Founded by Drew Pearson 1932
North Korea’s dangerous bluff
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON – The White House early this week downplayed the threats emanating from North Korea, urging reporters to watch what the regime is doing, not what its leaders are saying. But by midweek, the government in Pyongyang was taking steps to back up its fiery rhetoric.
A facility that manufactured plutonium, and had been shut down, would reopen, the government announced, and business leaders from South Korea who had been traveling into a joint economic zone set up in North Korea were turned away at the line dividing the two countries.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel acknowledged what was becoming obvious, saying that North Korea poses a “real, clear danger and threat.” The Pentagon dispatched a missile defense system to Guam, recognizing the possibility that Kim Yong Un, the grandson of North Korea’s founder, may not be as deft as his forebears in provoking the West and knowing when to stop.
It’s reminiscent of the 1955 Cold War movie, “The Mouse that Roared,” a satirical look at a tiny duchy in Europe that decides to declare war on the U.S. with the expectation its small army would be handily defeated and then the mighty Americans would rebuild the country the way they did Europe after World War II with the Marshall Plan.
Things didn’t work out as planned, but when that happens in Hollywood, it makes for great entertainment. What North Korea hopes to get from its current wave of war talk is hard to determine. They could use food but what they seem to crave more is respect. When retired NBA player Dennis Rodman was in Pyongyang recently, he came back carrying a message from Kim Jong Un to President Obama, “Call me.”
Obama shows no inclination to do that, and instead has ordered stepped-up joint military exercises with the South Koreans. Inclusions of B-52s and Stealth bombers in these otherwise routine maneuvers have alarmed the North Koreans, and well they should.
Further, the administration is playing with a card they didn’t have until recently, and that’s the backing of China. The Chinese government has evidently lost patience with North Korea’s warmongering, and that gives the U.S. greater latitude in deciding what to do.
North Korea could inflict tremendous damage on South Korea with artillery shells alone, and its missiles can reach Japan and probably Hawaii, though not the mainland of the U.S. Should North Korea initiate a missile attack, there’s no question that in the end the U.S. and its ally, South Korea, would be victorious.
The problem is how much devastation would occur before North Korea was defeated. At a White House briefing on Monday, an Asian journalist asked about the possibility of a preemptive strike on North Korea. Spokesman Jay Carney declined to respond, saying he didn’t think that was a serious question. Of course, if all else has failed – diplomacy, sanctions, the China card, and covert actions – and the administration becomes convinced that a North Korean strike is imminent, there would be no other choice.
© 2013 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND