Nuclear technology does more than make powerful weapons. It also makes for powerful politics. It allows Kim Jong-un, ruler of a sordid little dictatorship, possibly the most backward nation on Earth, to meet with the president of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, as an equal. Potent stuff.
The meetings ultimately amounted to nothing, of course, just two narcissists strutting on the world stage. The idea on the U.S. side was to convince Kim to give up his nukes, but there was little chance of that. Kim wasn’t about to give up the only thing that gives him any credibility with his people. Or anybody else.
And now, with a new president installed in the White House, Kim is reminding the Americans of exactly that—I’m still here and I’ve still got the big bomb.
Last week, North Korea test-fired its first ballistic missiles since Biden took office as it continues to expand its military capabilities. And, of course, to demand a little attention from Washington.
Biden played it cool, responding, “There’s no new wrinkle in what they did.” He added,“We’re consulting with our allies and partners and there will be responses if they choose to escalate. We will respond accordingly.” That probably means more sanctions, which so far have produced little. They just inflict further suffering on the North Korean people which doesn’t seem to bother Kim in the least.
Most pundits expect Kim will now gradually dial up the muscle-flexing in order to gain bargaining power to trade nuclear weapon reductions for badly needed economic benefits. No hurry though. The North has said it won’t engage in meaningful talks unless Washington abandons its “hostile” policies. And so it goes.
What is frustrating to at least some observers of this dangerous to and fro is the failure of the other nuclear powers to reduce their potential for Armageddon.
The nuclear-armed signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) are obligated to reduce and ultimately eliminate their nuclear weaponry. But they haven’t and they aren’t. Indeed, they are upgrading their inventories.
As long as the major nuclear powers refuse to fulfil their obligations, they have no moral authority to hold over the wannabes. Other nations are bound to want to join the club and play with the big boys. Iran, for example, no doubt pays close attention as Kim Jong-un jerks America’s chain.