It wouldn’t be a New Year without North Korea threatening to develop or test some sort of weapon.
North Korea’s current flavour of the month is the testing of a new intercontinental ballistic missile. For decades, leaders of world powers have struggled with how to deal with or even ‘contain’ North Korea. The problem is that this approach is derived from a grave misunderstanding. By definition, North Korea is already contained. Whatever problems come out of Pyongyang are regional problems and the only regional power close enough to the North Korean government both politically and geographically to engage with Pyongyang, is China.
In many ways, a threat is only as globally relevant as the media make it. Whilst the problems in Kashmir and Nagorno-Karabakh are totally ignored by the west, Israeli-Palestine is reported though an ahistorical prism, and the heroic fighters in Donbass are slandered, North Korea is reported as something of a comical freak-show.
In this case the West oddly get it right as North Korea is more of a pantomime threat than a genuine threat.
Even in Seoul, people are more agitated about the corruption of impeached former President Park Geun-hye than they are about the DPRK. Furthermore, many in South Korea are increasingly seeing US involvement on the peninsula as being more of a detriment to progress than an assurance of peace.
Donald Trump is a tough talker on all issues, it is part of his personality and it is one of the reasons he beat the robotic, un-human and insincere Hillary Clinton.
During the election Trump implied that North Korea ought to be China’s problem and in a sense this is true. All countries build and test weapons. Whatever additional geo-political implications lie behind Kim’s rhetoric can be delicately handled from Beijing.
It is not an exaggeration to say that for the ordinary people in the wider world, North Korea is an abstract issue, a cartoonish place that doesn’t really threaten any foreign power.
North Korea is a radically different place to live than most places on the planet but unlike the people of terrorist occupied regions of Syria, Donbass and Libya, the people of North Korea generally know that they will wake up the next morning. It’s a far more placid place than many assume it to be.
North Korea is only a problem if the west makes it so. Trump may not like Pyongyang but, I doubt he’ll waste any money trying to instigate regime change.
As for Kim Jong-un, he’s nothing but a jealous, greedy man. He keeps trying to position himself as a bigger threat to world peace than NATO, and each time he fails.