Americans have heard dramatic, bellicose pronouncements from North Korea so many times before that, if you’re like me, you tend to dismiss them as part our natural background noise. It’d almost be more noteworthy not to hear them.
That said, the recent saber-rattling by Kim Jong Un, the young ruler who assumed the throne from his late father about 15 months ago, is even more shrill than usual. While the war between North K0rea and South Korea has technically continued for the past 60 years, as hostilities were only halted by an armistice rather than ended by a peace treaty, North Korea’s state-run media late last week carried this warning:
Any issues regarding North and South will be treated in accordance to the state of war. … The condition, which was neither war nor peace, has ended.
Is it time to worry this time is different?
I’ve read of no analysts who believe North Korea has the wherewithal — yet — to carry out its threats against U.S. soil, whether that means Guam, Hawaii, Alaska or the lower 48 states. China, so far, appears to be on board with tougher sanctions to force Pyongyang to back down. As long as Beijing is on the same page as our government regarding North Korea, the likelihood of shots being fired is probably low.
Still, the Obama administration shows signs of taking the threats more seriously than in the past. It recently announced it was beefing up missile defenses in Alaska, and last week we sent a pair of B-2 stealth bombers on a not-so-stealthy flyover of South Korea. This week, the maneuvers intensified with the deployment of a sea-based radar and guided-missile destroyer closer to North Korea.
As the Wall Street Journal editorialized about North Korea’s rhetoric, “the problem with acting crazy as a diplomatic strategy is that it doesn’t rule out the possibility that Kim is crazy.” Or that one of his generals will get impatient or confused, and do something that can’t be undone.
The belief here is that President Obama is being appropriately firm so far in responding to the Kim regime. Some of these moves, in particular the renewed interest in Alaska-based missile defense, represent reversals of policy — with precious time lost over the past couple of years. But better late than never.
– By Kyle Wingfield