The real reason a North Korean nuclear weapon is so terrifying—and it’s not what you think: "The scenario I have in mind is one in which North Korea starts at a relatively low rung of the escalation ladder: sinking a South Korean naval vessel, bombarding South Korean-controlled islands in the West Sea, or creating trouble in the demilitarized zone. It has done all of these things in the last seven years but then backed off from further conflict. Once Pyongyang can target the continental United States, it will likely take bigger risks than it has to date. It would undertake such limited-war actions as much to achieve political gains as military ones. It would hope to test South Korean intentions and try to drive wedges within South Korean society: between the military on the one hand and President Moon’s dovish advisers on the other; between conservative parties and progressive ones; between segments of the public that don’t want to see their country pushed around and those who worry about Seoul’s vulnerability. Where President Moon would come out is anybody’s guess.
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