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And the Supreme Leader would also keep his long range ICBM in reserve for use against targets in the US, said Ankit Panda. Mr Panda makes his shocking claim in his new book, Kim Jung-un and the Bomb – Survival and Defence in North Korea, in which he considers the history of the Hermit State’s nuclear missile programme, the attempts to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula, and the prospects for future conflict. Kim caused worldwide alarm in 2017 with a series of missile tests which resulted in him declaring that he had “finally realised the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force”.
Much was made of his ongoing spat with US President Donald Trump, who branded him “Little Rocket Man”, with Kim countering by describing the US President as a “mentally deranged dotard”.
For a time, it seemed as if the world was on the brink of a potentially disastrous conflict, not least when a ballistic missile alert was accidentally issued via the Emergency Alert System and Commercial Mobile Alert System in Hawaii, with sirens sounding as a result.
While the situation has appeared to calm down somewhat since then, Mr Panda, the Stanton Senior Fellow in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Nuclear Policy Program, said it would be folly to concluded the threat had receded, given the realities of Kim’s reckless battleplan.
Mr Panda told Express.co.uk: “North Korea has signalled rather explicitly that it reserves the right to use its nuclear weapons first to degrade the ability of the United States, South Korea, and Japan to carry out an invasion of its territory.
“Pyongyang has studied the manner in which the United States fights expeditionary wars, far from home, and learned that these operations are susceptible to disruption if critical logistics, supply nodes, and military bases are destroyed.”
Nor would Kim draw the line there, said Mr Panda.
He explained: “To deter further action against it after the first use of nuclear weapons, North Korea likely intends to keep its intercontinental-range ballistic missiles – the ones capable of striking the US homeland – in reserve.
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“Because the US homeland would remain vulnerable to a nuclear retaliatory attack, North Korea may calculate that a US president may then be forced to capitulate.
“There are, of course, several risks and pitfalls to this strategy and its implementation depends on several factors, including the reliability of North Korea’s nuclear missiles and weapons, the robustness of its nuclear command and control, and ability to correctly perceive pre-conflict developments.
“But the general contours of its nuclear strategy are orientated around these ideas.”
Mr Panda’s book offers a chilling in-depth analysis of Kim’s reckless strategy.
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He writes: “If Kim waits for his territory to be struck first, it may be too late: the allies might be capable of destroying most of his nuclear warheads or missiles, leaving him completely vulnerable.
“The option of using nuclear weapons is not good for North Korea: in any situation where it has to contemplate first use, the situation in its neighbourhood will have deteriorated to a total crisis.
“But, faced with decades of inherited fear about resumed hostilities on the Peninsula, and the United States’ known inclination toward regime change, Kim sees nuclear weapons as his best bet.”
Mr Panda suggested any suggestion of an invasion would likely trigger an attack using short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, “mated” with nuclear warheads, prioritising valuable military targets.
These would probably include the US Air Force Base on Guam, US Forces Japan headquarters at Yokosuka, and the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense battery in South Korea’s Seongju county, among others.
Speaking on Thursday, Robert Abrams, the commander of US forces in South Korea, said there was no indication so far of a resumption of tests in advance of a large military parade being planned in North Korea for October 10.
He said: “There’s people suggesting that perhaps there will be a rollout of a new weapon system.
“Maybe, but we’re not seeing any indications right now of any sort of lashing out.”
The Center for Strategic and International Studies said imagespublished on its website of North Korea’s Sinpo shipyard showed several vessels within a secure boat basin, one of which resembled vessels previously used to tow a submersible test stand barge out to sea.
Also on Thursday, Mr Trump surprised Twitter users with a post about Kim’s wellbeing.
Mr Trump, who has met Kim on three occasions, commented: “Kim Jong Un is in good health. Never underestimate him!”
Kim Jung-un and the Bomb – Survival and Defence in North Korea is published by Hurst.
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