Monday, 17 April 2017

Warren's hydrogen bomb ...

Today, on a park beach overlooking a sun-kissed Mairangi Bay in Auckland, I listened to my friend Warren Karno describe a hydrogen bomb blast over Malden Island in the central Pacific in 1957. Warren is one of a handful of people still alive today who have seen a thermonuclear explosion. A member of the Royal Air Force, he was told by his commanding officer to turn his back for 15 seconds to avoid being blinded by the flash, and then watched in awe as the air-burst, code-named 'Grapple', hovered 18 miles away at 5,000 feet like a freshly-minted second sun. Warren was ordered to return to Malden Island where he was exposed to radiation. Warren's book 'Grapple and the Guinea Pig' relates his experiences, and he told me of the genetic damage he suffered that he believes is now being passed on in birth defects and still births to his children and grand-children. A clip of one of the 'Grapple' tests ...

This week, we are closer to nuclear war than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, and the Soviet early warning system malfunction of September 1983, when sunlight reflection off high clouds was logged as an incoming US nuclear missile attack. On that occasion the cool head of Colonel Stanislav Petrov, under a paranoid Soviet leadership, correctly identified the 'attack' as a false alarm.

Kim Jun-un
This situation right now in North Korea is quite similar.

The paranoid leadership in Pyongyang view every US move as a threat, and the diversion of a US aircraft carrier group this week to the Korean peninsula has caused the North Koreans to threaten a pre-emptive nuclear strike. No leader in his right mind would conceive of such a thing, but the 33 year old North Korean leader Kim Jun-un, is as belligerent and unstable as his US counter-part Donald Trump. Should there be an error in the North Korean early warning radars, or an over-zealous military report an incoming attack, Kim Jun-un could launch a nuclear strike on one of the dozen US army bases along his southern border, or just as likely ... on the South Korean capital of Seoul, which is 50 km south of this border.

Seoul is the second largest metropolitan area in the world, with 26 million people.

WW II was sparked by a deranged demagogue's invasion of a neighbouring country, and resulted in 60 million deaths. In an unprecedented move this week, China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, fearful of this very scenario, warned that war on the Korean peninsula could break 'out at any moment'.

North Korean missile technology is probably not yet capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to Seoul, but a nuclear weapon would be delivered by one of its nuclear-capable Illyushin Il 28 bombers, which travelling at 900 km per hour would reach Seoul in minutes. Such a catastrophe would leave millions dead and injure millions more.

The North Korean leadership lives in a paranoid parallel universe, not dissimilar to the aging and frightened Soviet leadership at the height of the Cold War. The recklessness of the Korean leader was demonstrated in February when he organised the bizarre killing of his own half-brother with a nerve agent at a Malaysian airport.

This is the true and terrifying danger that Trump's macho posturing brings with it ... that his bumbling belligerence will cause the panicking North Koreans to shoot first.

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