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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 23rd year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Could bad tech start the next war?

30 August 2017

Technology is our slave but can also be our master.

Ever since man discovered the power of using a club or rock instead of his bare hands, he has engaged in a quest to build better weapons and better defenses against other people's weapons.

The arms industry is arguably one of the most wealthy, powerful and influential industries in the world. One only has to look at how many billions of dollars countries like the USA pour into defensive and offensive weapons programs to see that this is true.

Unfortunately, technology doesn't always work the way it's supposed to and that could be the catalyst for another war... in fact it almost caused WW3 back in 1979 when a computer glitch in a system at NORAD erroneously reported a wave of incoming Soviet missiles, headed for key US targets.

Fortunately that disaster was averted... but will be be as lucky next time. And next time could be a lot closer than you think.

Yesterday, North Korea launched another missile which soared across Northern Japan before plunging into the ocean about 1,200Km east of Hokkaido.

"So what?" you might ask. Hasn't N.Korea been firing missiles into the ocean for quite some time now? What's changed?

Well if all their missiles worked "as designed" then there might not be a problem but the reality is that they continue to have quite a few failures. Just last week, three missiles reportedly failed. One blew up shortly after launch and two others failed quite some distance from the take-off point.

Now imagine what would have happened if yesterday's missile had gone off-course or fallen short of its planned trajectory and impacted on Japanese soil. What if it had actually hit a city and killed a number of Japanese citizens?

Do you think a simple "oops, sorry" from Kim Jong Un would have been enough to mend that fence?

I think not.

It's pretty much a dead cert that the USA and Japan would have seen this as an unprovoked act of aggression and perhaps the start of an all-out attack. The result would almost certainly have been a military response -- perhaps triggering an exchange of nuclear weapons.

At the end of the day, N.Korea would have been a smoldering wasteland -- but the effect of fallout would have devastated many surrounding nations and it's almost a certainty that Kim would have gotten a few good shots at Seoul before his forces were neutralised.

Personally, I have no doubt that Kim is just sabre-rattling and doesn't want to provoke a "real" war... a war that could see him killed or his grip on power destroyed.

However, it could well be a combination of his posturing and bad tech that ultimately provides the catalyst for what would be the world's second ever nuclear conflict.

Let's hope "Made in N.Korea" isn't the label that triggered such a catastrophe!

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