Only two conclusions can be drawn from the bellicose statement issued late in January by North Korea.
The first, and most charitable, is that whoever writes pronouncements on behalf of that country’s novice dictator does not understand that words can have consequences.
The other and more worrisome possibility is that those with influence in Kim Jong Un’s circle of advisers have taken total leave of their senses.
In the strident broadcast, North Korea’s defense agency vowed to continue nuclear and long-range missile development tests for the declared purpose of being able to reach targets as distant as 6,000 miles away.
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That threatening bluster was provoked by the United Nations’ tightening of sanctions aimed at tempering Pyongyang’s menacing intentions.
Although the Security Council’s recent resolution was unanimous, North Korea’s fury was directed specifically at the United States, which it described as “the sworn enemy of the Korean people” and against which it warned of a “full-fledged confrontation.”
Maybe it’s just a problem of translation. If so, they might do well to consult a good English language dictionary. Among the entries:
Confrontation: conflict involving armed force.
By estimate of the Federation of American Scientists, there are some 4,200 operational nuclear weapons in the world, of which the U.S. has approximately 1,700.
Pyongyang’s current total: Zero.
Numbers like that do not exactly favor a “full-fledged confrontation.” Or even a partly fledged one.
Kim Jong Un inherited power from his father in December 2011, just over 13 months ago, at the age of 27 or 28. It is believed by some that he is taking this militant stance in the hope that it will impress the populace and solidify his position as “supreme leader.”
But the many tens of thousands, more likely millions, of North Koreans who cling to life on the very brink of starvation would be more impressed if he could help them get something to eat.
They may very well know that before this latest dustup, there was a standing humanitarian offer from the United States to provide that poor and suffering country with a serious, sustained quantity of food aid.
Kim’s strident posturing may well have put that saving prospect on the shelf. And, if so, it is unlikely that famished multitude will praise the supreme leader for blowing a precious chance to fill their empty bowls.