It should be news to no one that North Korea has been upping the rhetoric in the past few weeks regarding its relationship (if you can call it that) with its neighbor to the south as well as with the United States. Its new leader, Kim Jong Un, has been making increasingly belligerent war noises, starting with the launch of a three-stage rocket in December of 2012, followed by a test of a nuclear device in February of this year. More recently North Korea severed all “hotline” communications between itself and South Korea. All through this, Kim shouts bellicosely that NK will “settle accounts” with its enemies. The latest now is a declaration of war … though with no substantial aggressive action behind that declaration.
Frankly, Kim’s tactics sound a bit too much like that old game of “I dare you to cross over this line, though with each succeeding line closer to the one behind it, mostly because those lines confront a brick wall. The North Korean government must know that any serious action taken against the South or any ally of the US will likely be met with measured yet unblinking retaliatory action from the United States. My sense is that somewhere in Kim’s mistaken mind is the idea that we can be goaded into making the first move. Under the previous administration, he might have gotten his wish. With the current resident of the White House, I am far more dubious.
What makes this situation much worse is that Kim has left himself with nowhere positive to go. If he backs down from his threats, he loses face, with the other participants in this farce, with his own people and most seriously of all, with the NK military leaders for whom a great deal of this is intended. On the other hand, if he actually takes some form of action against his perceived opponents, he and his forces will find themselves being summarily spanked sufficiently hard enough to, one hopes, rethink the wisdom (or lack thereof) of the actions taken to this point. This last might conceivably be his goal, as well: to be hit hard, but not fatally, so as to warrant reconstruction aid in the aftermath of strikes against his country. Even this option has the undesirable side-effect of strangers on his turf, delivering that aid, never mind appearing weak in needing that aid.
Put bluntly, Kim Jong Un, for all appearances, is being phenomenally stupid … and eventually may be tasked with paying the price for being stupid.