Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Trouble with Kim

The American government and the world have gone from concern to uncertainty regarding our friend in North Korea. Now, so we are told, it is not certain whether an atomic explosion actually took place in North Korea; all they know is that a really big bang took place. (Nevermind the fact that the Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov stated in the immediate aftermath of the blast that "We have no doubt that it was a nuclear explosion.") Now some conservative columnists and bloggers are trying to laugh off North Korea. Personally, I am not convinced by this argument. It sounds like an attempt by an embattled Republican President to salvage his party's fortunes during a difficult election season.

Just more political manoeuvring, you say? Quite so, until one considers the stakes involved. North Korea is not limiting its investments to bombs; it is also developing missle systems to which nuclear warheads might be attached. As The Independent newspaper here in Great Britain reports, the North Koreans already have a missle, the Rodong-1, which is capable of hitting Japan and South Korea. They are also in the testing stages of another missile, the Taepodong-2, which would be capable of hitting Alaska. The possiblity of an attack on Alaska may not seem that serious, until one considers what would happen if one or more North Korean nuclear missiles struck the Alaskan Oil Pipeline. Oil prices would skyrocket in a way that would make what happened last summer seem like a beach party in comparison. Combine this with the economic damage that would result from a simultaneous nuclear detonation in Tokyo, and you have the makings of a catastrophe for global markets.

Here's hoping the politicians know what they're doing when they laugh at North Korea.

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