Daniel R. DePetris
Welcome to World War III.
Pyongyang, the capital city where millions live, would be the obvious target for a retaliatory nuclear strike.
North Korea is the most difficult of targets for the U.S. intelligence community to unearth. Intelligence collection and analysis is an incredibly time-consuming and dangerous business, where it often takes months and maybe even years of patient rapport-building (and in some cases, blackmail) to recruit an agent or flip an adversary. The Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence don't have that luxury with North Korea. What Washington does have is satellite imagery from above and electronic interception, but even Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats confessed to the Senate Intelligence Committee that "using that as an access to collection is-we get very limited results."
(This first appeared in 2017.)
We do, however, know one thing for certain: in the crazy scenario whereby Kim Jong-un orders his nuclear forces to launch a nuclear-tipped ICBM towards an American city (one, by the way, that would rest on the supposition that Kim is a lunatic who believes Washington would back down after an attack), President Donald Trump wouldn't hesitate to retaliate with the "fury and fury" of America's nuclear weapons arsenal. There probably wouldn't even be a debate with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster, or U.S. Strategic Command commander Gen. John Hyten. And if there was a discussion, it would focus on where, not whether, to hit North Korea.