As 2017 draws to a close it is time for reflection and in a year where the Trump presidency has had a global impact that has exceeded expectations good and bad, it is relations between North Korea and the US that dominate. On January 2nd 2017 Kim Jong-Un in his New Year’s Day address to the nation — and the world — announced that his country was in the ‘last stage’ of preparations to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile. By August 2017 The Washington Post reported on an assessment made by the Defence Intelligence Agency which said that North Korea had successfully developed nuclear warheads for missiles capable of reaching the US mainland. Anxieties grew everywhere and not just in America.
Despite the bluster and the derogatory tweets to-and-fro America, the rest of the world has been unable to stop the steady march towards a nuclear-capable North Korea. The Chinese have used whatever influence they may have, and most recently are accused of sanctions-busting by covertly supplying oil to North Korea. Sanctions seem to have done little to dent nuclear ambitions and expert analysis of some of the hardware developed by the North Koreans suggests it was developed from 1980s Russian plans.
There is agreement between a majority of analysts and commentators that in reality neither America nor North Korea want to go to war, but as one cynic commented in November “war may be just a tantrum away” — alluding to the volatility of President Trump. It must be hoped that his own military would apply the handbrake if a tantrum looked like getting out of hand. There has been no letup in the rhetorical barrage, with insults traded at least weekly. North Korea has referred to President Trump as ‘insane’ and President Trump has dubbed Kim Jong-Un as ‘Rocket Man’ — which may or may not please him. There seems little possibility of matters being resolved to the satisfaction of either party to the dispute in 2018. A way has to be found for diplomacy to work its traditional maneuvers and keep all involved back from the brink, because anything less is truly unthinkable.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2017.