Christopher Lee

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North Korea takes another leap towards the devastation of mankind – and there’s nothing the UN, NATO nor the US can do about it.

This past week, the North Koreans stuck two fingers up to the so-called responsible international bodies – the United Nations and NATO – and successfully launched a ballistic rocket.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the launch and flight constituted “clear violation of the UN Resolution” passed in June 2009. The fact that any country in the world can ignore any UN resoltion and do what they like and that any country in the world can bend the meaning of any UN Resolution to do what the heck they like (the US British 2003 invasion of Iraq is a case in point) only shows Mr Ban’s words were as hollow as the diplomatic laughs it raiused in Pyongyang.

Then, up popped the Secretary General of NATO, the thoroughly likeable and capable Anders Fogh Rasmussen with a standard arrogance Atlantic Alliance arrogance: “This provocative act exacerbates tensions in the region and risks further destabilizing the Korean Peninsula. NATO continues to call on the North Korean authorities to fulfill their obligations under international law, to comply fully with the will of the international community as expressed by the United Nations Security Council and the moratorium on missile launches”.

The North Koreans, damned pleased with themselves said the rocket put a satellite in orbit. That’s standard non too difficult to figure technology that needs about the same computing power  as most people have in a 2G mobile phone and something the Japanese have been doing for more than 40 years since it launch its first satellite Osumi into orbit in 1970.  So, what’s the deal?

The clue is in the reaction here in Washington. People over at State say it is nothing less than a “highly provocative act that threatens regionally security”.  You can almost hear the then US President Dwight D Eisenhower uttering this mantra when he was told back in 1957 that the Soviet Union had launched Sputnik I. Eisenhower’s take was hard to forget: if the Soviet Union can launch a satellite into space then they can launch a nuclear warhead.  It was that moment that the fear and reality of intercontinental nuclear warfare was launched.

Is the North Korean launch in that league?  No. It is not because there is no Cold War born of counter-doctrine and massed armies across Europe. It is not because it does not appear, as the intercontinental fears did in 1957, as a contradiction to the then US policy of containment.

But if the comparison sets the tangents to mood, the real fear is three fold: it confirms the movement towards regional instability over which the main players have no good idea about what that will lead to; secondly, here is confirmation that North Korea needs no friends and so does not do conventional bargaining diplomacy and, thirdly it shows the world institutions and their drivers – mainly the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – have no power other than to doodle paper tigers.

Imagine the four local sensitivities. One: China thought it had a place as diplomatic guardian to North Korea.  It has not. Its state-run Xinhua news agency called on all parties to remain “cool headed” and engage in “trust-building measures”. Meaningless words and everyone knows that. Two: Japan has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.  To what end? Answer: none. Three: South Korea goes to the polls for a new president next week and so the rhetoric will be driven from outside the country – never access to stable elections even within a democracy. Four: the US with its publicly proclaimed increase in Pacific security can do nothing and there US standing is diminished.

Out of these four situations, which one is the more excitable?  The position of Japan is the most vulnerable.  

The Japanese still fear confrontation with North Korea.  Tokyo said this week that it thought the situation intolerable  These sound so-what? words but what could they mean?  They mean that the Japanese forces will remain on standby in case the North Koreans attempt to wind up the tense state by interfering with Japanese shipping, especially coastal command vessels or even firing upon Japanese patrols.  Sounds small military beer, but that’s how mini wars begin.  

Also, the Japanese government will at least consider the possibility of trashing its constitution position on nuclear forces and begin developing its own program.   Only imagine the consequences and the scenario of possibilities will be rreal enough.

The North Koreans believe they are safe from every anger shout in the diplomatic skirmish that is the political and international tailwind from this week’s launch.  The rocket does not mean that they have a nuclear delivery vehicle but it does demonstrate that they could make one – as soon as they have an idea of payload once the embryonic North Korean nuclear weapons program is advance – which as yet, it is not.

Those that puzzle over a solution to the nuclear warhead theatre now being created in the region will tell you that there is another area to remember: North Korea has craved international respect and not to be seen as a six lane highway of starvation with basketcase dictatorship directing the way towards further poverty and destitution. North Korea has long watched what happened to Pakistan, a country all but ignored by the United States until it became a nuclear weapon power. It is now feared because it could cause regional devastation and the fallout would cover the world and change the whole pattern of global command.

In other words, nuclear weapons get you respect. They also get you into hell.  The North Koreans may not be in hell, but from where they sit, they can see it.

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