When that North Korean rocket soared into space last week, I got out my old school atlas, a pin and a bit of string.
David Wright, you see, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists based in Cambridge, Mass., was quoted as saying the Unha-3 rocket had a range that could reach Hawaii and the northwest corner of the U.S. mainland.
My bit of string showed that our Island and a good chunk of B.C.’s Interior were even more within range of a launch from North Korea. Funny that the concerned physicist from Massachusetts didn’t mention that.
It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess. Some countries rate more than others.
I don’t recall anyone — allies or enemies — saying anything after the Canadian navy launched, successfully I believe, a torpedo during a Rim of the Pacific exercise last summer.
For our navy, that was a pretty big deal. The launch of the North Korean rocket was a pretty big deal for Kim Jong-un and his scientists, too, if a lesser one for Koreans, who might benefit from money being spent in other ways.
The four members of the “ICBM Club” — the U.S., Russia, China and France — are right to try to prevent an expansion of their membership, though they show little will to reduce it.
Their arrogance can be ignored by countries like ours with modest ambitions and a commitment to making a better world for more people.
It might not be ignored by countries where people are exhorted to sacrifice what little they have for national prestige.
And in cases like North Korea, national prestige can come down to the prestige of a pretty bizarre leader.
Some American commentators are dwelling, predictably, on what this latest North Korean affront means for President Barack Obama, who will be sworn in for his second term next month.
Some argue that while Obama has been standing by, Pyongyang has been allowed to pursue its nuclear program virtually unnoticed and has an arsenal of short- and medium-range missiles.
Some are urging him to demand tighter UN sanctions against this rogue state, ignoring the fact that already it faces more sanctions than almost any other country in the world. These sanctions and other UN pressures haven’t worked appreciably in Iran or Pakistan, either.
Other experts on Asian affairs seem to think Obama can play a sort of undercover diplomatic role to persuade Kim to change his spots — if not his hairdo — in return for increased non-military aid, precisely the kind of aid he has seemed indifferent to in the past.
In the mix of imponderables are today’s election in Japan and Wednesday’s in South Korea. The Japanese Liberal Democratic Party’s Shinzo Abe, regarded as the frontrunner, has been advocating a tougher line against North Korea and, more alarmingly, has suggested revising the U.S.-imposed constitution that renounces war.
Relations between the Koreas, still at war, became more tense in 2010 when a South Korean warship was sunk, allegedly by North Korean torpedoes, and the North fired shells at a South Korean island.
The official word from Pyongyang is that the satellite launched last week — and still in orbit as I write this — is to monitor crops and the weather, though North Korea has described itself as a “nuclear weapons power.”
No one in the U.S. appears to believe the satellite is to serve peaceful purposes. Yet no one seems to ask what the latest U.S. launches have been for.
Missile experts say it will be years before North Korea develops a rocket capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, or develops the capabilities of the U.S. solid-fuel, rapid-deployment missile system.
The threat, so far, is confined to the Asian neighbourhood.
Clearly, the folks in the Pentagon are confident of hunting down and destroying anything Pyongyang has the cheek to try to send their way.
And when the order comes from Colorado Springs to intercept and destroy anything that’s launched, guess where the intercepts will be? Well out to sea, we hope. But if not, over our backyards.
We must hope that Kim’s nuclear achievements are no more accurate than my pin and bit of string.
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