The DEFCON Warning System™

Ongoing GeoIntel and Analysis in the theater of nuclear war.  DEFCON Level assessment issued for public notification.  Established 1984.

What North Korea Is Learning from the Hamas-Israel War

On October 7, Hamas carried out a heinous attack against civilian targets in Israel. And their tactics—torturing and murdering over 1,000 civilians, including women and children—signal their prime objective: to force Israel into retaliating against Hamas in Gaza in ways that would inflict collateral damage on Palestinian civilians. Moreover, Hamas kidnapped many civilians, clearly seeking to force Israel to carry out a ground offensive mission to rescue those hostages. Such a ground offensive would cause substantial Palestinian casualties. Hamas likely hopes it will exhaust Israel and turn the world against it. Hamas perceives that Israeli attacks resulting in large numbers of Palestinian casualties will give it the international support needed for recognition as a separate country. 

Implications for Korea

So what effect, if any, will the Hamas attack have on the Korean peninsula? There will be military personnel in both the North and South who will learn tactical lessons from that attack. But at the strategic level, the situations are very different for Hamas and North Korea. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would be reluctant today to try the overall Hamas strategy. Kim knows that if he did and killed hundreds of South Koreans, he would justify a South Korean military response and become South Korea’s number one military target. And while South Korea and the United States may not always know his location, they likely know his location some of the time and have the weapons to precisely eliminate that location and him if Kim ever pushes them to do so. 

Because his personal survival is his number one priority, Kim is extremely unlikely to attack South Korea in a way that puts his survival seriously at risk. Indeed, Kim has learned since 2010 that lower-level provocations (like missile launches) and plausibly deniable limited attacks (like the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan) are the best kinds of provocations to demonstrate his power while avoiding serious South Korean and U.S. responses for now.

Nuclear Weapons are Key to North Korean Coercion

And that appears to be one of the reasons why Kim is trying to build a significant nuclear weapon force. Once he has 200 to 300 nuclear weapons or more, he will likely feel that South Korean and U.S. retaliations will be limited by fears that any retaliation against North Korean attacks could well escalate to nuclear war, which is not an acceptable risk. This condition, called the “nuclear shadow,” could make it safer for Kim to carry out limited conventional attacks.

Read more at National Interest

Ongoing Geointel and Analysis in the theater of nuclear war.


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The DEFCON Warning System is a private intelligence organization which has monitored and assessed nuclear threats by national entities since 1984. It is not affiliated with any government agency and does not represent the alert status of any military branch. The public should make their own evaluations and not rely on the DEFCON Warning System for any strategic planning. At all times, citizens are urged to learn what steps to take in the event of a nuclear attack.