Your typical dictator of a small country might as well be a mouse for all the notice the world pays, unless two things happen.
First, the mouse roars like a lion. The world looks up, sees it’s a mouse and goes back to what it was doing. The mouse keeps roaring, and still doesn’t lead the news cycle.
But let a real lion roar back, and it’s the lead story on all media everywhere.
On Wednesday, North Korea roared that it would “ruthlessly take strategic measures involving physical actions” against us. This was in apparent retaliation for President Trump’s big win Saturday in persuading North Korea’s two biggest allies — communist China and Vladimir Putin’s Russia — to vote yes with us on a U.N. Security Council resolution. As a result North Korea has been slapped with $3 billion — yes, that’s with a ‘b” — worth of economic sanctions.
Moments after North Korea’s threat to “ruthlessly take strategic measures,” President Trump roared back at Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States — they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Mr. Trump thundered from his summer retreat in Bedminister, N.J.
So what did the Roaring Mouse of Pyongyang do? He of course roared another threat, just what Mr. Trump warned him not to do, upon “pain of fire and fury.”
To be precise, Mr. Kim had his government-run media growl that North Korea will “turn the U.S. mainland into the theater of a nuclear war.”
He could say that without drawing global giggles because he and his dad, the late Kim Jong-il, and his dad’s dad, the late Kim Il-sung, have been working like mad — good word choice here I think — over three generations of dictatorship to make Pyongyang a nuke-and-missile player. A minor league player, but a player.
The current Mr. Kim has pretty much succeeded, according to U.S. government assessments. So yes, communism Korean-style is a successful family business, nuke-style.
Mr. Kim will understand, I trust, if we ask him when exactly will he turn our mainland into a theater of nuclear war? “At the first sign of an impending American attack” in the words of the North Korean state media.
The threat was hyperbole. Pyongyang has a few long-range ballistic missiles that have the potential to hit our West Coast and maybe make all the way to the Midwest. But North Korea doesn’t have the warheads for more than a few strikes, even assuming its missiles are reliable against far-away targets, something U.S. experts say they are not.
Mr. Kim has threatened to nuke Anderson Air Force Base on the U.S. island of Guam, 2,000 miles from Mr. Kim’s bunker in Pyongyang and only one-third as far away as Los Angeles. And while Guam is a more credible target, the curly-topped Supreme Leader still knows a first strike against it means the U.S. would turn the whole of Kimland into a parking lot.
But he does have enough conventional weaponry in place to kill thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of South Koreans and U.S. service members stationed south of the Demilitarized Zone before U.S. bombers and rockets could take out all artillery and rocket-launch sites in the North.
Still, it’s nice to see the people who populate the Trump administration sing from the same war manual on this one.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis immediately whipped up a statement that said, “The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons.”
(DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. No, seriously, that’s what it call itself, this outfit whose supreme leader sent his hitmen to murder his own brother in an airport.)
Our Mr. Mattis in his statement drew another red line: “The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”
It was another roar, from another real lion.
Now what? Anybody want to bet Mr. Kim will henceforth cower in his bunker, reduce his roar to a whimper and whisper to his nuclear techies and missile engineers to stop with the warheads-and-delivery-systems mischief? No bets on that? Didn’t think so.
OK, how about this bet? Want to wager Mr. Kim tests another long-rage missile or three? Maybe has his puppy-dog press boast about how Kimland’s plutonium punks have shrunk nukes so that a half dozen can fit the muzzle of a single missile? Lots of takers on that bet I see.
Is Mr. Trump going to start a war on the Korean Peninsula over that? Over roars but no actual acts of war by the loud mouse of the North? If Mr. Trump doesn’t shock and awe Mr. Kim, he’ll instead draws another line in the sand — and another and another …
Maybe, just maybe, the time is ripe to let the sanctions have whatever effect they’re going go have on Kimland, and even if it’s little or none, let Mr. Kim roar his bloody head off while our team shuts up, focus on governing and stays ready 24/7 to build that parking lot if a single North Korean missile looks at us in the wrong way.
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