A mad man in Pyongyang with a growing arsenal of missiles and nuclear weapons. A US president thought by much of the world to be barely more rational.
The globe’s stock markets sinking as US military commanders swear they are ready for action, and Australia’s leader immediately vowing to join the fray if both sides’ red-hot rhetoric becomes an all-out shooting match.
Meanwhile, the world holds its breath as the risk of nuclear war hits heights not seen in the six decades, since Moscow and Washington faced off in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Friday that Australia would commit troops to fight if the North Korean regime launched an attack on the US.
“America stands by its allies, including Australia of course, and we stand by the United States,” Mr Turnbull told 3AW.
“So be very, very clear on that. If there’s an attack on the US, the ANZUS Treaty would be invoked and Australia would come to the aid of the United States, as America would come to our aid if we were attacked.”
The latest dark omen came late Friday, when Beijing stated through a state-run newspaper how it intends to react if someone on either side pushes the launch button.
If North Korea launches an attack that threatens the US then China should stay neutral, the Global Times reported.
However, the paper continued, if the US attacks first and tries to overthrow North Korea’s government, China will stop them.
That Beijing should state its position so clearly was the latest indication that the prospect of war has been nudged closer to catastrophic fact as President Donald Trump again ratcheted up verbal attacks on North Korea and its leader.
At a press conference he again warned Pyongyang against attacking Guam or US allies after the regime disclosed plans to fire missiles over Japan to land near the US Pacific territory.
And it’s not only Japan and Guam in the potential firing line – an Australia city could be in equal danger of obliteration beneath a mushroom cloud, which is what the Kim regime warned earlier this year Australia would risk if it “persists in following the US moves to isolate and stifle the DPRK”.
That scenario is no dark fantasy, according to a leading academic and security expert who notes North Korean rockets would not be needed.
If North Korea wanted to make an example of a US ally, says RMIT University’s Professor of Human Security and International Diplomacy Joseph Siracusa, Australia would be a perfect and easy target.
All it would need, he told The New Daily, is a shipping container, a cargo ship and a plan to place them in an Australian port. With only a small percentage of containers subjected to security X-rays, the chances of getting such a weapon to an Australian dock would be high.
Using Melbourne as a model, Professor Siracuse calculated the immense destruction a smuggled warhead would inflict if detonated outside Melbourne’s Town Hall.
“Those in the direct line of sight of the blast would be exposed to the thermal pulse and killed instantly, while those shielded from some of the blast and thermal effects would be killed as buildings collapse,” he explains.
“During the next 15 seconds, the blast and firestorm would extend out for almost four miles, resulting in 80,000 additional fatalities and nearly 140,000 injuries.”
“The North Koreans could easily sell a nuclear warhead or a nuclear device to a terrorist group that then was transported to Australia,” he said.
While the modelling dates back to 2008, he stressed that it was “as relevant then as it is now”.
He argued authorities would not have the capacity to cope with a nuclear terrorist attack, partly because all but one of Melbourne’s large hospitals would lie inside the blast area.
The blast, detonated from the CBD, would also destroy National Gallery of Victoria, Flinders Station, Parliament House, and the State Library of Victoria, the modelling predicts.