Is North Korea up to same old trick?
North Korea is among the poorest nations on earth -- a distinct portrait of communism in action. Its people are starving while its leaders allocate whatever meager resources are available to nuclear research and the development of weapons which can be used to tantalize the country's neighbors.
Leader Kim Jong-un is as aware as his father and grandfather were that the deployment of a nuclear weapon against South Korea or any other country in the region would sound the death knell for his impoverished nation.
In the past, the North Koreans have rattled their sabers and made idle threats as a way of getting economic relief. Even the United States has responded generously to the needs of impoverished North Koreans.
As a result, the North Koreans have learned that whenever times are especially hard for them, they can cajole, make idle threats and use their face-saving bravado as a way of coaxing assistance from more robust economies.
One is reminded of the nursery rhyme when Henny Penny becomes convinced the sky is falling and sets about announcing the dreadful news to all the neighboring animals. In the end, nothing happens. Well, except that Henny Penny's word is forever thereafter suspect. Such is the case with North Korea.
Only a very foolish leader would conclude that anything progressive, economically beneficial, or salvific might come as a result of his lobbing a rocket with a nuclear warhead at any country within his reach! Particularly when his enemies have many more times the stockpile of weapons he has. His one likely ineffective thrust would bring an absolute rain of terror and destruction upon his pitiful country.
We recognize the dilemma and the potential result. What we cannot discern is whether Leader Kim Jong-un is a rational human being who thinks through these kinds of issues and outcomes, or whether he is an irrational demagogue whose only ambition, in his erroneous way of thinking, is to elevate himself to a position of international importance. Perhaps he does not fully understand that this way of thinking is nothing more than an imagining, a dream, likely a horrifying nightmare.
It seems to me that it is far better that the United States and its allies in the Pacific respond cautiously and optimistically. The movement of defensive, anti-ballistic missile-equipped battleships and aircraft into the area should be sufficient to get the message across to North Korea. I'm thinking it will be.
We've heard North Korean leaders try to bully and intimidate before. We've heard "the sky is falling" until it no longer resonates with any measure of credibility. We've observed that every new leader in North Korea has raised the bellicose specter of a nuclear offensive.
This is, however, the first time we've had substantial reason to believe the North Koreans may have the capability of striking our homeland. "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," as FDR said, but we need to be more alert than ever before.
Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.
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