North Korea nuclear program presents a target rich environment

Todd Crowell:
If the United States ever seriously considered making a pre-emptive strike against North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile assets, it would have plenty of targets to choose from; perhaps too many. Times have changed since former President Bill Clinton contemplated a surgical strike against the Yongbyon nuclear complex to put out of commission the North’s 5MWe reactor, then its only source of plutonium. That one strike might have crippled the nuclear program. Now a targeteer would have to take into account nearly a dozen known nuclear weapons/ballistic missile sites, their locations drawn from open sources. Here is an overview of North Korea’s atomic archipelago:

Punggye Nuclear Weapons Test Site - All five of North Korea’s underground nuclear tests have taken place at this one site on the northeast coast. They range from the “fissile” yield inaugural test in 2006 to the two in 2016 that approached 15-20 kilotons, or Hiroshima-size yields. There is nothing secret about the location and purpose of this test facility. A cadre of dedicated North Korea watchers carefully scrutinize commercially available satellite photos and can often see what they believe to be signs that the North is preparing a test. The source of most stories that Pyongyang is about to set another one off. It is hard to visualize what kind of damage an attacker could do, even with “bunker buster” bombs, on a facility that is designed to contain a nuclear explosion. The site is said to accommodate much larger tests, up to more than 200 kilotons.

Chanjin Missile Factory - Located only a few kilometers from Pyongyang, Chanjin, also known as the Taesong Machine Factory, is North Korea’s primary factory for making sophisticated ballistic missile components, such as guidance and control systems. It is thought to be the location of the famous picture of Kim Jong-un looking at a spiracle object, presumed to be an atomic bomb and known to North Korea watchers as the “disco ball.” It also has apparatus for static testing of missile components. It is thought to be the location of a test in 2016 of nose cone re-entry technology for potential ICBMs.
There is much more.

I would anticipate that Tomahawks would be used to knock out the North Korean air defenses first followed by stealth aircraft attacks on specific sites and eventually the use of MOP ground penetrating bombs on the underground nuclear facilities and WMD facilities.


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