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International

This Is What Would Happen If America Nuked North Korea's Capitol

14:15, Monday, 27 November, 2017
This Is What Would Happen If America Nuked North Korea's Capitol

North Korea is the most difficult of targets for the U.S. intelligence community to unearth. Intelligence collection and analysis is an incredibly time-consuming and dangerous business, where it often takes months and maybe even years of patient rapport-building (and in some cases, blackmail) to recruit an agent or flip an adversary. The Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence don’t have that luxury with North Korea. What Washington does have is satellite imagery from above and electronic interception, but even Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats confessed to the Senate Intelligence Committee that “using that as an access to collection is—we get very limited results.”
     We do, however, know one thing for certain: in the crazy scenario whereby Kim Jong-un orders his nuclear forces to launch a nuclear-tipped ICBM towards an American city (one, by the way, that would rest on the supposition that Kim is a lunatic who believes Washington would back down after an attack), President Donald Trump wouldn’t hesitate to retaliate with the “fury and fury” of America’s nuclear weapons arsenal. There probably wouldn’t even be a debate with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster, or U.S. Strategic Command commander Gen. John Hyten. And if there was a discussion, it would focus on where, not whether, to hit North Korea.Using Alex Wellerstein’s NukeMap algorithm website [5], I attempted to determine the extent of the destruction in human terms if the United States targeted the center of Pyongyang with a single 750-kiloton device (the largest nuclear device the United States possesses in its arsenal is the B83 [6] with a 1.2 megaton yield). Because Pyongyang is a sense city—denser than Los Angeles, which is a major urban sprawl—one blast of a nuclear device with that magnitude would kill over 1.5 million people. Taking UN population statistics into account (25.281 million [7]), one 750-kiloton nuclear blast in downtown Pyongyang would wipe out nearly 6 percent of the North Korea’s total population. To better comprehend the deep extent of that damage for North Korea, that would be like killing 19.27 million Americans in one day from one attack.

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