Atomrakete – yes! “Atom-rocket”! One that will be in North Korean hands, and thus under the “Great Successor’s” personal control, and rather soon! (more…)
OK, hold on, it’s only Guam (a US Pacific territory) that they can hit – so far. I know: that post-title was probably pretty cheap of me, and does no justice to the serious situation that is reported today by Germany’s Die Zeit. Because if they can hit Guam, they can also hit Alaska (I know, still no great loss, but bear with me here . . .) as well as Northern Australia and parts of India and Russia. (They’ve always been able to hit the People’s Republic of China and South Korea, but those are just a given, as respectively North Korea’s biggest ally and – ironically, bizarrely – its biggest enemy.) And I repeat that we are talking about nuclear warheads here.
So you can see how the recent stop in Seoul by new American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton takes on a new after-the-fact significance after this discovery of what the North Korean are up to (which you have to presume that Clinton and other top officials were aware of at the time). For whatever reason, the degree of North Korean invective against South Korea has heated up tremendously in recent weeks, so much so that South Korean politicians are quoted in the Zeit article as speaking of a “war of words.” In reaction to which Clinton announced during her visit there: “North Korea will gain no other relations with the USA as long as it insults and refuses dialog with South Korea.” US and allied officials are concerned not only about the extended range of these new “Taeppodong-2” missiles but also about the prospect that they could find their way to other bad actors like Iran or Syria; the North Koreans have been known in the past as willing sharers of their deadly technology, if the price is right.
News reports also noted how Clinton broke a “taboo” while visiting South Korea by openly speculating during an interview there over what’s happening with the North Korean leadership. For indeed, there seems to be something strange happening there, as the Zeit article describes. Some think dictator Kim Jong-Il might already be dead – for one thing, he didn’t bother to show up to the gala nation-wide celebration last week of his 67th birthday. In any event, his son and designated heir – named “Kim Jong-Un,” it seems – is preparing for his “coming out party” on March 8, which in North Korean dictator terms means taking up a position with the Supreme People’s Congress in preparation for the higher positions he is being groomed to take up later.
As 2003 has turned into 2004, there has been a lot of movement world-wide in the area of – brace yourself for this all-too-familiar, overused bureaucratic term – “weapons of mass destruction” (call ’em WMD) and the “rogue states” that, to various degrees, have pursued their acquisition in the past. Most prominent was Libya’s renunciation of such weapons and agreement to adhere to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) standards, even before actually signing any written accord to do so. But North Korea also recently allowed a team of US observers visit its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon. For its part, back in October Iran signed agreements granting the IAEA more scope for inspection of its nuclear facilities, and even Syria started to speak publicly last week about its stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Zbynek Petracek, in the most-recent issue of the Czech commentary weekly Respekt, surveys these developments in an article he entitles So That You Don’t End Up Like Saddam. But is all this breaking of the nuclear ice attributable to the downfall of the Iraqi dictator?
If it were, Petracek notes, that would be somewhat ironic, given that the WMD justification for the invasion of Iraq hasn’t panned out at all; last week also marked what was attempted as the “quiet” pull-out from Iraq of the main American team of 400 WMD-searchers (but the media are always watching, especially these guys). But actually there’s precious little connection; indeed, and unfortunately, there has been less progress in fighting the spread of WMD even after the fall of Saddam, even after he was caught in his spider-hole, than you would hope. (more…)