Trump and Kim may be a joke but the sit­u­a­tion in Korea is no laugh­ing mat­ter

Bray People - - OPINION -

THERE is an un­for­tu­nate ten­dency in west­ern me­dia to ig­nore the sav­age na­ture of Kim Jong-Un’s regime in North Korea and in­stead to mock and ridicule the dic­ta­tor and the coun­try for their strange and anachro­nis­tic ways. With few ver­i­fi­able re­ports es­cap­ing from the iso­lated na­tion, lit­tle is known about life in the state and – as is so of­ten the case – hu­mour has filled the gap.

So in­stead of re­ports about mass star­va­tion, gross hu­man rights abuses, tor­ture and ter­ri­fy­ing lev­els of po­lit­i­cal re­pres­sion, we typ­i­cally read about the regime leader’s bad hair­cuts, odd clothes or Kim Jong-Il’s mythic golf skills.

Mean­while, Don­ald Trump in the US con­tin­ues to be a source of ridicule and mock­ery across the world with sto­ries emerg­ing daily – hourly in some cases – about his sham­bolic pres­i­dency and the ut­terly dys­func­tional na­ture of the Trump White House.

Amid all this mock­ery, a ma­jor cri­sis is de­vel­op­ing in East Asia. De­spite this, many peo­ple – per­haps jaded by the seem­ingly end­less Trump sto­ries and ig­no­rant of the sit­u­a­tion on the Korean Penin­sula – ap­pear al­most en­tirely un­con­cerned by the po­ten­tial dis­as­ter that is un­fold­ing in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion.

Fol­low­ing North Korea’s suc­cess­ful test of an In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Bal­lis­tic Mis­sile that could reach Los An­ge­les, Chicago or po­ten­tially even as far as New York, re­la­tions be­tween the US and North Korea are at their low­est point since the mid 1970s.

The grow­ing cri­sis also in­volves North Korea’s main al­lies, Vladimir Putin’s ex­pan­sion­ist Rus­sia – also a key player in the do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal scan­dals em­broil­ing the United States – and the mil­i­tary and eco­nomic su­per­power that is China.

You can also fac­tor in a re-mil­i­taris­ing Ja­pan where, in 2015, the par­lia­ment gave the army ap­proval to fight overseas ‘ to pro­tect its na­tional in­ter­ests’ for the first time since World War II.

To put the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in his­tor­i­cal con­text, the last time that a client na­tion of a Com­mu­nist su­per­power di­rectly threat­ened the con­ti­nen­tal United States with nu­clear arms was dur­ing the Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis in 1962.

We don’t ap­pear to be at that stage yet and one can only pray that the sit­u­a­tion doesn’t es­ca­late to that hor­ri­fy­ing ex­tent but, make no mis­take, the present stand-off is the most se­ri­ous cri­sis to face the world since the end of the Cold War.

That the main play­ers in this de­vel­op­ing con­flict are both led by in­ex­pe­ri­enced, ar­ro­gant, rash, mil­i­taris­tic, jin­go­is­tic and bel­liger­ent lead­ers makes it all the more wor­ry­ing.

At least in 1962 the sides were led by men with the in­tel­lec­tual cal­i­bre of JFK and the ag­gres­sive but prag­matic Kr­uschev.

If mil­i­tary ac­tion does oc­cur the world must brace it­self for a ma­jor con­flict. North Korea with its mas­sive army and enor­mous fa­nat­i­cal militia is no Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria or Libya.

Its army’s equip­ment may be out­dated but its forces are highly trained, mo­ti­vated and deter­mined. They will be no push-over.

One can only hope that Trump and US re­alise this and that diplo­macy and sense are given the chance to pre­vail be­fore the cri­sis reaches a point of no re­turn.

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