A retired Navy admiral and former supreme allied commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) believes that the U.S. is teetering on the brink of conflict with North Korea and that the chances of that conflict going nuclear are increasing.
At Vox.com, Yochi Dreazen wrote that Adm. James Stavridis told a conference on Tuesday that while the odds of a nuclear exchange with North Korea are currently hovering around 10 percent, they have doubled in the last three months.
“I think there’s a 10 percent chance the wheels really come off and we have a full-on war on the Korean Peninsula, which would include nuclear use,” Stavridis told an audience at a panel on world affairs at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House. “That’s well over double what it was three months ago.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Michèle Flournoy, the Obama administration’s No. 3 official at the Pentagon who now directs a policy think tank called The Center for a New American Security. According to Vox, she said that President Donald Trump’s bellicose language and antagonistic attitude toward North Korean leader King Jon Un is a gross miscalculation.
“My worry is that all of this heated rhetoric has really charged the environment so that it’s much more likely now that one side or the other will misread what was intended as a show of commitment or a show of force,” she said. “It could be the basis of a miscalculation that actually starts a war that wasn’t intended at that moment.”
Stavridis said that the odds of a conflict using conventional weapons on the Korean peninsula — which he gives a 20 to 30 percent probability, although it too is becoming more likely — would result in North Korea firing its 11,000 artillery units at South Korea’s capital Seoul, a city of 25 million people.
“I think we are closer to a significant exchange of ordnance than we have been since the end of the Cold War on the Korean peninsula,” Stavridis said, which would result in 500,000 to a million people dead — and that, he said, is a “conservative estimate.”
“Both Stavridis and Flournoy see Kim as a fundamentally rational leader whose overriding goals are to ensure the survival of his regime and his personal control over North Korea,” wrote Dreazen.
Flournoy said that North Korea’s Kim sees nuclear weapons as his “ace that he could play if there was a conflict,” a way to say, “Stop, you’re not going to take me out without risking nuclear war.”
Trump’s ongoing war of words with the Kim regime only makes North Korea feel more cornered and makes the use of those weapons more likely.
Dreazen, who moderated the Tuesday panel wrote that neither Stavridis nor Flournoy is “gloomy by nature, or prone to alarmism.”
He added, “And that’s precisely why I left the stage feeling so gloomy, and so alarmed.”