A protracted war between the United States and North Korea is “now a real possibility,” a respected British think tank concluded this week.
“Casualties in such a conflict would likely reach the hundreds of thousands, even if no nuclear weapons were used,” according to a report by the Royal United Services Institute.
“There could be far-reaching consequences for the global economy, involving sustained disruption of vital supply chains and markets,” the report said.
Pyongyang could strike first if it believes the US was planning a surprise attack, or Washington could draw first blood if the rogue regime test-fires missiles near Guam or California, according to RUSI.
“This report is not saying that war is likely. But the probability of war is an uncomfortably real prospect,” said RUSI deputy chief Malcolm Chalmers, who authored the report. “If this war is launched, it will not be surgical or short.”
If incited, the US would likely launch a major attack — with aerial and cyber attacks — with a goal of disabling or destroying North Korea’s military infrastructure, the report said.
“In these circumstances, a full-scale invasion of North Korea would be highly likely,” the report said. “If the US were to launch a preventive strike without South Korea’s agreement, it would be seen as signifying a willingness to ‘sacrifice Seoul.’”
If Washington decides to launch a pre-emptive strike, it may tell only “a very select group of decision-makers,” RUSI said. Congress and US allies may only be informed a few hours in advance.
North Korea’s neighbors — such as Japan and South Korea — also may be given just limited warning, while China and Russia may find out about the attack only as it unfolds.
The chilling warning came as North Korea ramped up the war of words by calling Trump an “old lunatic.” North Korea’s Foreign Ministry accused the president of “slander.”
During a speech to the UN General Assembly, Trump said “Rocket Man” Kim Jong Un was on a “suicide mission for himself” and warned that the US would “totally destroy North Korea” if forced to defend itself or its allies.
Pyongyang retaliated by referring to Trump as a “mentally deranged dotard.”
Adam Smith, a former staffer on President Barack Obama’s National Security Council, warned Thursday that the US had “reached the end of its diplomatic tether.”
“We can only hope, then, that the economic ramifications for North Korea of these sanctions will be sufficient enough to help avoid an otherwise globally destabilizing conflict,” he wrote in the Daily Telegraph.