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The Human Cost of War on the Korean Peninsula

A Hypothetical Nuclear Attack on Seoul and Tokyo: The Human Cost of War on the Korean Peninsula [excellent charts  and aerial photographs] 38 North, BY: MICHAEL J. ZAGUREK JR., OCTOBER 4, 2017 At various times over the past few weeks, US President Donald Trump and other members of his administration have threatened to use military force to prevent North Korea from conducting additional nuclear or ballistic missile tests. The US carrying out any military option raises a significant risk of military escalation by the North, including the use of nuclear weapons against South Korea and Japan. According to the calculations presented below, if the “unthinkable” happened, nuclear detonations over Seoul and Tokyo with North Korea’s current estimated weapon yields could result in as many as 2.1 million fatalities and 7.7 million injuries……….

If the status quo is unacceptable and diplomacy has been ineffective, then at what point do military responses become probable?  The tension between North Korea, its neighbors and the United States are now extremely high, antagonized further by bombastic exchanges between the US and DPRK during the United Nations General Assembly meetings and continued tweets from Trump. History is replete with “rational actors” grossly miscalculating, especially in crisis situations. It is possible that another North Korean nuclear test—especially if detonated in air or under water—an ICBM test, or a missile test that has the payload impact area too close to US bases in Guam for example, might see Washington react with force. This could include such options as attempting to shoot down the test missiles or possibly attacking North Korea’s missile testing, nuclear related sites, missile deployment areas or the Kim Regime itself. The North Korean leadership might perceive such an attack as an effort to remove the Kim family from power and, as a result, could retaliate with nuclear weapons as a last gasp reaction before annihilation. Therefore, it is worth reviewing the consequences if the “unthinkable” happened.

A Hypothetical Attack  Let us assume that North Korea has 25 operational nuclear weapons and that when under attack, it decides to launch its entire arsenal against both Seoul and Tokyo. The warhead yield ranges from 15 to 250 kilotons (current and possible future capabilities) and are timed for airburst at optimal altitude. Based on these assumptions, seven scenarios were run, one for each of the seven different warhead yields.

There are dozens of variables in calculating the potential effects of nuclear detonations on population centers. One can run countless simulations with many combinations of these variables with a wide range of results [12]. For simplification purposes, the calculations in this simulation are based on traditional population vulnerability due to blast overpressure [13]. The blast areas for the seven weapon yields were calculated using the Nuclear Bomb Effects Computer [14].

Current estimated population, area, and population density for Seoul and Tokyo [chart on original]

The population density at the center of both Seoul and Tokyo is significantly higher. For example, the population density of Seoul Special City is 17,002/km2 [16], the population density of Tokyo’s Special Wards is 14,950/km2 [17]. Moreover, the population density levels of these special areas can significantly increase during the work week.

Casualty Estimates

Based on these assumptions, the number of casualties expected from a single reliable 250 kt warhead airburst over the centers of Seoul and Tokyo is as follows [18]: [chart on original – total over 6 million] ……. [excellent references] more http://www.38north.org/2017/10/mzagurek100417/

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October 6, 2017 - Posted by | North Korea, weapons and war

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