Kim Jong Un’s bizarre behavior, including increasingly bellicose rhetoric, has moved assorted comics to dub him “Kim Jong Loon.”
But the international community must take seriously the latest threats from the mercurial 30-year-old who inherited the helm of North Korea’s communist regime in late 2011.
And President Barack Obama has properly done just that by sending numerous signals to Kim that if he follows up his belligerent talk with military action, he will reap a devastating response from the United States.
The latest indicators of America’s resolve: Thursday’s news that U.S. Army forces equipped to counter nuclear, biological and chemical attacks have been deployed to South Korea. The U.S. has also sent B-2 Stealth bombers and F-22 Raptor fighters to South Korea over the last two weeks to participate in exercises with that nation’s military. We’re even strengthening our missile defenses at American bases on Guam.
Those moves do not represent an alarmist overreaction, even though the expert consensus is that Kim’s recent blustering is not a precursor to North Korean aggression.
His most likely aims are a) extorting more financial aid from other countries, including the U.S., b) deflecting the attention of his long-suffering nation’s populace from the economic devastation that communism has inflicted on them, and c) bolstering his anti-South Korean (and anti-American) credentials inside North Korea’s Stalinist regime.
Unfortunately, though, “most likely” leaves a tangible possibility that Kim might actually launch an attack across the border separating the two Koreas. While North Korea’s people have been starving, its government has long used nearly all of its limited resources to fund a massive military.
North Korea further escalated the war of words Thursday, warning that it is preparing to strike against South Korea, Japan and even the United States with “smaller, lighter and diversified” nuclear weapons.
Then on Friday, North Korea notified foreign diplomatic missions in Pyongyang that it could not guarantee their safety in event of armed conflict.
Also on Friday, South Korean officials said that North Korea had loaded two medium-range missiles onto mobile launchers and moved them to the nation’s east coast.
Though American analysts say such missiles are incapable of reaching the U.S. mainland or even Hawaii, North Korea did test its smallest nuclear weapon yet in December — and nuclear warheads must be relatively small to fit on missiles. Two months later, North Korea conducted its most successful missile test yet.
The pressing menace, though, appears to be a possible North Korean ground and/or air offensive against South Korea, where the capital of Seoul lies fewer than 40 miles from the border.
Over the last few weeks, President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel have all issued stern reminders that America still stands strongly with our South Korean allies.
And the current tensions certainly don’t mean we should succumb to yet another point-of-a-gun shakedown for financial aid to North Korea.
Indeed, the U.S. should be working with the rest of the civilized world to assure that North Korea reaps no economic rewards from its provocations.
Late this week, some analysts even asserted that China might finally be ready to exert more of its leverage to bring North Korea back into line.
Of course, we’ve heard that one before.
But the firm U.S. commitment to South Korea and Japan should make Kim understand the disastrous consequences he will trigger — and suffer — if he dares to start a war.
The Obama administration is acting wisely in delivering that warning on a variety of fronts.