Wednesday 21 February 2018

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

Editorial Comment

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.

Enniscorthy Guardian

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