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North Korea: A Threat Postponed

Updated on July 7, 2018
JohnBridges profile image

John Bridges is a published author specializing in History, Geo-politics, and Politics. His Doctorate is in Criminal Justice.

America’s current standoff with North Korea, is dangerous, complex, and replete with poor options for resolution. Recent diplomatic efforts by both sides has eased the tension, for the moment, but North Korea still poses a far greater threat than most people realize. The United States is in a high-stakes game of chicken with the rogue nation. If diplomatic efforts fail, there will be significant consequences for each side.

Should war break out in North Korea, the scope would be beyond any war to date. Millions, perhaps tens of millions of people would die. All North Koreans are taught from a young age that America is evil and will attack the North. Citizens are told it is their duty to fight to the death to save their country. It should be anticipated that many will do just that. Anyone over 17 has had military experience, since all North Koreans are required to serve in the military for 3 years. The civilian population is trained to fight.

While American’s think the entire world is against North Korea and that all countries abide by UN sanctions, this is not entirely true. The North’s allies are often the same countries that present challenges to the United States, such as Iran, Syria, Cuba, Yemen, and Somalia. North Korea circumvents sanctions through barter exchanges of goods and technology.

Iran and Pakistan are known to have collaborated on nuclear and missile technologies with North Korea. A shipment of chemical weapons produced in North Korea was seized on route to Syria. The missiles being launched at Saudi Arabia from Yemen were built in North Korea. The government in Pyongyang are known to have re flagged ships under the Tanzanian flag to avoid them being stopped and searched. Sanctions have had a significant impact on the North, but there are other rogue nations willing to partner in trade.

North Korea has vast network of bunkers which can shield large portions of its population. They can wait out an American attack and then counter-attack when the opportunity is best. A significant portion of the population will survive any initial American attack. The North has feared an attack and as such the government runs frequent emergency drills.

Missiles and nuclear weapons allow the possibility that any war in Korea may reach the American mainland. Civilians in the U.S. are soft. They are often not aware of or directly impacted by ongoing U.S. military engagements. There is a significant threat that there will be attacks upon U.S. territories and that civilians will die, even if the missile and nuclear threats can be neutralized.

If North Korea lost its ability to strike the U.S. mainland, it could choose secondary targets belonging to American allies in Japan and South Korea, or American troops in the region.

North Korea has the second largest submarine fleet in the world, after the United States. While technologically primitive by today’s standards, they have proven themselves to be both elusive and effective. Even without missile capability, North Korea’s submarines could pose a significant threat.

A submarine does not need to be able to launch a missile to be a nuclear threat. The submarine itself could serve as the delivery system. A nuclear weapon could be carried on the submarine into San Francisco Bay or Long Beach Harbor; surface and detonate the weapon in a kamikaze inspired mission. There is an ongoing hunt for North Korean submarines along the Canadian and American west coasts to help counter this risk.


Although North Korean terror attacks were mainly constrained to the 1970s and 1980s, terrorism is still a weapon in the North’s arsenal. Given that the North has chemical and biological weapons, such an attack could be devastating. It is estimated the North already has up to 30,000 secret agents in the United States.

There is little doubt that a true resolution is not found, the technology currently available to North Korea will increase in sophistication. There is also little doubt that this technology will be sold to others for profit. Failure to act today would leave the world far less safe tomorrow.

If America does act militarily, it must commit to a long and horrific war. The U.S. will, of course, win any war with the North but the costs in terms of world opinion, military lives and financial commitment will be staggering. There is also a high risk that any war has the potential of expanding to China and Russia, both of which border North Korea. The North has strategically placed its nuclear and missile programs close to these borders. Any miscalculations in attacking these sites could provoke these more powerful nations to become engaged in the conflict.

For the moment, both sides have, through diplomacy, been granted a break from an unwinnable game of chicken. Neither country can afford to dangers posed by the other if diplomacy fails.

All photos used in this article are public domain. Video was created by PBS News

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    • JohnBridges profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr John Bridges 

      3 months ago from Portland, OR

      https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0472062/ this is info about the movie, BTW Brad, you have given me credit for being an expert in history...I am not. I just am a history buff with interest in geopolitics. My doctorate is in Law and Criminal Justice, My Masters are in Education and Business..

    • JohnBridges profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr John Bridges 

      3 months ago from Portland, OR

      Brad, you would really like that movie. It very accurately shows how the US covertly helped the Afghans get rid of the Soviets. It is a true story, and the geo-politics involved were tremendous....unfortunately....this was when Osama Bin Laden was working for/with us. Very indicative of how things were done during the cold war

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      Brad Masters 

      3 months ago from Orange County California BSIT BSL JD

      Dr John

      No I haven't.

      Bye.

    • JohnBridges profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr John Bridges 

      3 months ago from Portland, OR

      Brad, thank you for your post..

      Have you ever seen the movie, Charlie Wilson's War?

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      Brad Masters 

      3 months ago from Orange County California BSIT BSL JD

      Dr John

      ""And we should have learned from Napoleon, and Hitler how to handle it." One could argue that we did learn. Both Napoleon and Hitler should have won but did not. Unless those in Eastern Europe wanted the war to continue (an remember they did not know what life would be like under USSR yet). The US would be going it alone, with a ridiculous logistical situation of getting thing, and even troops in place. Hindsight is 20/20"

      B:

      I would say, that Vietnam proved that we didn't learn. Vietnam beat the French? Afghanistan beat the Russians. And we followed the French and the Russian and lost. Was the lesson on how to lose?

      What I was suggesting would be beneficial to all the WWII US Allies. We came to their aid, and you are saying they would let us go it alone? The reason that we have NATO is to protect them from Russia.

      I agree that continuing the war would have been very hard for us and our Allies, but not continuing it resulted in the Cold War, and Nato , and Russia having nuclear weapons. Russia lost 20 million people during WWII. They lost all the pre war profits. They would be in worst shape than N Korea is right now.

      The Soviets took on the Nazis only because the Nazis attacked after they agreed in 1939 to a non aggression pact. The Soviets couldn't have won without our help, and maybe vice versa.

      Did it really makes sense to give the Soviets East Germany and let them put up the iron curtain? NATO even today is necessary for the Europeans to feel safe from Russia.

      To keep with my main point, did we really win WWII the way we ended it?

      just a thought.

    • JohnBridges profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr John Bridges 

      3 months ago from Portland, OR

      I agree with most of what you said. There is certainly an argument supporting (and many books written about) this topic. Sorry this one is so short...but have a lot of other things to do today.

      Only part I want to address is your comment, "And we should have learned from Napoleon, and Hitler how to handle it." One could argue that we did learn. Both Napoleon and Hitler should have won but did not. Unless those in Eastern Europe wanted the war to continue (an remember they did not know what life would be like under USSR yet). The US would be going it alone, with a ridiculous logistical situation of getting thing, and even troops in place. Hindsight is 20/20

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      Brad Masters 

      3 months ago from Orange County California BSIT BSL JD

      Dr John

      Yes, the protests at home were politically changing the war, but as you mentioned this was a mistake caused by politics which is part of my point. Bombing the north would have shown results, and that is what the military wanted to do but were stopped by politics.

      It is documented what we gave away to Russia, and it would increase this comment to an article to provide it. But the bottom line what they got was enough to keep their nuclear bomb program and isn't that what we are trying to do today with N Korea and Iran. We didn't have any delusions about what it would mean if they produced their bombs after the war. And you don't think that would have been worth extending the war, when they were depleted and at their most vulnerable point?

      There would have been the possibility of no cold war, because we would be the only ones to have nuclear weapons. And it was summertime when the war ended. And we should have learned from Napoleon, and Hitler how to handle it.

      We know what happened, and wouldn't that been worth it. Rather than Russia having the bomb. What they got at the end of the war were German Rocket Scientists that were needed for the ICBM that would ratchet up our missiles

      The comment is getting too long, but with Russia down 20 million people, and out of surplus money, we could have done the sanctions we are doing today with N Korea and Iran.

      ------------------

      JFK didn't commit to a war, LBJ committed to the war, and lost it. Could we have won that war, you admitted that Vietnam thought they would lost, but we threw in the towel.

      It was lost through politicians, not the military. And that is the theme of many of our lost wars.

      -------------------------------

      Thanks

    • JohnBridges profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr John Bridges 

      3 months ago from Portland, OR

      Brad,

      You said, “Wasn't supplying Vietnam and China with Migs an important factor in the success of Vietnam, and maybe even in their victory.”

      They certainly didn’t hurt. But when you think of Vietnam, 2 things pop to mind. Protests at home and Jungle warfare/caves/guerilla tactics. The protests demoralize our troops and the “political correctness” of the time caused the government to stop bombing the North. Vietnamese leaders were shock the bombing stopped and North Vietnamese Military leaders commented if it had continued just a week longer the war would have been all but lost.

      You said: “My point about the cold war is that it was the result of US Politicians giving Russia whatever they asked for. And if we ended the War properly, as you say later, to continue the War, it would have possibly not resulted in Korea and China. I don't think the US would have cared about China in taking the fight all the way and into China if Russia a nuclear power was not connected with China”.

      You will need to give specific examples of US politician giving Russia whatever they asked for, in order for me to reply. It is hard speculating what might have happened if we continued to fight into Russia. My thoughts are we would have had an even more difficult time than the Germans with the snowy winters, and muddy thaw periods. We also would have had greater difficulties supplying troops, and the Russians would have put greater efforts in speeding up work on their nukes….possibly making our troops their first target. I really don’t know, and it is easier to speculate all the “what ifs” when we are not involved in the events of the day and have superior knowledge to what was available at the time.

      Your said, “This fact makes how the war ended even more critical. Allowing Russia to develop their bombs both A and H made the possibility of a nuclear war possible.”

      They would have gotten the bomb no mater what. Initially it was not a high priority, so it was being developed slowly. The pace picked up when Stalin learned the US and Germany were both far ahead.

      And one of my points is when a war get deferred. Yes, everyone was tired of the war, but look at all the wars that we have been in since then. The US was in a very good military position then. They would have only had one front, Russia. They already had the Bomb, and Russia couldn't doubt they would use it. When you leave an adversary intact that can only be trouble later. Isn't that what happened between WWI and WWII?

      ----------------------------------

      . Kennedy also wanted to do in Vietnam what we had done in Japan, and wanted involvement as an extension of manifest destiny

      B:

      Brad, you Said “I have to question that because JFK only had 15,000 US Military in Vietnam, and I don't believe he would have done what LBJ did by increasing it to 550,000 troops. And wasn't the Yalu River the problem with our losing the war. Our generals wanted to cross that river and make the offensive, but it became an issue of politics.”

      We were hesitant to directly confront the Chinese and those avoided attacking supply routes which would have won the war. In the end, we were not all that invested. Kennedy’s advisers (mostly academics with little military experience) told him he would not need more than the 15,000 to train and advise, and that they would win in a matter of a few months. They were wrong.

      You said, “They were in the process of transferring jet fighter materials by submarine to Japan.” Oh absolutely. Much was given to Japan by the Nazi’s including processed uranium, bomb plans, Messerschmitt technology. A whole treasure trove.

      One off the subject comment about Japan and Germany. Japan did not hold the anti-Jewish sentiments of Germany and Hitler was upset with Japan for providing sanctuary for Jews. China also gave sanctuary for Jews escaping Russia during an earlier time period

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      Brad Masters 

      3 months ago from Orange County California BSIT BSL JD

      Dr John

      Thanks, you are one of the few that used the same commenting that I used.

      The USSR played a very small role in Korea ad Viet Nam.

      B:

      Wasn't supplying Vietnam and China with Migs an important factor in the success of Vietnam, and maybe even in their victory. Yes, our pilots were better, and our dog fight planes were improved during the war. But, I also heard that Russian pilots were in some of those Migs, as well as training the other pilots.

      -----------------------

      Take China out of the equation. It was not a player in the cold war.

      B:

      My point about the cold war is that it was the result of US Politicians giving Russia whatever they asked for. And if we ended the War properly, as you say later, to continue the War, it would have possibly not resulted in Korea and China. I don't think the US would have cared about China in taking the fight all the way and into China if Russia a nuclear power was not connected with China.

      I use the legal but for rule, this couldn't have happened but for how WWII ended.

      ----------------------------------

      He did provide them with some information which allowed the USSR to complete the bomb about 6 months earlier than they would have on their own.

      B:

      This fact makes how the war ended even more critical. Allowing Russia to develop their bombs both A and H made the possibility of a nuclear war possible.

      And one of my points is when a war get deferred. Yes, everyone was tired of the war, but look at all the wars that we have been in since then. The US was in a very good military position then. They would have only had one front, Russia. They already had the Bomb, and Russia couldn't doubt they would use it. When you leave an adversary intact that can only be trouble later. Isn't that what happened between WWI and WWII?

      ----------------------------------

      . Kennedy also wanted to do in Vietnam what we had done in Japan, and wanted involvement as an extension of manifest destiny

      B:

      I have to question that because JFK only had 15,000 US Military in Vietnam, and I don't believe he would have done what LBJ did by increasing it to 550,000 troops. And wasn't the Yalu River the problem with our losing the war. Our generals wanted to cross that river and make the offensive, but it became an issue of politics.

      It is a wonder we did as well in WWII with all of the politics in it. I agree we did a pretty good job with taking Japan and Germany out of the next war, but it was a WWI mistake to let Russia build up its military and nuclear arsenal as it was a mistake after WWI to allow the military build up of Japan and Germany. The NAZIs had a whole cadre of super weapons, and many of them were months from being completed before the war ended. They were in the process of transferring jet fighter materials by submarine to Japan. It is no accident that the F86 Sabre Jet, looks a lot like the Mig 15. I believe we got these plans when we occupied Japan.

      -----------------------------------------

      I enjoy your comments, and you are the first person to comment in detail with another viewpoint.

      Thanks

    • JohnBridges profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr John Bridges 

      3 months ago from Portland, OR

      Brad, you asked, “Wasn't the cold war played out in both Korea and Vietnam as I mentioned. China and Russia backing them made especially the Vietnam War difficult because there was fear that it would bring out China and Russia?”

      Answer is yes and no…and no. Take China out of the equation. It was not a player in the cold war. Its actions, while sometime coordinated with Russia, were motivated by regional control and security. The cold war was between the USSR and the US/Western allies. The USSR played a very small role in Korea ad Viet Nam. Proxy wars are wars of influence and took place in places like Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Cuba, Ethiopia, Angola and Afghanistan.

      You said “Mr. Khariton credited Klaus Fuchs, a young physicist who passed secrets to the Soviets.” Although there was no question here, I believe you wanted to know if Fuchs gave our secrets to the Russians.

      Again Yes, no and no. He did provide them with some information which allowed the USSR to complete the bomb about 6 months earlier than they would have on their own. Germany, however was very close to having the bomb…and Hitler was counting on it to save Germany.

      Your said, “My point and feel free to critique it, is that Korea and Vietnam were continuations of WWII with Russia and China replacing Germany and Japan.” South Vietnam was still a French colony and we had a pact to protect France. Kennedy also wanted to do in Vietnam what we had done in Japan, and wanted involvement as an extension of manifest destiny. Oddly, Ho Chi Mihn loves America, he had lived in Boston and was an accomplished chef at the Parker house

      You said, “the US didn't have to give Russia the Eastern Europe that was held by the NAZIs. They were free before the war started, and in the hands of Russia when the war ended.” There were many at the time who argued we should continue the war and conquer the USSR while they were weak. If we were to free Eastern Europe we would have had to continue the war with the USSR and most other countries were war weary at that time.

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      Brad Masters 

      3 months ago from Orange County California BSIT BSL JD

      Dr John

      Thanks for that very detailed and interesting comment.

      I do have some questions on the last part.

      "The Russians developed the A bomb and its space program with the help of captured Nazi Scientists. The US Space program did the same (operation paperclip)

      The cold war was a war of proxy, limited conflicts between the US and Russia, economically, militarily, ideologically etc. It was a means of sizing up abilities short of a direct conflict. Neither Russia nor China are actually our enemies, but we do have some conflicting goals."

      B:

      Wasn't the cold war played out in both Korea and Vietnam as I mentioned. China and Russia backing them made especially the Vietnam War difficult because there was fear that it would bring out China and Russia?

      As for the A Bomb, Germany and Russia were working on it. This is the story I remember.

      "The first Soviet atomic bomb, whose explosion in August 1949 formally launched the cold war arms race, was a copy of the first American A-bomb, built from plans supplied by at least one spy, according to the Russian who built that bomb.Yuli B. Khariton said that Soviet scientists were well on their way to making their own bomb when the Americans detonated an A-bomb in 1945 and proceeded to use them on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Soon after, the Soviet scientists received the full plans for the American bomb. Mr. Khariton credited Klaus Fuchs, a young physicist who passed secrets to the Soviets.

      My point and feel free to critique it, is that Korea and Vietnam were continuations of WWII with Russia and China replacing Germany and Japan. Looking at it another way, the US didn't have to give Russia the Eastern Europe that was held by the NAZIs. They were free before the war started, and in the hands of Russia when the war ended. You are right Germany and Japan turned out well after the war.

      Just a thought.

    • JohnBridges profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr John Bridges 

      3 months ago from Portland, OR

      Brad,

      You said, “My definition of winning a war is that we don't go back again, we don't defer it, we don't create a cold war over it, and we move on”. Using you definition, you are probably correct in your contentions but I share you definition.

      You said, “ we didn't win WWII. We had a military win, but not a winning war”. At the end of the war, most of the world was destroyed. The only ones left to rebuild it were the Americans which in turn made us an economic giant. Our enemies (Japan and Germany) became close allies. We became the dominant superpower (more than an equal of Russia), we also took on the responsibility of being the policeman of the world…which in my mind is a negative. The Russians were our dubious allies, and no there was no doubt that they would need to be contained or we would end up fighting them as well (the cold war). The first act of the cold war was the allied bombing of Dresden, deep into eastern Germany. The mission had nothing to do with WW2, it was a warning to the Russians that we were capable of massive attacks at that great of a distance.

      Russia also had a non-invasion pact with Japan that extended only until the war in Europe ended. The Japanese feared the Russians most. The Russians freed North Korea while the US and allies freed the South (form Japan). It was planned at that time that they would become unified again but the Russians wanted to ensure the country would be communist (Stalinist) so they prompted the North to attack the South. The Chinese supplied support troops as well. Almost (600,000) Chinese died in the Korean War. Officially Russia was not involved but we know they had assisted with air coverage. Once the South was liberated, the US went beyond the UN mandate and continued to attack deep into North Korea. The armistice came at the insistence of the UN, and the dividing line was returned to the 38th parallel.

      Prior to US entry into the war, we profiteered off selling all sorts of thing to both sides…including the Russians and Nazis. The US wanted to stay out of the war initially, so all the other sides would weaken each other in battle first…and the US could come in and sweep up the rewards. It became unthinkable though, to allow Germany to develop an atomic weapon. Germany was close to completion and planned to drop it on London to force a surrender. Germany would then sue for peace and assimilate the British Navy for a planned invasion of Canada and the US to occur 10 years after. We had no choice but to get involved.

      You say, “ All that the war did was to change Eastern Europe from the Nazis to the Communists.” I do not agree, with a war weakened western Europe and emboldened by its defeat of Germany, the Russians would not have stopped at Berlin.

      The Russians developed the A bomb and its space program with the help of captured Nazi Scientists. The US Space program did the same (operation paperclip)

      The cold war was a war of proxy, limited conflicts between the US and Russia, economically, militarily, ideologically etc. It was a means of sizing up abilities short of a direct conflict. Neither Russia nor China are actually our enemies, but we do have some conflicting goals.

      JB

    • JohnBridges profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr John Bridges 

      3 months ago from Portland, OR

      Please be patient waiting for a response. you threw a lot at me at once and I want to be sure I want to take the time to respond appropriately

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      Brad Masters 

      3 months ago from Orange County California BSIT BSL JD

      Dr John

      That was my fault, not yours. I have a thought on the Korea Armistice, and US wars in general. As you are the history expert, I would like to share it with you.

      I even wrote a hub on it. Imho, the last war that the US won was in 1898. My definition of winning a war is that we don't go back again, we don't defer it, we don't create a cold war over it, and we move on.

      For example, we didn't win WWII. We had a military win, but not a winning war. FDR wanted us in because he was supplying the English for a year before Pearl Harbor. And like 911 with GW Bush there was no reason to invade Iraq, as there was no reason to declare war on Germany. But probably a better reason than Iraq.

      Russia starts out the war not as an allie of the West, but trying to stay out. Germany like Napoleon had bad seasonal timing invading Russia. The point is that before the war, there was Europe and Russia. And when the war starts Eastern Europe is under Nazis control. At the end of the war, Eastern Europe and half of Germany are occupied by the Russia. All that the war did was to change Eastern Europe from the Nazis to the Communists.

      That was the result of US politicians taking defeat from the jaws of victory. That is when the US not winning the war starts. Russia getting the plans for the A bomb gives Russia the tie. From there on the Cold War is really a continuation of the WWII. With strategy replacing military actions, but still a war nevertheless.

      Next comes the continuation of not winning WWII, as China and Russia become the new enemy in the continuation of WWII. They want to spread Communism starting with North Korea. Emboldened by their alliance Russia and China protect North Korea as their pawn. North Korea will advance communism spreading it throughout Korea. The US were Allies of China and Russia in WWII, only to have them become their enemy.

      They call it an Armistice but the Korean War was a loss, as it would set up the dynamics for the Vietnam War which we totally lost. The reason for the loss was the same. The US politicians were unwillingly to let the US military do their job. They wouldn't let them carry the war into the North in both wars.

      Set me straight about my theory that we didn't win WWII.

      Thanks

    • JohnBridges profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr John Bridges 

      3 months ago from Portland, OR

      My initial goal was not to focus on politics on this site. My North Korea articles are not meant to demonstrate any political bias at all.

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      Brad Masters 

      3 months ago from Orange County California BSIT BSL JD

      Dr John Bridges

      I am sorry for making that leap to liberalism.

      As I said, the writing in this hub leaned more in that direction.

      Also the fact that you lived in Boston, and taught college there also led me astray.

      I my defense, I did follow you and said I would see what happens.

      I had actually visited that website when I followed you. It did confuse me, as your books are no liberal but this hub was questionable. Be advised that hubpages is another blue state, and there are a lot more viewers than there are commenters imho.

    • JohnBridges profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr John Bridges 

      3 months ago from Portland, OR

      Hi Brad,

      I am perhaps the most hopeful that the North Korea situation will be handled diplomatically and even if it doesn't, I believe the President deserves credit for his efforts. Yes, I do live in Portland but that doesn't make me liberal by default. If you want to know my political leanings, visit my web page www.booksbybridges.com and you will likely be able to decide for yourself

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      Brad Masters 

      3 months ago from Orange County California BSIT BSL JD

      Dr John

      You write

      "America’s current standoff with North Korea, is dangerous, complex, and replete with poor options for resolution. Recent diplomatic efforts by both sides has eased the tension, for the moment, but North Korea still poses a far greater threat than most people realize. The United States is in a high-stakes game of chicken with the rogue nation. If diplomatic efforts fail, there will be significant consequences for each side."

      B:

      It seems like you are rooting for problems, and for them to escalate. Portland is the one of the democrat political strong zones. You don't write like a Trump fan, so I must consider that you are true blue. I may be wrong, but that is how it reads.

      The problem with North Korea has been around since the Korean War Armistice. Now in over 500 days of the Trump presidency you put a bad light on the current talks. It is as if you are wishing for the worse results.

      Do you have any suggestions on how negotiations would be better, or should they be terminated.

      As for the quiz, I didn't take it. I don't really care about the question. It is irrelevant to the hub topic. And if I wanted to know, why wouldn't I just google it. I didn't because I don't care about the answer.

      If you wrote books, consider my comments as a hub review.

    • JohnBridges profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr John Bridges 

      3 months ago from Portland, OR

      Ptosis, thank you for being my first reader ever on Hubpages. I just started here today and thi nk it will be a fun break from writing full books.

    • ptosis profile image

      ptosis 

      3 months ago from Arizona

      Nice Quiz.

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