Fatal games

Fatal games

The bellicose warnings the North Korean government is issuing on a daily basis cannot be dismissed any longer as hollow rhetoric of an insecure regime. Pyongyang has been matching its threats against South Korea with action. And tempers and frustrations are increasing every minute.

It will take just one spark to set off a military conflagration in East Asia as countries in the region put their armed forces on high alert. It is not about military muscle flexing any longer. The possibility of a real war that could involve nuclear exchange looms large. And should such a war occur it is unlikely to remain restricted to the Koreas.

Pyongyang has repeatedly warned the US of nuclear strikes, prompting Washington to put its missile interception devices on high alert. It is believed that North Korea’s nuclear and missile technology is at best crude. There are doubts whether it can launch a nuclear weapon or if its missiles will be able to reach the US mainland or even Hawaii. Yet there can be no room for complacency. The possibility of rhetoric escalating into war and even a nuclear exchange cannot be ruled out.

North Korea’s current belligerence, which began with it calling off the 1953 armistice with South Korea, hasn’t come out of the blue. It is an angry riposte to the UN Security Council tightening sanctions against Pyongyang recently. It is a response too to the US and South Korea engaging in war games off the Korean peninsula. Instead of taking steps to defuse the crisis and cool tempers the US’ show of military muscle, while aimed at reassuring Seoul that it will stand by it in the event of a crisis, has sent a message to Pyongyang that Washington has the military capacity to bomb North Korea back to the stone age.

North Korea’s nuclear sabre-rattling is causing much unease across the world. A possible nuclear exchange, even a limited one is in nobody’s interest. Does North Korea’s new young leader understand the seriousness of the current crisis?  A nuclear exchange has implications not just for the region but the world. China, which has more leverage over the North Korean government than any other country, needs to take a more pro-active role in defusing the escalating crisis, as should Russia and the United Nations. There is still room for dialogue and mediation.  

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