Conventional wisdom says if North Korea were ever to use its nuclear weapons, it would be an act of suicide. But brace yourself for what deterrence experts call the "theory of victory." To many who have studied how nuclear strategies actually work, it's conceivable North Korea could escalate to a nuclear war and still survive. Tuesday's missile test suggests once again it may be racing to prepare itself to do just that but only if forced into a corner. Every missile North Korean leader Kim Jong Un launches comes at a high cost. North Korea doesn't have an unlimited supply, and they aren't easy or cheap to build. So when Kim orders his strategic forces to launch, it's safe to assume it's a move calculated to achieve maximum political, technical and training value. Tuesday's launch of a ballistic missile over Japan and into the open Pacific Ocean, once again blowing past warnings from the United States and its allies, is a prime example.
There is a solid strategy hidden in each launch. From Kim's perspective, here's what it looks like.