He had to do it, didn’t he? Just when optimists were saying, well, it’s been a few weeks since the last one, maybe he’s learned his lesson.
Kim Jong-un sails on, oblivious to the fuming and fussing in capitals from Beijing to Washington and points in between. He thinks the solution is to fire those long-range missiles, the higher and farther the better, sending world leaders scurrying for cover, wringing their hands, calling for talks and, oh yes, condemnation by the United Nations.
Now that Kim has shown he can fire an ICBM anytime he pleases, again and yet again, we can be sure he’ll order a seventh nuclear test. Never mind if it blows up a mountain, covers a few peasants with rocks, and sends tremors up and down the Korean Peninsula. North Korea has plenty of mountains. He’ll find another one.
But how long will this story go on? No, a “peace treaty” will solve nothing. He’ll keep testing anyway. No, Chinese pressure only annoys the North Koreans. They know Xi Jinping is not going to cut off the flow of oil from the Chinese side of the Yalu or Amnok River near Dandong into North Korea near Sinuiju.
What are the odds that President Donald Trump will snap his fingers and tell Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, OK, let’s go ahead with The Plan? The Plan would be one of those detailed schemes they draft in the Pentagon for doing just about anything they please. We may be sure the people at the Pentagon have one ready to go.
Actually, from the vantage of Trump and Mattis and their retinues, Kim Jong-un did them a favor.
Officially, Washington, as the weeks drifted by, had pretty well forgotten Korea. That’s hard for Koreans to believe. I don’t blame them for never quite getting over the depth of non-concern among Americans about their country. Wrong, sad, but true.
By firing a missile foe the first time in more than two months, Kim Jong-un had everyone rubbing their eyes and remembering, oh yes, this guy is serious, he wants to annihilate us. What more could Mattis wish for than to make the great unwashed American public aware of the urgency of a non-crisis?
If he is going to order U.S. forces in Asia to wake up and “fight tonight” if ordered, he needs a missile test to remind everyone that Korea is still there.
The test was a break for Trump, too. It got him away from having to waste time talking recalcitrant senators into supporting a new tax bill that everyone hates. Everyone. No one, Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, sees any reason for a “reform” bill that’s going to ease the burden on all those poor billionaires and hundred-millionaires and impoverished mere millionaires while raising taxes on the rest of us.
For weeks we’ve been reading opinion articles and listening to statements and debates in which Trump’s people explain, again and again, how everybody will benefit from tax reform. Republican senators pretend, for the most part, to go along but really nobody believes a word of it. Then along comes Kim Jong-un ordering another missile test, and everyone looks up suddenly — attention restored.
But wait a second. Who would believe, outside the United States, that taxes were not exactly Topic A in the American consciousness. Nope. They definitely ranked second, on the networks, in the headlines, to the ultimate question: Who was groping whom?
That’s right. While multi-millions starve, and millions more get killed or wounded or lose their homes in war, Americans were obsessing over a very different matter. Day after day came the revelation that so-and-so had done something terribly bad to somebody and had to be fired, or voted out of office or forced to resign.
Nobody in high places was immune. Republicans, Democrats, liberal and conservative icons, movie stars and directors, editors and commentators — people fitting all these categories were accused and forced to apologize. Many lost their jobs, reputations and careers.
For readers and viewers, tales of the fall from grace of the high and mighty were rich. Oh, these stories were reported in tones of righteous indignation, but for plain people the news of who had done what to whom, and now was paying the price, was old-fashioned fun.
One reporter, on the air, let it be known that so-and-so had gotten “handsy” with so-and-so. An interesting choice of adjective, “handsy.” The stuff of fantasy.
Then along came another North Korean missile test. Definitely, an interruption in the news cycle. A change of pace, a distraction. Most such stories go away in 24 to 48 hours. Let’s hope this one is no different.
Donald Kirk has been a columnist for Korea Times, South China Morning Post many other newspaper and magazines.