A war with North Korea is now a ‘real possibility’ and hundreds of thousands of people are likely to be killed or injured, a respected defence think tank has warned.
In a disturbing assessment of the crisis sparked by Pyongyang’s intensified nuclear missile testing, the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) said combat would ‘not be surgical or short’.
War could be triggered by either North Korea or the US but there is a growing risk that Donald Trump will decide to ‘resolve’ the issue ‘sooner rather than later’, according to its report.
A war with North Korea is now a ‘real possibility’ and hundreds of thousands of people are likely to be killed or injured, a respected defence think tank has warned
War could be triggered by either North Korea or the US but there is a growing risk that Donald Trump will decide to ‘resolve’ the issue ‘sooner rather than later’, according to its report
The UK would have only a few hours at most to decide how to respond, it adds.
‘War is now a real possibility,’ the report states. ‘With North Korea making rapid progress in its missile and nuclear programmes, time is not on diplomacy’s side.’
Pyongyang accused the US of declaring war after Mr Trump tweeted that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ‘won’t be around much longer’.
The White House dismissed the claim but Mr Trump has insisted that if the US was forced to defend itself against the rogue state ‘we will have no choice but to totally destroy’ the country.
In the Rusi report, written by its deputy director general, Malcolm Chalmers, a number of ways a war could be started are set out, such as a pre-emptive strike by Pyongyang if it believed the US was planning a surprise attack.
Washington could be provoked into an assault if North Korean test missiles were fired into the ocean near California or Guam, an American territory, it said.
An outbreak of war would be likely to involve an early large-scale US-led air and cyber offensive, followed by retaliation by Pyongyang against South Korea – where around 8,000 Britons live – and American bases in the region using conventional, chemical or possibly nuclear weapons.
That would mean a full-scale invasion of the state would be highly likely, the report said.
Washington could be provoked into an assault if North Korean test missiles were fired into the ocean near California or Guam, an American territory, it said
Even without the use of nuclear weapons, the casualties would probably reach the hundreds of thousands and the war would also have ‘far-reaching consequences’ for the global economy.
A US preventive strike without South Korea’s agreement would send a signal that Washington was willing to ‘sacrifice Seoul to protect New York’.
The report calls on the UK government to continue work to intensify international sanctions on North Korea and to support efforts to find a diplomatic solution.
It must also urge the US to rule out preventive strikes and put preparations in place to deal with a range of military scenarios, the report says.
But the UK government should refuse to rush into unconditional support for US action if it launches a surprise attack and must listen to South Korea and Japan, neighbouring nations that would be hit hardest by the fallout.
The report states: ‘The UK government would have, at most, only a few hours to make clear how it stood on what would be one of the most momentous strategic shocks of the post-Cold War era. Its decision would have as profound an impact on the UK’s international standing, and on its domestic politics, as the fateful decision to stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with the US in the run up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.’