Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Friday, March 10, 2006

And then there's North Korea

By Aussiegirl

And if all the other trouble spots in the world aren't enough - here comes North Korea setting off ballistic missiles in the direction of China. Mistake? Hardly likely. If you listen real hard you can probably hear a collective "Oy" from the leaders of the free world.

Asia Times Online :: Korea News and Korean Business
and Economy, Pyongyang News

Those who speculate that the latest missile launches were merely "accidental" would dismiss such a prognosis. But North Korea's growing missile prowess suggests that their thinking is wishful. That said, with the "red lines" between what acts Washington would and would not be prepared to tolerate from North Korea remaining decidedly blurred, we should still not dismiss outright the possibility that the North Korean nuclear crisis, through some "accident" or serious act of miscalculation on the part of Pyongyang, could yet unintentionally spiral into a conflict of epochal magnitude.

The Korean Peninsula is, after all, a region where the interests of each of the great powers intersect. A significant amount of the cooperation that has occurred between Washington and Beijing during the five years since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, for instance, has been built upon their common interest in keeping the Korean Peninsula free from nuclear weapons.

Moreover, a potent combination of Japanese domestic politics, alliance politics and simple geography make it virtually impossible to envisage Japan remaining neutral in any Korean contingency, with potentially catastrophic results given the recent spiking in tensions between China and Japan.

Against that backdrop, it would be dangerous for analysts and policymakers to trivialize the latest North Korean missile launches. Pyongyang, not unlike a neglected child, is clearly crying out for attention. As the fable of "the boy who cried wolf" reminds us, it might be a mistake merely to ignore or neglect those cries.


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