North Korea: What if South Korea and Japan had nuclear missiles as well?

North Korea: What if South Korea and Japan had nuclear missiles as well?

North Korea: What if South Korea and Japan had nuclear missiles as well?

Updated 15 September 2017, 15:05 AEST

If North Korea continues to pull these missile stunts, the unthinkable may just begin to be thought about, Philip Williams writes.

So, he's done it again —fired a likely ballistic missile several thousand kilometres over Japan for the second time in a month.

Kim Jong-un is sending a message that could hardly be clearer. He will not be stopped, not by sanctions, nor the predictable words of condemnation from just about everyone.

He can fire his missile where and whenever he wants.

So, Japan, South Korea, and especially the US, don't even think about a military strike. Kim Jong-un is ready, armed and willing to use his growing arsenal.

The rattling of sabres is familiar enough. It's been the North Korean way for decades. But it could have unintended consequences for the chubby-cheeked dictator.

Maybe his calculation the United States won't send in the missiles or marines is correct and that both Japan and South Korea have so much and so many to lose they won't ever respond militarily either, no matter how serious the provocation.

But there is another scenario that is an echo back to the Cold War.

What if both of North Korea's regional enemies were also armed with nuclear missiles.

The conclusion may be reached that the mutually assured destruction (MAD) option may nullify the North without the Americans having to join in any battle. And that may make Kim Jong-un think twice about his provocations.

There is the matter of a Japanese constitution that restricts its military to self-defence only.

But that could be changed, even in the only nation ever to experience the horrors of nuclear war. And many South Koreans would oppose an escalation of already-high tensions.

But if the North continues to pull these missile stunts, the unthinkable may just begin to be thought about.

That would mean nuclear proliferation in an already-dangerous region.

Nobody wants it on either side of the DMZ. But if it is seen as the only possible counter to an out-of-control regime, then two more countries could join the nuclear club.

None of this is inevitable or perhaps even likely. But nothing else has worked and it may be concluded it's time to try something new if the smiling assassin from Pyongyang is to be checked.