Where will Trump and Kim’s nuclear brinkmanship lead?

President Trump says the U.S. military is “locked and loaded” in its confrontation with North Korea. But how exactly would all that firepower be used? Here’s David Martin at the Pentagon:

Behind the “fire and fury” rhetoric, there is one very hard fact: If the U.S. were to unleash its military power against North Korea, it would result — in Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ words — in “the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”

Before he retired, Admiral James Winnefeld was the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the number two man in uniform, during the Obama Administration.  He knows that one submarine like the USS Kentucky can by itself carry enough nuclear weapons to annihilate North Korea.

When asked to compare America’s nuclear forces to Korean nuclear forces, Adm. Winnefeld replied, “Well, there’s just no comparison whatsoever.”

Martin asked, “Were Kim Jong Un, for whatever reason, to launch a nuclear weapon against the United States, would he, in essence, be committing suicide?”

“Absolutely. Yeah, I mean, there is just no question that we would undertake a proportional response,” Adm. Winnefeld replied. “But in the case of a nuclear weapon, that proportional response would be overwhelming and would probably mean the end of the Kim regime — and he knows it.”

The submarine USS Kentucky can carry up to 24 Trident II D-5 ballistic missiles, each with multiple independently-targeted warheads.

PO1 Amanda Gray/U.S. Navy

“But people say this guy’s different — young, brash, unpredictable. Do you think the logic of overwhelming force really means much to him?”

“I think it does. The people I’ve spoken to in the intelligence community and elsewhere, and my own judgment, is that even though he’s young and he’s brash, he’s not irrational. He’s not suicidal.”

But Kim knows one other thing: Even in defeat he could cause horrendous destruction to his enemies in South Korea, as Defense Secretary Mattis made clear to John Dickerson of “Face the Nation” in his only television interview:

“A conflict in North Korea, John, would be probably the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes,” he said.

Kim would take tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of innocent people down with him.

“The North Korean regime has hundreds of artillery cannons and rocket launchers within range of one of the most densely-populated cities on Earth, which is the capital of South…

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