REMEMBER the fights we had in grade school and how they almost always started with an exchange of taunts and threats? U.S. President Donald Trump and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jung-un are behaving like we did then. The only difference is that they are not brave or foolish enough to personally trade blows like we did. Instead, they will let their armies do the fighting for them and there lies the danger to all of us.
If only Trump had challenged Kim to a fist fight or even a gun duel and the latter had responded in kind to settle this ego thing, the world would have felt much safer because then we would not be facing as we are now facing, the grim prospect of a nuclear holocaust. Alas, adults do not wage their battles with the innocence of children. And so here we are, watching anxiously while the two leaders ramp up their rhetoric, unsure if one of them would actually order the firing of the first shot or launch the first missile carrying a nuclear warhead.
Granted, the circumstances are vastly different and far more complicated than the ones that attended our grade school fights. North Korea is building or has built a nuclear arsenal that poses a threat to the U.S. and the rest of the world and the Americans have to diffuse that threat as a matter of self-defense and in the performance of the country’s role as the world’s policeman.
But hadn’t the United Nations in a rare show of unity just recently decided to impose more severe sanctions on North Korea to pressure them to freeze their nuclear program? Shouldn’t Trump have waited to see if the sanctions worked before threatening the North Koreans to refrain from doing anything that threatened the security of the U.S. otherwise “they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen”?
If Trump meant to scare the North Koreans with the threat, he miscalculated badly as the dictator Kim reacted just as belligerently, promising to make an “enveloping fire at the areas around Guam” with the use of the medium to long-range strategic ballistic rocket, Hwasong-12. Stung by the impudence, Trump thought that his threat was not strong enough and raised the stakes by declaring that their military was “locked and loaded” in the event that North Korea “acted unwisely.”
Trump’s bluster has rattled its old allies, notably Germany whose Prime Minister Angela Merkel, already not a fan of Trump to begin with, criticized the “escalation of rhetoric” as the “wrong answer.” New Zealand has also consciously distanced itself from the American president’s position.
In our case, the threat does not come from a precipitate attack on North Korea by Trump despite his bluster. It is in the unpredictability of the North Korean leader. Not much is known about Kim Jung-on except that he is a ruthless dictator. We have to bear in mind that we are within shooting distance in case Kim snaps from all the Trump taunting.
And we are a U.S. military ally, remember?