When Kim Jong Il died in 2011, there was slight hope that North Korea would go in a new direction, one that didn’t aim to antagonize and destabilize.
Recent rhetoric from Pyongyang, however, has dashed any of those frail hopes that have managed to hang on this long.
After the United Nations announced sanctions last week punishing North Korea for its December rocket launch, Pyongyang officials countered with a common threat — to lay waste to its “enemies.”
The North Korean government’s mouthpiece “news” agency proclaimed that sanctions against the nation were acts of war. Like a playground bully-in-training flexing prepubescent muscles, Pyongyang lashed out at its “sworn enemy” the United States, which it has had a six-decade truce with, and officials said new long-range missiles were being developed. It threatened physical action against South Korea if Seoul is a partner in the U.N. sanctions.
Oh, and they say they’re going to pop off another nuclear device, just to make sure their point wasn’t lost in subtlety.
As each week and month pass, it’s more and more evident that this is a country led by an unhinged government that confuses concern with respect in its foreign affairs and is willing to ignore the plights of its citizens so that it can pump up its self-proclaimed macho image.
So far, experts believe that the North Koreans, while they have made advances, are still incapable of building a nuclear warhead that is small enough to be mounted on a missile. And one of the things Pyongyang has stated it wants to do with its missile program is to develop one capable of reaching the United States mainland. Seoul and Japan defense officials agree that Pyongyang’s best missile designs already are capable of reaching the West Coast of the United States. Building missiles to meet those designs, however, is another thing. The seclusion forced on North Korea by sanctions appear to be slowing down progress in that area by making it tougher for the country to get the materials it needs to move forward more quickly.
Meanwhile, satellite images show a great deal of activity at the Punggye-ri site where North Korea will very likely detonate a nuclear bomb sometime in the near future.
And while all this is going on, Pyongyang seems to have little concern about the affects on its citizens.
With North Korea’s limited resources, a smarter move would be to forego the muscle flexing and instead reach an agreement with other nations that will aim toward peace and improving trade relations and aide that can help move its citizenry into the 21st century. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be a serious consideration for the North Korean leadership.
In the end, Pyongyang is much like the fabled scorpion that stings the turtle as the turtle ferries it across the river, paralyzing the turtle and causing them both to drown. One has to wonder if these war-minded officials see some type of glory in their own nation’s destruction as long as they can spread destruction against their enemies.
We hope that’s not the case. But at some point, North Korea, if its leaders don’t turn from this path, will become a real danger to the United States and the rest of the world. It shouldn’t be underestimated. Playground bullies do grow up and, if their destructive nature isn’t modified, they become dangerous problems.