back to article Pyongyang to unleash NUKULAR horsemen of the Norkocalypse?

Last week, UK prime minister David Cameron raised a few eyebrows when he insisted North Korea has the capability to launch a missile strike against the the US and the UK. Just like Blighty was once warned of Saddam Hussein's terrifying Weapons of Mass Destruction, the PM forewarned: “North Korea does now have missile …

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  1. Flywheel Silver badge
    FAIL

    Seriously Dave?

    I think what you mean is that the NORKs will mount a couple of missile lanuchers on a ship, float it round to Canvey Island and unleash a Musudan or 2..

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      Re: Seriously Dave?

      I somehow doubt you could do that unnoticed by any satellite. If anything elongated an of the right size is loaded onto a ship or barge, rest assured something up there will read the serial numbers (OK not quite perhaps, but close enough).

    2. Wzrd1
      FAIL

      Re: Seriously Dave?

      A ship is rather less stable than that stuff we call the ground.

      A ground based missile, on a mobile launcher on a ship will be far less likely to be launched at a proper attitude that would permit a well controlled flight toward its programmed target.

      The last review I looked at for NK's missiles said that they could potentially reach Hawaii at the most and with an embarrassing number coming apart at the seams en route, falling harmlessly into the ocean.

      Still, let's examine what is at stake.

      NK threatens to strike the US with nuclear arms. In short, threatened to strike the only nation on Earth to ever actually use a nuclear warhead in war. That in and of itself isn't very wise.

      Meanwhile, let's examine China and its long history of maintaining satellite nations as a buffer against invasion. Then, consider its sponsorship of the NK government for generations. Now, let's examine the PRC's statement that it won't tolerate troublemakers in its regional sphere of influence.

      That last is a very, very, very clear message to NK.

      Stop it or you'll get spanked and sent to your room without supper.

  2. Rustident Spaceniak
    Coat

    Missile fuels and testing

    Incidentally, UDMH may be stable but it's not altogether friendly. It is both acutely and chronically poisonous, carcinogenic, may damage DNA, is corrosive with some substances, is highly explosive, can be absorbed via the skin, and stinks. It is also one of the most commonly used rocket propellants.

    Concerning the missiles, no-one in their right minds would use them without proper prior testing. Not that the Nork leadership need necessarily be collectively in their right minds, but this humble non-expert would rather expect a very public qualification test to come from all of this - sold obviously as a dire warning to the imperialist cowards down south and across the ocean - followed by a conclusion that all was well now, as the imperialists were frightened into desisting from their planned agression. Cocktails (of the moderately poisonous kind) for the generals, everyone else go on as before.

    The downside is, assuming the above took place, *after* the test NK could claim to own an operational, intermediate-range missile. Still no cause for concern in the UK, but possibly in Japan and certainly in South Korea (although that would only be one concern among many).

    Mine's the one with the UDMH detector in the pocket.

    1. Velv

      Re: Missile fuels and testing

      Given North Korea's record on human rights, do you think the regime gives too hoots about the welfare of a few rocket technicians?

      I don't see the NK HSE shutting down the facilities any day soon.

      The HSE would be shut down first.

      Permanently.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Missile fuels and testing

        Velv,

        Although a few dead rocket scientists is no loss to the serene progress of the glorious state, you do need to be careful about how many you kill off. They're hard to train, and the ones with experience of making things work are very valuable - as they're likely to get things to work again next time.

        Unfortunately along with a chronic lack of health and safety, I've also read suggestions that failed missile tests tend to get you (and your family) sent to a camp (if you're lucky). So they may have found a way of getting rid of their best people that doesn't require accidental poisoning.

        1. Rustident Spaceniak

          Re: Missile fuels and testing

          Which is possibly just as well for those not directly affected. After all, there are limits to collegial well-wishing.

        2. Thomas 4

          Re: Missile fuels and testing

          @Spartacus

          I agree. Even the most rabid dictator is aware that rocket scientists don't grow on trees and I imagine that successful ones are treated like royalty. If for no other reason, KJ knows that without decent scientists, he is royally boned.

          ....but then again, Western Civilsations are royally boned without decent scientists and we don't exactly pay ours well.

          Also, can we get a "royally boned" icon please?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Missile fuels and testing

            Also, can we get a "royally boned" icon please?

            Kate's bump? Because that's obviously the product of getting royally boned?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Missile fuels and testing

            Also, can we get a "royally boned" icon please?

            Todger with a crown on it?

            1. VinceH
              Happy

              Re: Missile fuels and testing

              "Also, can we get a "royally boned" icon please?

              Todger with a crown on it?"

              How about a crown with a todger on it?

              http://www.henburyantisocialclub.co.uk/skin/imgs/BFK.png

        3. Psyx
          Pint

          Re: Missile fuels and testing

          "Given North Korea's record on human rights, do you think the regime gives too hoots about the welfare of a few rocket technicians?"

          No, but missiles like that are also a complete bastard to store in a ready-state. It's a bit out of my field, but I seem to recall that the Russians had enormous problems when the money for their ICBMs started running out and they were left with unstable and dangerous tubes of chemicals sat in not-well-enough-ventilated holes in the ground.

          Keeping lots of rockets like that on a war footing isn't viable when you're short of know-how and money.

          Putting them on-target is of course another problem. Given that Iraq couldn't hit jack-all in Saudi with their Scuds and that even short range rockets fail to do much to Israel, I somehow doubt that NK could even hit Alaska, let alone anything of worth there. When you toss a missile into an area of countryside you've got what... about a 1% chance of hitting anything made of brick. As London found out in WW2: The threat of missiles is mainly a fairly empty terror one. More of an annoyance and something that bolsters resilience and morale rather than breaks it.

          Close only counts with horseshoes, hand-grenades and thermonuclear weapons, but NK haven't weaponised those yet, either. That said, chemical or biological rockets could be horrific, but unless you can drop them right on an urbanised area AND you do so in the right weather AND the rockets work as intended, then the threat is much lower. In truth the world has seen far more failed chemical weapon attacks than successful ones. And launching one would pretty much ensure that Nk's generals earn themselves places on playing cards and a 'targeted strike' (or whatever we're calling deliberate assassination with smart-bombs these days).

          Basically, medium-range conventional surface to surface bombardment missiles are a sabre for third-rate military nations to rattle, and little more. Why do you think that barely anyone else bothers with such toys.

          1. jason 7
            Big Brother

            Re: Missile fuels and testing

            I wonder if that pack of cards exists already and is kept updated for 'eventual' release?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Missile fuels and testing

        Well, Germany, the US and the UK didn't. According to Ignition! the Russians were far more cautious about experimenting with PhD killers once they had something that worked well enough.

        Come on, the US even tried adding beryllium to rocket fuel.

        1. Wzrd1

          Re: Missile fuels and testing

          Well, remember, ribosome, what Winnie said about us Americans.

          We'll eventually do what is right. After exhausting every other possibility. :/

          I'll always regret one thing. Being too young to have ever met Churchill and especially, being able to take him out for a few drinks.

          But then, the laws of the universe prohibit such.

          For, together, the Swiss would be at war with both of our nations and even the penguins would war with us after such an excursion. ;)

          No, I'm not politically incorrect. I'm just plain "wrong", once I'm started.

          So horribly that politicians keep their distance from me, lest my influence rub off.

          Which is a good thing. I can't tolerate politicians.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      Re: Missile fuels and testing

      'Incidentally, UDMH may be stable but it's not altogether friendly. It is both acutely and chronically poisonous, carcinogenic, may damage DNA, is corrosive with some substances, is highly explosive, can be absorbed via the skin, and stinks. It is also one of the most commonly used rocket propellants.'

      Yesyes, we know al that. But is the Apple warranty system any good in NK ?

      * Sorry, could not resist.

    3. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Re: Missile fuels and testing

      UDMH is the stuff that's so nasty it resulted in a series of fires and explosions of Titan missiles in their silos. One exploded when a technician dropped a spanner on to the rocket's skin. It was armed at the time. The warhead was blown out of the silo and landed almost intact nearby.

      Nitrogen tetroxide also nearly killed the crew of the Apollo half of the Apollo-Soyuz test mission when a reaction control system malfunctioned during re-entry and bled fumes into the capsule. I seem to recall the crew suffered 'bleached lungs'.

    4. cortland

      Re: Missile fuels and testing

      "Right minds" doesn't appear to apply to NK's strategy.

      But suppose their goal is to throw the worlds economies into disarray and supplant Seoul amidst the confusion.

      They wouldn't need to launch missiles themselves, though it might please them to; all they need do is provide missiles and warheads to more sincerely irrational (!) regimes and see the counter-blows fall attenuated and diffuse elsewhere, while they act closer to home.

      "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven," that sort of thing. Considering what NK has done to its own people... Hell might just fit.

      1. Vic
        Joke

        Re: Missile fuels and testing

        > all they need do is provide missiles and warheads to more sincerely irrational (!) regimes

        They'll need to get the Hollywood Actors on-side first...

        Vic.

  3. Dr Dan Holdsworth
    WTF?

    It IS rocket science...

    What you have to remember here is that whilst rocket science for established, large players like Russia and America does seem relatively easy and reliable, it only got that way through exhaustive, repetitive testing with a large element of trial and error. Rocket engines are very energy-dense structures; any slight mistake can turn a few million quid's worth of finely-tuned machine into a very big firework. The major players' systems are reliable only because they were very heavily tested, both on static rigs and as near-finished machines on missile testing ranges.

    North Korea, on the other hand, is taking supposedly fully tested systems and is then pratting about with them. Bundling four engines into close proximity does not produce a unit four times as powerful; unless they have tested for little things like vibrational resonances caused by four units on the same chassis (safe for one, but four? who knows?), extra heating on rocket exhausts that on the original one was safely radiated away but cannot be now because of 3 other engines close by and other similar sorts of gotchas.

    North Korea is strapped for cash. It can afford to keep a few pampered officials and of course the Great Leader in clover indefinitely (whilst the bulk of the population starves), but it cannot afford the sorts of extensive testing that is needed to go from a part-finished rocket system to a finished, polished product. It is a wonder that it has even managed to develop a vaguely-working nuclear weapon, even if the last few tests have either been fizzles or frauds based on conventional high explosives packed into tunnels.

    It is therefore extremely unlikely that any of the North Korean show-piece rockets are capable of anything save sit on a launcher vehicle, empty of fuel and completely unarmed, as a threat credible only to the hard of thinking. Even if these morons do manage to get a warhead of some sort to hit American soil, what on earth do they think the reaction to this will be? One fairly spectacular terrorist event was sufficient to launch America into a long, and frankly extremely bloody war (bloody on the part of the Taliban anyway; the one thing they seem good at is dying for their cause), and this was just terrorism. An actual act of war perpetrated against one of the most belligerant nations on the planet and certainly the most militarily capable is outright suicide.

    The only thing to really consider here is this: are the North Koreans really that stupid?

    1. Mad Mike

      Re: It IS rocket science...

      I think that's the biggest problem here..........they may well be that stupid.

      As you say, nobody in their right mind would even launch a rocket at this point (any launch would probably be taken as hostile and an attack on someone), but the NKs have shown themselves to be pretty stupid (or brave depending on how you look at it) in the past.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: It IS rocket science...

        Mad Mike,

        I think a Nork missile test at this point is probably the least bad outcome. As the US have hinted. They've already had a round of UN sanctions for the last nuclear test - so there wouldn't likely be any more just yet. At which point everyone can step back and claim honour is satisfied.

        Although should the missile go off-target, or even look like doing so (there's not much room that doesn't overfly Russia, China, Japan or South Korea, it might get shot down, and that could make things all kinds of interesting. Although although, would the Norks be able to tell? They must be used to their test rockets going bang by now, so if an AEGIS destroyer shot one down, out of their radar range, they might not even notice...

        The other alternative to end this could be another shelling incident, or attack on a US, Japanese or ROK ship. While the South didn't retaliate last time, I've read several suggestions that this was a pretty serious political trauma, and so the current government has promised to retaliate forcibly. At which point we get into escalation, and you're at the mercy of the least stable government. Then we have to hope the North is run by a ruthless but sane bunch of calculating murdering bastards rather than a bunch of loony murdering bastards.

        1. Mad Mike

          Re: It IS rocket science...

          @I ain't Spartacus.

          Unfortunately, it has been reported that the Japanese navy have been ordered to intercept any rocket launch (using Aegis and SM-3). The NKs could even launch something and then claim it had been shot down regardless of reality. They're certainly pushing much harder than they have previously and those on the other side (ROK, USA etc.) are being much more aggressive than before as well. ROK has promised to retaliate heavily for any offence.

          I guess time will tell. Problem is, how do you tell the difference between a test launch and an attempt to land a rocket someone important (such as Japan or South Korea etc.)?

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: It IS rocket science...

            Mad Mike,

            Japan didn't shoot down the last one, that went over its territory. I presume the AEGIS radar can give a quick enough solution that they'll know the vertical (as well as horizontal) trajectory quickly enough to make that decision. After all, they didn't shoot the last one down, and I'm sure they had ships in place - as it was flagged well in advance.

            So unless Japan wants to increase tension further, you'd hope they'd hold back. I guess that depends on the length of time the rockets burn for, before going inertial, and the positioning of the ships.

            Of course, nothing stops North Korea from claiming their failed tests were shot down. But in the past they've preferred to claim success, even when their wasn't. Anyway, if they want to be provoked into war, shelling South Korea is easy enough to arrange - or sending some commandos in by submarine (both of which they've done several times before). That comes down to what their motivation is in this. There's plenty of people happy to line up and say this is just Lil' Kim protecting his position against internal rivals - but I'm not sure we've got any proof of that. There were pundits as late as ten years ago saying how Medium Kim was only causing trouble to shore up his internal position, and try to live up to Daddy - and I'm not sure they had any more evidence for that than they do now.

          2. Psyx
            Pint

            Re: It IS rocket science...

            "The NKs could even launch something and then claim it had been shot down regardless of reality."

            Given the number of RADAR arrays pointing at it and that they'd be recorded, that lie would only work against its own people. The US/Japan could pretty easily prove it wasn't them.

            But then NK mainly cares about posturing for its own people anyway. It's like someone missed up Marx and Orwell when organising their libraries.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: It IS rocket science...

          I would think that the bigger risk is that the NORKs will launch a missile, perhaps targeting some offlying island, and it will go haywire & drop onto Pyongyang, whereupon some overzealous generalissimo or politico will declare it a US first strike and hit the Big Red Button for everything aimed at S.Korea. All hell then breaks loose on the peninsula, and the price of the Galaxy S4 goes though the rof.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Andy Fletcher

      Re: It IS rocket science...

      About the only thing I do believe about the whole story is that yes, they could well be that stupid.

      If they are, they'll be squashed like a bug. I certainly don't see how they can pose any serious military threat to the USA. I certainly can't see any reason they'd be interested in the slightest in Blighty so quite whether this involves us at all is a complete mystery. Hasn't the government here got some real problems to be dealing with?

      1. Johan Bastiaansen
        Thumb Up

        Re: It IS rocket science...

        "Hasn't the government here got some real problems to be dealing with?"

        Yes, but solving imaginary problems is far more easy and less risky. And it gets you in the papers and on the telly just as good as solving a real problem would.

      2. Elmer Phud

        Re: It IS rocket science...

        "If they are, they'll be squashed like a bug"

        The Norks are just trolling, they love those phrases like that, it allows them to become more rabid (unless this is troll--baiting, of course).

        Even the Chinese are going WTF? as the Norks try to do the usual school bully thing and get slapped first .

        They don't pose any serious threat to the US - in the U.S. but they are trying to get some local action going which discredits the U.S. elsewhere on the planet. Norks have a supply of local cannon fodder to play with but I'm not sure they could even manage a hit on Israel to get the hard-line Islamic support they'd need to really kick things off.

        I'm glad that the U.K. is at 'popcorn' status but I could do without some of the local bigwigs sucking up to the big boys.

        1. SkippyBing

          Re: It IS rocket science...

          Strictly speaking the UK isn’t at pop-corn eating status as we signed up to assist in defending the South against the North in the event of hostilities re-commencing.

          1. Thomas 4

            Re: It IS rocket science...

            Probably the biggest place at risk is South Korea. A missile could easily be intercepted if they tried to hit somewhere like Guam, Japan or the US but if the got them close enough to the border and let rip, they might actually have a chance of hitting something.

            Also, even if they can't do a full nuke, what about the potential for a dirty warhead? Is that a possibility?

            1. Psyx

              Re: It IS rocket science...

              "Also, even if they can't do a full nuke, what about the potential for a dirty warhead? Is that a possibility?"

              It achieves nothing. It does no military damage and it totally undermines the idea that NK is the true and proper owner of SK. What's the point of seizing irradiated turf? Dirty weapons are for panicking civilians and that's about as far as their use extends.

              They could do it, but a more likely threat is a chemical or biological one.

    3. Rustident Spaceniak
      Flame

      Re: It IS rocket science...

      You're totally right about it really being rocket science; and yes, anything can and will go wrong. That's precisely what they have demonstrated quite publicly (to outsiders, not within NK) withe heir Unha missile a few times.

      In fact, their current approach is somewhat comparable to what the Russians (and even the Merkins) did in the 1950s: Trial and error, except the Norks have at least those space powers to copy the theory and basic designs from. They only need to make their own addtional errors. Still, there's nothing to say they may not eventually succeed in making one of those contraptions work.

  4. trashbat
    Mushroom

    Mutually assured dullness

    This is literally the most boring nuclear standoff of all time. Can we at least club together and shoot down a plane? We could call ourselves 'Start the War Coalition'.

    1. Johan Bastiaansen
      Angel

      Re: Mutually assured dullness

      Well, if it is any comfort to you, the first few weeks on WWII were pretty dull on the western front also.

      1. trashbat
        Thumb Down

        Re: Mutually assured dullness

        Are you telling me that it's going to be SIX YEARS before anything good happens? I wasn't trained for this. It's bad enough having to wait to skip a YouTube advert.

        1. Psyx
          Stop

          Re: Mutually assured dullness

          You laugh, but that kinds of attitude is a problem. I remember before Iraq 2 hearing people say "I wish we'd just go and get it over with. It's been on the front of the papers now for months."

          Really quite a worrying attitude: "Let's have a war, because I'm tired of not seeing footballer stories on the front of my toilet reading."

          1. 142
            Stop

            Re: Mutually assured dullness

            Yep. The danger here is that if it does go nuclear, something could wrong, causing China and/or Russia to get involved against the US. It doesn't strike me as at all impossible that an ICBM from the US could accidentally hit either of those countries instead of NK. Then what would happen? Something as a bad as this: http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/nuclear/nuclearwar1.html ? Half as bad? Quarter as bad? Does it make a difference?

            I, for one, don't want to find out.

            1. Danny 14 Silver badge

              Re: Mutually assured dullness

              The us would miss from a sub sat off the coast?

              1. 142

                Re: Mutually assured dullness

                Fair point.

            2. admiraljkb

              Re: Mutually assured dullness

              @142

              Near as I can tell, if NK does something really stupid, then it'll know what Poland felt like in 1939. The Chinese have a large base and are doing live fire exercises to remind lil' Kim to back down. Should he do something stupid, presumably the Chinese will stream in from the North, and Allied forces from the South and meet in the middle. I really don't expect a shooting war between the Chinese and US. With that said, AFTER Pyongyang falls, NK will be in a situation like with Germany after WWII. Lot of discussions and arrangements, partitioning, and such. All of it sub-optimal, and hampering re-unification efforts undoubtedly.

              1. 142
                Facepalm

                Re: Mutually assured dullness

                If they all go to war, and it ends up with a division again along the 38th parallel, with the Chinese taking responsibility for repairing the north, and the US taking responsibility for rebuilding the south...... :-(

                I really wish that was more unimaginable than it is...

  5. NomNomNom

    YOUR GOVERNMENT LIES

    THE LEADER'S AMAZING REVOLUTIONARY ROCKETS ARE MIGHTY AND SUCCESSFUL, FASTER THAN AN UNLADEN SWALLOW, CAUSING EVER INCREASING HAPPINESS OF THE PEOPLE

    ALL OTHER COUNTRIES ROCKETS ARE HAMSTER-LIKE AND SMELL OF ELDERBERRIES

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      African or European?

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      MuI7 calling IT like IT is and Challenging 5 and 6 to Up their Great Games ....

      .... to something Titanic and Colossal

      NomNomNom,

      I salute the glorious leader's virtual grenade mastery and am thoroughly amazed at the West's compounding ignorance in the field.

      Or if they be not ignorant of the methodology/epistemology, their crass incompetence with ITs Super Tools.

    3. cortland

      One swallow does not a banquet make.

      -- Confuseus

  6. DrXym Silver badge

    If they were going to target the UK

    They'd probably just put the nuke in a container and deliver it by ship or a cargo plane.

    1. dotdavid

      Re: If they were going to target the UK

      I would expect that to be the most likely vector. Why spend time faffing around with your unreliable chemical rockets when you could ship a load of nukes out of the country and have them on standby around the globe.

      That said, presumably the powers that be check all shipping containers that leave the country, and while the odd bit of contraband might slip through I can't imagine an operational nuke would.

      1. Yesnomaybe
        Mushroom

        Re: If they were going to target the UK

        Shipments of bananas and Brazil nuts don't set off alarms for no reason at all. Container-ports have detectors.

    2. Anonymous C0ward
      Joke

      Re: If they were going to target the UK

      "Negative, terrible seller, item damaged in shipping and seller refused return"

  7. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    Inhibited

    The idea that something can be made safer through the addition of HF fills me with joy.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Aldous

    The US Cancelled a Missile Test

    With that and whatever they do for glorious pork chop i mean leaders birthday will be the end of it as the yankee imperials have backed down all hail kim jong bacon!

    1. Mark 62
      Trollface

      Re: The US Cancelled a Missile Test

      One less thing to lose to the sequester...

  9. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    FAIL

    The idea

    that the nork missiles are cack works well

    right upto the point one lands on Pearl harbour

    Oh and the last people to try that one came to a very sticky end......

    1. Psyx

      Re: The idea

      Just take a look at a map of the Pacific and imagine it as a wall, with Pearl Harbour as the relevant-scaled dot on it. Now hit it with a dart from the other side of the room. That's what NK dropping one of their rockets there would be like.

      1. dotdavid

        Re: The idea

        So what you're saying is Pearl Harbor Sucked, but Not As Much As North Korea's Chemical Rocket Guidance Systems

  10. Herbert Meyer
    Boffin

    cough... Nitric Acid

    IRFNA will form Nitric Acid, rather than Hydrofloric acid, on contact with moisture in the air.

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: cough... Nitric Acid

      I was talking about the hydrogen fluoride inhibitor component. Maybe should have clarified that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: cough... Nitric Acid

        No, I understood perfectly. You need a better class of reader who knows more chemical engineering.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: cough... Nitric Acid

      Yes, but the hydrogen fluoride used as a 'stabliser' does.

      Edit: Sorry Lester you beat me to it. Snap!

      I suppose I should change my post to say something either witty or interesting now, and pretend that's what I meant to do all along. Oh well...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of course, then there's this...

    http://beforeitsnews.com/war-and-conflict/2013/04/did-china-supply-n-korea-with-an-orbital-nuclear-weapons-platform-2445898.html

    1. Dr Dan Holdsworth
      Stop

      Re: Of course, then there's this...

      No, China did not supply North Korea with an orbital nuclear weapons platform, partly because these don't exist but mostly because the Chinese aren't stupid enough to give their loony neighbours anything that might be used to threaten them. This does not of course preclude the Chinese having sold them something that could plausibly be claimed to be an orbital nuke carrier but which is in fact a very large eggbox.

      1. 142
        Meh

        Re: "partly because these don't exist"

        Hmmm... unfortunately it's a safe bet that these "don't exist" in the same way Israel's nukes "don't exist".

        But you're right there's no chance that China would be that stupid. The scenario is so idiotic on so many levels it baffles me how our liveleaker could have come up with it even as a piss take!

  12. Frankee Llonnygog

    Big bombs are so old fashioned

    Imagine the surprise on everyone's faces when the Dear Leader triggers the Massively Distributed Bomb, a tiny element of which is packed into every Samsung phone.

    - This is a public safety announcement brought to you by Apple, Microsoft, RIM, etc

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: Big bombs are so old fashioned

      Apple have already patented the 'smart (phone) bomb'.

      It was part of the original Os for when people don't want apps removed remotely.

      Ultimate sanction - plus Samsung end up in court again (if it's still standing)

  13. Steve May 1
    Unhappy

    Simples

    For a North Korean first strike, (and there is no chance of them having any capability of a second strike after the retaliation), they need no high-tech delivery systems. They need only conceal the weapons in shipping containers, (with Samsung logos for irony), and have them conveyed to the target sites in the USA or elsewhere. The devices don't need to be constrained by size or weight, (within reason), or the need to survive launch and re-entry.

    There would also be the extra benefit of plausible deniability, with no flaming rocket trail to follow. Although I suspect the legal niceties might get overlooked in assigning blame.

    This would, of course, not be the act of a rational state, but history is overflowing with national leaders so divorced from reality that their actions do include the normally unthinkable. I think it is entirely possible that the Great Leader sincerely believes that his armed forces can present the world with a fait accompli by overwhelming the South in exactly the same fashion as in Korean War 1., before an efective US response could be mounted. He might even be right.

    But in the modern age mere numbers of boots and tanks and guns do not an effective army make. All otgher things being equal, they don't hurt either. One of the saving graces of your average turbo-nutter dictator is they will generally prefer 100 tanks with shiny paint jobs but zero maintenance to 10 fully operational vehicles. An air force is just so many targets if the pilots have forgotten which switch does what in the cockpit.

    Add in the appalling terrain of most of Korea, (with about 57 kilomountains/Wales in Reg units), and the end result could well be the biggest traffic jam in military history. (Cue video clip of USAF pilots licking their lips in anticipation.)

    Sadly, if things do turn into a shooting war, the real losers will be the "collateral samage" in innocent lives on both sides. Never forget that in all the techo-wanking that goes on.

    1. Psyx
      Pint

      Re: Simples

      "The devices don't need to be constrained by size or weight, (within reason), or the need to survive launch and re-entry."

      You'd still need to fit it in a cargo container, with self-contained power, and able to weather rough sea-states. That's probably more weaponisation than NK have done to date.

      "There would also be the extra benefit of plausible deniability, with no flaming rocket trail to follow. Although I suspect the legal niceties might get overlooked in assigning blame."

      Cargo manifests et al would make it fairly transparent. It wouldn't be hard to track backwards.

      The biggest problem with it is the lack of control. Consider how tightly reined in the NK generals keep their power and how little they trust anything outside their own nation. And consider the power-jockeying within their ranks, and likely disagreement on courses of action. To put a nuke in a cargo container, sail/fly it around the world and then set it off either requires that the mission is hands-off with an early point-of-no-return (which makes it unable to react to changing political situations), or requires that it be detonated on someone's say-so at the end of a phone/coded message/discretion of the ship captain (which flies in the face of keeping a tight rein on matters, distrust of the outside world, etc).

      1. Steve May 1
        Happy

        Re: Simples

        "You'd still need to fit it in a cargo container, with self-contained power, and able to weather rough sea-states. That's probably more weaponisation than NK have done to date"

        Cellphone batteries and bubble-wrap. :).

        "Cargo manifests et al would make it fairly transparent. It wouldn't be hard to track backwards."

        I hear tell that gummints have been known to tell fibs.

        1. Dr Dan Holdsworth
          Boffin

          Re: Simples

          Perhaps you've not heard of Gamma-assisted Cherenkov glow detectors?

          You have a gamma ray generator at one point, and on the opposite side of the target a Cherenkov Glow detector. Any chunk of fissile material which passes between these two devices produces a positive detection. This is how nukes in containers may be detected, without opening the containers or even seeming to inspect them in any way at all.

          1. Steve May 1
            Thumb Up

            Re: Simples

            Bombs in container SHIPS instead? Limited to coastal cites, I grant you. Quite a few of those.

            Suicide sharks with frikkin' piggyback bombs.

            The principle is sound.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Simples

            I like this idea, but how does the glow get through the outer shell of the shipping container? Does it wait until there are no dockers around, then slip the door bolts and scamper outside?

          3. JeffyPooh
            Pint

            Re: Simples

            It's all a bit pointless. Container ports are typically adjacent to (and sometimes *within*) their city.

        2. Psyx

          Re: Simples

          "I hear tell that gummints have been known to tell fibs."

          Yes, but they get figured out in the end:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_Air_Flight_858

      2. Tim Worstal

        Re: Simples

        "You'd still need to fit it in a cargo container"

        Given that a full container load is 40 tonnes this really isn't a problem.

        Many other problems exist, but the weight size one doesn't.

        1. Psyx
          Stop

          Re: Simples

          "Given that a full container load is 40 tonnes this really isn't a problem. Many other problems exist, but the weight size one doesn't."

          Don't be so sure:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivy_Mike

  14. adnim
    Mushroom

    I think that

    our lying politicians are more of a threat to this nation than the hyperbole of a paranoid leader half the globe away.

    1. Steve May 1
      Flame

      Re: I think that

      "our lying politicians are more of a threat to this nation than the hyperbole of a paranoid leader half the globe away."

      Quite right, Mr Chamberlain.

      1. adnim
        Facepalm

        Re: I think that

        Maybe we should just nuke them now. Who knows after South Korea they might just annex China. Or is it China that pulls the strings?

        Nazi Germany had the support of several European nations and Japan, not to mention the sympathy of many others. North Korea's supporters can be listed on any quarter of a second class stamp.

        Mr Cameron voted in favour of the Iraq war proving that he can be misled just as much as he can mislead.

        1. JimC

          Re: North Korea's supporters can be listed on any quarter of a second class stamp

          Agreed in one sense: China is a small word that fits on small pieces of paper. On the other hand as single supporters go its one of the best.

          And the worrying part of it is that NK and the Korean War is a very big thing in the whole Chinese revolutionary psyche. No matter now irrational their government is being it would be emotionally very hard for China to watch them get wiped out by the Yanks. A lot of current Chinese folks grandfathers died stopping NK being wiped out by the Yanks (plus the rest of them, Brits, Australians etc etc) last time.

          1. adnim
            Joke

            @JimC Re: North Korea's supporters can be listed on any quarter of a second class stamp

            If China did kick off in aid of NK and fire a few nukes around, where would they get their baby milk from and sell all that plastic tat?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    More likely scenario

    If the North Koreans really intend to cause problems for the 'merkins (or anyone else over the horizon) then it would be far easier to put a nuke into the bottom of the cargo hold of a ship destined for, let's say, San Fransico harbour. Use the ship's GPS position to trigger the nuke, or if that's too complicated just use an old-fashioned timer of some form. The crew would, of course, not be made aware of the special cargo that they are carrying.

  16. heyrick Silver badge
    WTF?

    What I don't get...

    Nork is not a big place. You go messing with the world for the lulz, they're going to eventually mess back. Now while they might have a win under their belt when it was Americans slogging through the jungle, conflicts just aren't fought like that any more, and it seems like the regime is unstable enough that it may discover a dearth of allies...

  17. jason 7

    So when does the whopping great...

    ....'financial aid' cheque land on the NK leaders doormat so he can stand down till it's spent?

  18. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    North Yorkshire to the Rescue

    One of the justifications for upgrading the Fylingdales Early Warning base after the fall of the USSR was that it would protect us from rogue states like North Korea. So any attempt to launch a missile on London from say Bridlington could be easily detected.

    Of course the conspiracy theory is that it was built in anticipation of an independant Scotland and to provide warning of a Haggis attack on the home counties.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    Unfortunately, the North Koreans only have to...

    A) get lucky once.....

    B) realize that the Musdan would be needed to hit Guam, but there are lot of other U.S. bases in South Korea or Japan in the range of better-proven Soviet-era missles already in their arsenal.

    C) do alternative stuff, like put a non-weaponised nuclear warhead on a sub (they have lots of those) and sail that to Guam, Yokosuka, or a major U.S. population center on the coast, like Honolulu, San Francisco or Los Angeles. I don't think the North Koreans are going to start a war, they just want to extort some aid or easing of sanctions. However, it is possible that if the Norks really want to go all-out, you could see a small sub wash up on Waikiki, Santa Monica Beach or into the Golden Gate and then go boom.

    D) realize that chemical and biological weapons dropped on population centers within range of these proven Soviet shorter-range missles and would create a large and militarily/economically disruptive flow of South Korean and/or Japanese city-dwellers out onto the roads into the countryside.

    1. Psyx

      Re: Unfortunately, the North Koreans only have to...

      "Unfortunately, the North Koreans only have to...

      A) get lucky once....."

      ...to achieve nothing except suicide. How exactly would be destroying even a single high priority target with any weapon achieve anything except suicide.

      Even if NK managed to sail up to Pearl Harbour and do a proper job, it would achieve less in war-terms than Pearl Harbour did. And look where that got Japan.

      People would die, but what does it do? Nothing.

      NK are actually more scary in a conventional shooting war than they are as wide-scale nuclear terrorists.

  20. Dave 32
    Mushroom

    Nuclear EMP

    The scariest scenario may be that NK mounts one of their nukes on one of their missiles, and flies it well over SK or Japan, whereupon they detonate the nuke, causing a nuclear EMP. Given the electronics in both SK and Japan, such an EMP could do an INCREDIBLE amount of damage. :-( Plus, it wouldn't be a direct strike, nor would their be any direct casualties. That could create a bit of a political nightmare, since there's no equivalent retaliation in kind (An EMP doesn't damage a 15th century feudal society.). Plus, if NK spouts off that it was a nuclear reactor powered satellite that only exploded because SK/Japan/USA shot it with a missile...

    Dave

    P.S. Mine's the one with the dosimeter in the pocket.

  21. Andy Livingstone

    Homer Simpson still employed to write Headlines?

    Good example of how to take a reasonable article and dumb it down.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Disincentives

    China has a couple of very good reasons not to be overly supportive of NK if things get ugly.

    1) The USA is China's very best customer - if the US completely and abruptly stopped buying stuff from China, the Chinese economy would take the mother of all hard whacks. Not too many businesses survive the loss of their biggest customer. Wal-Mart stock might go down a few points, however, due to bare shelves for a while.

    2) The USA owes a lot of money to China. If the USA decided to repudiate all the IOUs made out to China, the Chinese economy would take the mother-in-law of all hard whacks. They don't even have to be repudiated, just "suspending payment" on them "until further notice" would do the job.

    This is pretty easy crisis for the USA, Japan and South Korea to handle - if the chubster gets trigger-happy, just stomp him so hard South Korea will become an island. I wouldn't like to be in Beijing right now, they are probably desperately trying to calm this mess down before it gets them into multiple wars and destroys their economy, which would result in major unrest throughout the country. China is monolithic as long as the good times roll, when things go sour, the locals remember the advantages of home rule (kind of like the situation with the Euro).

    Looks like the ancient Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times" has boomeranged on them. I sure hope they can work this out somehow, they've got a LOT to lose on account of their little buddy.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Scrappy Disincentives are a No Contest Match against Fabulous Developments

      Others may see things quite differently, Anonymous Coward.

      For example .... 1) The USA is China's [the East's] very best customer = [The East] China is the USA's best client

      2) The USA owes a lot of money to China [the East] = The USA is heavily indebted to China [the East] and the East [Far and Middle] is rich and the Wild Wacky West is bankrupt.

      And whenever your paper money is worthless because it has no base value, what do you buy goods and trade with not to become an enemy of states and a pariah terrorist nation? Which is a question to ask of many fools and arrogant tools into fantasy fiat banking/fantastic lending for ruinous spending and foreclosure on global assets to a crazy mad elite. :-)

      Sociopaths Rule with Precarious Reins but Control is not within their Closed Power Circles. That they need to Buy in and Feed and Seed to Others with Danegeld to Vanquish Idiotic Greed which Destroys the Minds of MiceMen from within.

      Reality is a Great Computer Game with SMARTR Driver Provision of NEUKlearer Worldly Views ....... Welcome to IT's New Wordy Supply in Fabless Phorm with Truly Amazing Beginnings .......... for Future Advanced IntelAIgent Missions, which are highly susceptible and receptive to Creative Input/Heavenly Output.

      Keep IT Stupidly Simple and Definite Vision is More than Just Complicated Enough to Deliver All that Everyone Needs without Charging. And that is IT's NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActive Power Supply with Open Source Engines/Heavy MetaDataBase Virtual Machines.

      Surely y'all are not so slow-witted and/or retarded [badly programmed] to not imagine that the Future is completely different from the Present with the Past classified as Early Infected and Corrupt Defunct Stored Memory, Quarantined and Reserved and Preserved in Historical Archives?

      Which is a leading question one would do well to consider responding to with a serious thoughtful answer, although we will most probably also be highly amused by the odd smart alec comment or clever dick reply which chooses to ignore the opportunity to shine brightly in the company of peers and enlighten the massed ranks on the El Reg diaspora and further afield.

      1. Psyx
        FAIL

        Re: Scrappy Disincentives are a No Contest Match against Fabulous Developments

        Cut and paste drivel again.

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: ... Re: Scrappy Disincentives are a No Contest Match against Fabulous Developments

          Cut and paste drivel again. …… Psyx Posted Tuesday 9th April 2013 09:40 GMT

          :-) Thanks for the stealthy cover, Psyx, but it is not necessary to lie so blatantly to everyone everywhere.

          Your help deserved an up vote, though. It be the least that I can for your display.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Deja Jew

    How long have the Israelis been swearing that they will attack the Iranian nuclear installations in a couple of days?

    And how many times have they attacked them?

    Keep your pants on, boys and girls.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Deja Jew

      1. Jew != Israeli !== Binyamin Netanyahu.

      2. Israel is not composed of a minority of fruitcakes and a majority of brainwashed serfs. There is, it is true, a minority of fruitcakes, but the majority is very vociferous.

      1. Psyx

        Re: Deja Jew

        1. True

        2. Also true, but that never stops The Mossad.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    No need for missiles...

    ...when they could ship the bloody things anywhere in the world in a cargo container. One should remember that the DPRK is not actually a government. It is a band of pirates. They would be hugely delighted to hold your lives hostage from afar.

  25. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Ok, lets quit pussyfooting around and get right down to it. You know it makes sense v2.0*

    Dave likes to think of himself as a globe trotting leader, .... he's always popping away to lecture Europe on what he thinks is the best thing to do ...... so let see him pop over to Pyongyang for a pow wow and he can then tell us what is happening there and what he thinks needs to be done. Or is that too simple and difficult and it would burst the bubble and render his position exposed as a laughing matter?

    Jaw jaw, not war war, for who benefits from mad conflicts and who suffers?

    *Ok, lets quit pussyfooting around and get right down to it. You know it makes sense v1.0 ... http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2012/04/20/panel_of_experts_attack_net_snooping_plan/#c_1385997

  26. DanceMan
    Big Brother

    I would be very surprised if the US has not already been discreetly discussing "What if?" with China. The young'un is overplaying his hand, so it must be for domestic consumption. I've read in the past that China's primary motivation in supporting NK is to prevent its collapse and the flooding of millions of starving Norks over the border. Today's China doesn't want to export revolution, they want to export business and acquire territory. Wars get in the way of business.

    As for shipping containers, I find it hard to believe that the few of them coming out of NK are not totally monitored. NK has no economy, what could they be shipping? Maybe some arms or technology, and don't think those would not be of intense interest to western intelligence.

  27. mfritz0
    Pirate

    Regardless

    Regardless "Little Kim" needs to be put down like a "Mad Dog".

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    western blinkerism

    the question that needs to be asked is, how real is it to South Korea? I realize all us white Europeans and Americans can sit back and be all elitist and claim there's "No" threat and that it's no big deal because we're safe by distance and billions of dollars invested in defensive systems, early warning and interception schemes.

    To the poor b@stards who buy the farm in Seoul or get torpedoed while on patrol by a NorK "accident" or barbecued in a "fizzle" that doesn't quite go off right, it doesn't matter if the weapon is delivered with pinpoint accuracy on an ICBM, or in the back of an old Russian Zil that barely makes it across the DMZ with a bungee cord on it's steering wheel and a bricked pedal "autopilot".

    Dismissing the NorKs as primitive or "not a significant threat" may be trendy but please, don't pretend your non-interference desires have anything to do with desires for peace or compassion for the peoples of Korea. Some of us have family, some have friends, some have friends' family there who are gonna get hurt badly even if any "invasion" is just 15 minutes of inaccurate artillery and a bunch of bad language on TV. If grandson Kim even manages a fizzle, things will look like the aftermath of Hiroshima.

    1. 142
      Unhappy

      Re: western blinkerism

      The South Koreans are shrugging it off, saying they're crying wolf as usual. Much more so than the US or Europeans. All my friends there are relaying that message back. But I can't help but think that blanking them like that just goads the North on.

      The ideal would be if NK could have a burma-esque style volte-face... maybe someday it'll happen.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mum's the word

    I'm sure everyone remembers, what, six months ago when the clatter of mahjong tiles was drowned out by the whinging of the US and its piss ant allies of the South China Sea.

    China had claimed for its billion-three citizens the petroleum deposits under some scruffy islands there. So, the US dreadnoughts steamed into the sunset. And there, not far from Mandalay itself, this new flotilla lay. All of China's moves had been checked. The forces of plausible hypocrisy were ascendant.

    But what's this noise? Thunder? No, it's an outcry from Pyongyang and an even louder reply from the West.

    "The Pentagon confirmed Tuesday that it is positioning an array of military assets near the Korean Peninsula, as the White House stressed that the "entire national security team" is focused on the escalating threats out of Pyongyang -- with the latest being a pledge to restart a key nuclear reactor. Pentagon spokesman George Little said that two destroyer warships, the USS Decatur and USS McCain, have arrived in the region as part of a missile-defense mission. Previously, the Pentagon had only revealed that it had moved the USS McCain to the region. In addition, the Pentagon has already announced plans to have two sea-based radar systems in the western Pacific."

    And all those military assets not where they were meant to be.

    Back in Beijing, the relaxing clickity clack of mahjong tiles can be heard over the grunting of tai chi in the People's Park.

  30. Local G
    Facepalm

    PYONGYANG TO UNLEASH NUKULAR HORSEMEN OF THE NORKOCALYPSE?

    Did you mean NARCOLEPSE?

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