The White House says it hasn’t seen any military buildup of positions indicating that North Korea is on the cusp of making good on its threats to attack South Korea and the United States.
Pyongyang has been doing a great deal of saber rattling in recent weeks, but the hope is that its young leader, Kim Jong-un, is smarter than the rhetoric from his government indicates and that China, which lately has been openly questioning its relationship with its ally, is working behind the scenes to quiet whatever suicidal war ambitions he and his military advisers have.
When Kim Jong-Il died and passed the leadership torch to his son, there was some thought that perhaps he would be a different type leader, one more concerned with the welfare of North Korean citizens than with attempting to be a global military power. Recent months, however, indicate Jong-un is not up to the job of being a capable leader.
While most of the nation is in poverty, North Korea’s government is sinking more than a billion dollars into a nuclear weapons program, apparently so that it can overstate the country’s capabilities and destabilize the region. Pyongyang already has rescinded its nearly 60-year armistice with South Korea — there is no official peace treaty — and says that it is in a “state of war” with U.S. ally South Korea. There have been threats by the North to attack South Korea and the United States, though it is generally believed that Pyongyang is nowhere near having the capability to hit the United States with a nuclear missile.
Meanwhile, South Korea has made it clear that if attacked or if an attack appears imminent, it will strike back.
A war on the peninsula does no one any good. Six decades ago, the conflict between the Koreas caused the United States and China to get involved. Nothing good would come out of having the two superpowers face off now.
North Korea isn’t the concern here. China is. The United States, over the weekend, demonstrated to Pyongyang that it is capable — and willing — to live up to its agreements with South Korea. West Coast missile defenses have been beefed up and, in a rare demonstration, two stealth bombers capable of delivering nuclear payloads on Jong-un’s doorstep flew a military exercise over South Korea.
Still, North Korean threats have to be taken seriously. The sad fact is that the overinflated egos of North Korean leaders are creating a powder keg that could explode with global fallout.
We still believe the best solution is for China to quietly take Jong-un and his advisers to the side and explain to them that war is in no one’s best interest. And we hope the White House is making it clear to the Chinese, who no doubt are suspicious of us, that the United States has no interest in a confrontation with China.
The sabers have been rattled enough. It’s time that diplomacy lowered the volume of the noise.