The threats from Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s young, untested leader, are extreme even by the paranoid standards of the dynastic dictatorship that has led the country since 1945.
Kim’s bellicosity is likely intended to consolidate domestic political and military standing, as well as to extricate concessions from a wary, weary global community. Even so, a military miscalculation could plunge the region into war. The global community must take the threats seriously and apply maximum pressure on North Korea to defuse the crisis.
Kim has stated that the two Koreas had reverted to a “state of war” and has severed military “hot lines” with South Korea. He hasn’t stopped with South Korea, however: He has directly threatened the American mainland and U.S. military bases in Japan and Guam.
Most gravely, in February North Korea conducted its third nuclear test. That provocation triggered the United Nations Security Council to impose further economic sanctions. It’s significant that China, North Korea’s only ostensible ally, agreed to the sanctions. This suggests that even Beijing is tiring of Pyongyang’s destabilizing provocations. But it also seems to suggest that China fears a refugee crisis, or U.S. bases on its border, more than it fears Kim’s reckless, repressive regime continuing to lurch the region into crises.
For their parts, South Korea and the United States have been unusually public with their responses.
South Korea, which also has a new, untested leader, has made it clear it won’t ignore North Korean aggression. Addressing South Korean generals, President Park Geun-hye stated that, “If the North attempts any provocation against our people and country, you must respond strongly at the first contact with them without any political consideration.”
The United States has been conducting joint exercises with the South Korean military that have included a very public display of nuclear-capable B-2 bombers, as well as B-52 bombers and stealth fighter jets. Additional naval vessels have also been deployed.
This public posture shouldn’t suggest that a diplomatic solution still isn’t being sought, South Korean and U.S. diplomats suggested in a recent meeting with an editorial writer. South Korea’s new government seeks to emphasize “trust-based relations on the Korean peninsula. So what we would eventually
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)