- Thomson Reuters
North Korea is ready for nuclear war if the United States wages one, country officials told an American journalist when he visited in July.
In an article for the New Yorker, published Thursday, Evan Osnos described a country braced for an impending war if the US enters into one.
Here’s why North Korea’s leaders say they don’t fear nuclear war against the US, according to Osnos:
Pyongyang’s subways and apartment block cellars double up as nuclear bunkers
- REUTERS / Damir Sagolj
The Pyongyang Metro is equipped with large blast doors and is deep enough to protect residents from nuclear blasts, said Pak Song Il, a North Korean official who acted as Osnos’ handler during the trip. Storage cellars located behind apartment blocks in the capital also serve as shelters, he added.
“Everything here has a dual-use purpose,” Pak told Osnos, as cited in the article.
The subway-cum-bunker came about in response to another American threat of nuclear war six decades ago, when US President Harry Truman threatened to drop an atomic bomb on North Korea in 1950, shortly after the outbreak of the Korean War between the North and South.
“It touched our people’s minds,” Pak said. “We don’t want that to happen again.”
The Pyongyang Metro lies 100 metres underground, which is twice as deep as the lowest platform in the New York City subway, Osnos said. Hampstead, the deepest London Underground station, runs 58.5 metres deep, according to the Telegraph.
It’s lived through famine and conventional war before
- Damir Sagolj/Reuters
North Korea isn’t afraid of nuclear war because they’ve lived through famine and conventional war before, Pak told Osnos, referring to the Korean War and the Arduous March, a period between 1994 and 1998 in which famine and economic crisis plagued the country.
Some 3.5 million people were killed during that period, according to the Telegraph.
“We’ve been through it [devastation] before,” Pak said. “We can do it a third time.”
When Osnos pointed out that the effects of a nuclear war would neither equate to those of a famine or a conventional war, Pak simply said: “A few thousand would survive. And the military would say, ‘Who cares?’ As long as the United States is destroyed, then we are all starting from the same line again.'”
Today, some 10.5 million people in North Korea – or 41% of the country’s 24.9 million population – are believed to be undernourished, according to a United Nations report published in March. Ordinary citizens in the country quietly asked how the country could afford nuclear weapons while so many of them remained on food rations, the Telegraph reported.
It has nukes now
- Thomson Reuters
North Korea claimed to have developed its sixth and largest nuclear test last Sunday, a hydrogen bomb that could be loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile, which would travel thousands of miles.
And the claim is being believed: South Korea’s military reported an artificial quake that same day, and China has started monitoring for radioactive leaks from Sunday’s test, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Osnos added that North Korea also has “dozens of nuclear warheads” ready to be deployed any time:
“North Korea already has dozens of usable nuclear warheads, distributed across an unknown number of facilities, many of them hidden underground. Even destroying their missiles on the launch pad has become much harder, because the North has developed mobile launchers and solid-fuel missiles, which can be rolled out and fired with far less advance notice than older liquid-fuel missiles.”
“Today, we’ve got everything we need in our hands,” Jo Chol Su, a senior diplomat, told Osnos, “and it’s preposterous to think that new sanctions and new threats will change anything.”
The US is preparing a draft United Nations resolution that would ban all oil imports into North Korea, as well as exports of textiles and the hiring of overseas labourers, Reuters reported. After the UN agreed to impose US-drafted sanctions that would cut North Korea’s export revenue by a third, North Korea vowed to exact “thousand-fold” revenge on the US.
“Don’t push us to hard, because you’re going to start a war,” Pak warned Americans, Osnos reported. “And we should say, we’re not going to die alone.”
A recent Gallup Korea poll said on Friday, however, that 58% of South Korean believed there was no possibility that its Northern neighbour would start a war.