuclear and missile programs. This includes developing a “pre-emptive first strike capability” and an inter-continental ballistic missile, according to Choe Myong Nam, deputy ambassador at the DPRK (North Korean) mission to the United Nations in Geneva.
The latest development follows a previous report also from Reuters, in which it said the Trump administration is considering sweeping sanctions as part of a broad review of measures to counter North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat. “I think this is stemming from the visit by the Secretary of State (Rex Tillerson) to Japan, South Korea and China…We of course are not afraid of any act like that,” Choe told Reuters.
“Even prohibition of the international transactions system, the global financial system, this kind of thing is part of their system that will not frighten us or make any difference.” He called existing sanctions “heinous and inhumane”.
The world today is overwhelmed with problems. Policymakers seem to be confused and at a loss.
But no problem is more urgent today than the militarization of politics and the new arms race. Stopping and reversing this ruinous race must be our top priority.
The current situation is too dangerous.
More troops, tanks and armored personnel carriers are being brought to Europe. NATO and Russian forces and weapons that used to be deployed at a distance are now placed closer to each other, as if to shoot point-blank.
While state budgets are struggling to fund people’s essential social needs, military spending is growing. Money is easily found for sophisticated weapons whose destructive power is comparable to that of the weapons of mass destruction; for submarines whose single salvo is capable of devastating half a continent; for missile defense systems that undermine strategic stability.
Politicians and military leaders sound increasingly belligerent and defense doctrines more dangerous. Commentators and TV personalities are joining the bellicose chorus. It all looks as if the world is preparing for war.
As Russia and America creep ever closer to outright conflict, now that the diplomatic facade of the proxy war in Syria falls away with every passing day, one voice if calling for the world to stop and reassess what it is doing. Former USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev warned on Monday that the world has reached a “dangerous point” as tensions between Russia and the United States surge over the Syria conflict; a conflict which if escalated even fractionally further, could result in all out war between the two superpowers according to General Joseph Dunford.
Gorbachev blamed the current state of affairs between Russia and US on the “collapse of mutual trust” and urged the sides to resume dialogue and push towards demilitarization and complete nuclear disarmament.
“I think the world has reached a dangerous point. I don’t want to give any concrete prescriptions but I do want to say that this needs to stop. We need to renew dialogue. Stopping it was the biggest mistake. Now we must return to the main priorities, such as nuclear disarmament, fighting terrorism and prevention of global environmental disasters. Compared to these challenges, all the rest slips into the background.” Gorbachev said in an interview with RIA Novosti.
Relations between Moscow and Washington, already at their lowest since the Cold War over the Ukraine conflict, deteriorated sharply in recent days as the United States pulled the plug on Syria talks and accused Russia of hacking attacks.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (L) and U.S. President Ronald Reagan begin their mini-summit talks in Reykjavik October 11, 1986.
On Wednesday, the US Pacific Command (PACOM) reported that a US B-1B strategic bomber flew from the military base located in Guam and landed at the Osan airbase in South Korea for the first time since 1996. The US military reported that the move aimed to show the US readiness to “defend and to preserve the security of the Korean Peninsula and the region.”
A representative from the North Korean General Staff said that the activities of the United States and South Korea dragged the Korean Peninsula toward potential nuclear war, as cited by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) Friday. According to the statement, Pyongyang’s warheads would destroy Seoul, as well as the US base if the US bombers continued their flights. North Korea has been under pressure from the international community since its January nuclear test and a long-range rocket launch in February, which resulted in tightening sanctions against Pyongyang in the new UN Security Council resolution in March. On September 9, Pyongyang carried out a nuclear test at its northeastern nuclear test site. The nuclear experiment is believed to be the fifth and the largest since North Korea started pursuing nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
In the wake of its latest nuclear test, Pyongyang has reportedly increased its uranium enrichment and could have enough radioactive material for roughly 20 bombs by the end of the year.
North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006. While the yield of that first test was estimated to be less than one kiloton, the DPRK has made significant advancements over the last ten years. Last week’s test was the fifth and is believed to have measured 30 kilotons, twice the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
While the scope of Pyongyang’s nuclear activities is impossible to know for sure, a new assessment by weapons experts estimates that, in addition to the North’s existing plutonium stockpile, increased uranium production could give the DPRK as many as 20 nuclear bombs by the end of the year.
According to the report, posted to 38 North, experts believe that the increased production, coupled with the North’s bountiful uranium deposits, has likely given the country roughly 150 kilograms (330 pounds) of weapons-grade uranium per year, enough to make seven nuclear weapons. The experts also predict that North Korea has the ability to mount these nuclear devices to missiles.
North Korea has once again showed its fixation on developing combat-ready nuclear weapons — a goal leader Kim Jong Un seems to consider the solution to the country’s military, diplomatic and domestic troubles.
Pyongyang said Friday that it had successfully detonated a nuclear warhead for the first time. The latest nuclear test, North Korea’s fifth, follows just eight months after the previous one in January. South Korean authorities believe Friday’s detonation was the North’s biggest to date.
The United Nations Security Council was to hold an emergency meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York Friday afternoon. The body is expected to discuss issuing a statement condemning the test, as well as the possibility of harsher sanctions on Pyongyang.
North Korea will now be able to “produce at will and as many as it wants a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power,” the country said in a statement released Friday.
If this is true, North Korea has made strategically significant progress, South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo said, suggesting Pyongyang was one step closer to deploying the weapons.
North Korea carried out the latest nuclear test in retaliation to the threat of sanctions and pressure from the United States, the North Korean Embassy in Russia said in a statement Friday.
“The nuclear warhead explosion test is a demonstration of the toughest will of the WPK [ruling party] and the Korean people to get themselves always ready to retaliate against the enemies if they make provocation as it is part of practical countermeasures to the racket of threat and sanctions against the DPRK kicked by the US-led hostile forces,” the documents reads. It cites Washington’s “desperate” efforts to “find fault with the sovereign state’s exercise of the right to self-defense while categorically denying the DPRK’s strategic position as a full-fledged nuclear weapons state.” Nuclear Test Confirms Capacity of Ballistic Missile-Mounted Warheads Pyongyang’s latest nuclear tests confirmed the capacity of nuclear warheads to be mounted on ballistic missiles, the North Korean Embassy said.