By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on November 30, 2017.
In an old Far Side cartoon from some years ago, a nerdy youth is telling his shop class teacher that his project is ready to be graded. Standing beside him is a gigantic robot with large claw-like hands, and the young lad is getting his teacher’s attention by calling him insulting names.
North Korean President Kim Jong Un unveiled his latest shop class project on Wednesday – an intercontinental ballistic missile which flew nearly 1,000 kilometres before landing in the Sea of Japan, just 250 km from Japan.
The test flight grabbed the world’s attention, as did North Korea’s declaration that the Hwasong-15, which it called “the greatest ICBM,” could be armed with a “super-large heavy nuclear warhead” and would be capable of striking the “whole mainland” of the United States.
Not surprisingly, the incident has further escalated tensions surrounding North Korea’s ongoing nuclear weapons program.
In an Associated Press story Wednesday, U.S. scientist David Wright, a physicist who monitors North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, said that had the missile been flown on a standard trajectory instead of the lofted angle used in the test flight, it would have a range of more than 13,000 km, more than enough to reach any part of the continental U.S., including Washington, D.C.
In response to the missile test, U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters, “It is a situation that we will handle.”
How the U.S. handles it is something the world is watching with keen interest, and in particular South Korea, where President Moon Jae-in voiced concern that North Korea’s continued missile testing could force the U.S. to attack the country to keep it from mastering a nuclear-tipped long-range missile.
Wednesday’s test prompted stronger condemnation from Canada than was the case a couple of months ago after a test by North Korea. This time, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland declared: “Canada condemns in the strongest terms North Korea’s continued ballistic missile launches, in direct violation of many United Nations Security Council resolutions. North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs present a direct threat to the world. This threat cannot be tolerated.”
The question is, what is the world’s best response to Kim’s repeated poking of the international community? It likely won’t be to unleash “fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before,” as Trump threatened following a North Korean missile test in August. More likely it will be along the lines of major sanctions, which Trump is threatening after this latest test.
Of course, North Korea has already been living with international sanctions and that hasn’t deterred Kim so far.
Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested that Canada could play a role in defusing the situation by working with Cuba, which has a better diplomatic relationship with North Korea. Trudeau indicated that by perhaps working to “pass along messages through surprising conduits,” Canada could take an approach that might be more effective than U.S. measures involving sanctions, diplomatic pressure and “flexing in unpredictable ways – military threats.”
While strategists in the international community might differ on what approach is best, North Korea’s latest test is surely going to push world leaders into taking action of some sort, since Kim seems determined to continue forcing the issue. Those old enough to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 might feel a similar apprehension in the air now.
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