Korean Quandary

The Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un is probably psychotic, as he appears from his public statements to be completely unhinged and devoid of any sense of reality. So what other nation’s fairly supreme leader does he remind you of?

At least he doesn’t try to run his country and convey personal insults and peculiar international policies by tweeting ridiculous remarks in the early morning hours. Kim confines himself to pontificating about world affairs in periodic official videos which are regarded with various degrees of horror, amusement and foreboding by regional countries, and a mix of disbelief and paternalistic condescension by the US Administration.

One of his pronouncements in March 2016 was a lulu, even by his standards, and might possibly have given pause for thought in the Pentagon as well as Mar-a-Lago. He delivered a warning that «If the American imperialists provoke us a bit, we will not hesitate to slap them a pre-emptive nuclear strike. The United States must choose! It’s up to you whether the nation called the United States exists on this planet or not».

Then a year later US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson «ruled out negotiations with North Korea, saying talks ‘can only be achieved by denuclearizing, giving up their weapons of mass destruction’».

That was pretty forthright, but in May 2017 some carefully considered statements by President Trump included the observations that Mr Kim is «a pretty smart cookie» and that «If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would — absolutely. I would be honoured to do it».

Are we missing something here? The White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, who was sacked recently for failing to be a pretty smart cookie, thought that there might be something slightly strange about his president’s declarations and declared that Washington wanted to see North Korea end its provocative behaviour immediately and «clearly conditions are not there right now». But what message did that send to loopy Kim? Because Spicer also said that Kim had «obviously managed to lead a country forward. Despite the obvious concerns that we and so many other people have, he is a young person to be leading a country with nuclear weapons».

What was Kim supposed to make of that absurdly patronising remark? He is certainly six years younger than France’s President Macron (and Donald Trump junior), and the same age as Eric Trump, but if there is one thing that the North Korean Supreme Leader doesn’t want to be told it is that he is «a young person to be leading a country with nuclear weapons».

Perhaps the arrogant members of Washington’s Establishment imagine that other nation’s leaders don’t pay attention to what is being said about them, or even if they do read or hear such stuff, that they ignore insults or treat them lightly. They don’t. Nobody does. And it’s about time the swaggering zealots of US officialdom realised that patronising comments about foreign presidents, prime ministers and other prominent figures serve only to stoke up their dislike for America and actually unite their people against the mighty meddler from across the oceans.

A few days after President Trump’s smart cookie comment on 1 May, US Senator Cory Gardner chimed in with the observation that «This is a crazed maniac at the helm of one of the world’s nuclear regimes — trying to become a nuclear regime. We shouldn’t be in a position of flattery, be in a position to try to honour him, by bringing him into a conversation with the United States until he meets those obligations and promises». Gardner is of no consequence as a legislator, but North Korea’s Central News Agency came back with some hefty invective, so you might think that people in Congress would realise there’s no point in insulting Kim and company, because it does not encourage them to behave rationally. But no. For Senator John McCain joined in and called Kim a «crazy fat kid».

The sneering comment about North Korea on 6 August by the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, that «we basically gave them a kick in the gut with a billion dollars of sanctions» is another example of unthinking abuse. The Koreans shot back with condemnation and a vow not to come to the negotiating table with the United States until it ends its hostile policies. What did the stupid Haley expect? What reaction did she imagine would come from Pyongyang in riposte to her needlessly provocative and insulting assertion that the UN (meaning the US) had «put the North Korean dictator on notice»?

Then Secretary Tillerson, the Washington intellectual of diplomacy, announced that the United States would indeed sit down for talks «when conditions are right» to discuss «denuclearization and steps to ensure North Korea can feel secure and prosperous». He declared that «The best signal that North Korea could give us that they’re prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches. We’ve not had any extended period of time where they have not taken some type of provocative action by launching ballistic missiles. I think that would be the first and strongest signal they could send to us, would be to stop these missile launches».

He was publicly ordering the psychotic Supreme Leader of North Korea to stop testing his ballistic missiles. But, predictably to all but the ingenuous holier-than-thou sabre-rattling dwellers in far-off Washington clouds, North Korea promptly vowed to inflict a «thousands-fold» revenge on the US. Perhaps Washington expected Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un to immediately tweet something like «Just got message from great Tillerson. Have decided to stop all missile tests. Good!»

In a perplexing change-about, there was a sort of «olive branch» held out by Tillerson, contradicting the egregious Ambassador Nikki Haley’s declaration that «the time for talk is over,» and it isn’t surprising nobody can work out in what direction the US is heading. It can hardly be expected that the North Koreans might be able to understand what’s happening, and the danger is that the «crazy fat kid» might prove he is off the planet. And the really worrying thing is that he could take many millions of people with him.

Contradictory messages have been sprayed around with the insults, and this is no way to provide international leadership. It is time that Washington spoke with one concerted voice and said exactly what it intends to do about a major matter of international importance. And it should leave out the abuse.

Postscript: Just as I ended this piece a news alert appeared from the Washington Post informing us that Kim’s scientists have produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, «crossing a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power». Trump should cease his erratic tweeting from his golfing holiday and get back to the White House and do his job.

By Brian Cloughley
Source: Strategic Culture

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