It’s as if North Korean President Kim Jong Un is doing one of those Verizon commercials repeatedly asking the rest of the world: “Can you hear me now?”
If there was any doubt before, the answer now that North Korea has successfully test fired a missile capable of reaching the interior of the United States is, “Oh yes, we hear you now. And we don’t like what we are hearing.”
All that is left for the rogue nation to do is demonstrate it can miniaturize and attach a nuclear warhead to one of those missiles and the world will be in full-scale crisis. It is foolhardy to believe the North Koreans won’t do it shortly, if they haven’t already.
Time is running out for diplomacy. But the Trump administration is blathering about China and others needing to step up with pressure. The United States has the most to lose, with missiles within shot of Silicon Valley and maybe even Washington D.C.
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Catherine Dill, a researcher for the Middlebury Institute, said in an interview in the Wall Street Journal that Friday’s launch is a direct response to skeptics about North Korea’s capabilities.
“If they’re able to master this level of technology, I don’t see why they can’t master miniaturization,” she said.
Of course, North Korea’s close neighbors Japan and South Korea, strong U.S. allies, already see this is as full-scale crisis. They’re right. They know the world’s “experts” have underestimated North Korea and its capabilities at nearly every turn and that this threat must be neutralized.
To underscore the point, the U.S. and South Korea carried out live-fire missile exercises in waters off the coast of South Korea, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised to work with the U.S. to strengthen pressure on Pyongyang.
But China is the one country with enough influence in North Korea to help alter Pyongyang’s course, and it seems only to apply lip service. ?As if to make the point, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said China opposed any further North Korean missile launches and urged all sides to “act cautiously.”
Whew. Glad we got that said.
After the launch on Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said United Nations sanctions on North Korea must be tightened. He called out both China and Russia for not doing enough.
This leaves us stuck in a dangerous game of chicken in which the table stakes are nuclear bombs. Complicating matters – both Kim and President Donald Trump have hair-trigger tempers, and neither is known for prudent restraint, let alone subtle diplomacy.
U.S. administrations have been kicking this can down the road for decades. But the buck is stopping here. With Trump unlikely to reason this through, Tillerson may be our only hope.
This is a test. We need our own missile: A diplomatic one.