The Madness of King Kim Jong Un

The biggest danger to peace in the world is post-Cold War smugness – that much is evident from the largely cynical response to the mounting threats emanating from the North Korean dictatorship.

Yet, this is a regime that is unaccountable to its own people, having starved thousands of them and then sought to shield its shame from the eyes of the world.

The divide between North and South Korea is among the last and most dangerous relics of the Cold War – a festering ill whose only trump card against international condemnation and measures is the mighty Chinese. Indeed, in the calculations of strategic experts, it may even be a Chinese trump card.

Protected by his masters, Jong-Un, 29 or maybe 30, continues to play his ‘crazy guy in the neighbourhood’ game. But who is protesting?

Where is the moral outrage of the developing world, so much in evidence during the Cold War? And why are the peaceniks not marching?

Is it all right to be zapped into oblivion by North Korean nuclear bombs and not American ones? Indeed, where is the moral outrage of the developed world for that matter? This is Alice in Wonderland wrapped in Kafka’s Cuckooland.

It’s as if someone vaporized the threat of nuclear war at the end of the Cold War. No one did, and North Korea continues to present us with a bizarre and difficult dilemma: On the one hand, it seems impossible to take it seriously. Indeed, the regime probably projects itself as such.

Laughable (and quite funny actually) pictures have been flooding the Internet showing Kim Jong-Un sitting at what is being passed off as a piece of military hardware, but could well be an electric Hammond organ. Here’s the picture

Then last week the North Koreans released a photograph claiming to be that of a beach-landing exercise. Early editions of British papers carried the dramatic picture only to find out later that some of the hovercrafts were actually copy-pasted, probably courtesy of Photoshop.

And here’s the latest joke: Kim Jong Un says, “I demand a telephone conversation with Obama. But first I demand a telephone.”

But here’s the dilemma, right? While the regime is trying to tell us all, to quote from Alice (where else) that “we’re all mad here”, really there is method behind that mask of madness. You want evidence?

* In 1983, the North Koreans attempted to kill the South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan, who was on a visit to Rangoon (Yangon), with three massive blasts at the mausoleum of Burma’s freedom hero and Nehru’s friend Aung San (Suu Kyi’s father). The President escaped but 21 people were killed, including three senior Cabinet ministers, 14 presidential advisers and three journalists.

* In 1987, the North Koreans blew up a South Korean civilian aircraft, killing all 104 passengers, in one of the worst Cold War atrocities. The only reason it has not faced a Lockerbie type response from the West is that it has China on its side. Like the Libyans under Col Gathafi, the North Koreans continue to deny involvement in the bombing of KAL 858.

* In March 2010, a North Korean submarine’s torpedoed a South Korean navy ship, killing 46 sailors. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the incident was “deeply troubling.”

* In Nov 2010, it fired scores of shells into South Korea’s Yeonpyeong island, killing two soldiers.

* And in 2009, Oslo-based Myanmar political exiles showed photographs that they said show secret, bomb-proof tunnels being built by Myanmar with the help of North Korean engineers. We’re talking India’s neighbourhood here.

The common reaction to North Korea is to laugh away its threats, along the lines of, ‘They’ll never do it… have you seen the guy?’

But this is missing the point entirely. It is not whether the North Koreans can blast us all into oblivion with their nukes (although that is kind of important, and its longest-range missile, Taepodong-2 can be fired to a distance of 6,700 km).

The point is whether a regime should be allowed to get away with making such shameless threats in the first place, and thus torpedo whatever opportunities for peace the end of the Cold War presents us with.

And it’s also whether the projected superpower of the 21st century should be allowed to get away with nurturing such a blatantly dangerous acolyte.

To dismiss the psychological and physical threat to the potential for peace as the act of a maverick regime risks compromising the futures of our children. It’s that serious.

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