Read Editorial with D2G – Ep (298)

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Read Editorial – Sparks in a Tinderbox

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MEANINGS are given in BOLD

North Korea’s provocative (annoying; irritating) action of launching four missiles into the Sea of Japan a few hundred kilometres from the Japanese coastline has triggered fears of renewed tension between nuclear-armed powers. The launch seems timed to test the strategic fortitude (courage; bravery) and tactical (aiming at an end beyond the immediate action) capabilities of new relationships in the broader power balance that reins (check or guide)  in Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. The first test would be of the strength of bilateral U.S.-Japan ties on the watch of U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un had already given these two leaders a wake-up call when his regime (a government, especially an authoritarian one) fired a medium-range missile last month. Mr. Trump has assured both Mr. Abe and South Korea’s acting President, Hwang Kyo-Ahn, of his ironclad (covered or protected) commitment to stand by them through this crisis. Yet it is likely that Mr. Kim was, in fact, trying to get a measure of Mr. Trump, who had tweeted shortly before assuming office in January, “it won’t happen!”, on the North being close to testing an ICBM. Experts seem to concur that the missiles launched now did not appear to be of intercontinental range. Yet, the prospect looms of the North miniaturising (make on a smaller or miniature scale)  nuclear warheads to the point where even shorter-range weapons could, if they were nuclear-tipped, pose unprecedented (never done or known before)  risk to South Korea, Japan and the U.S. military assets in the vicinity (the area near or surrounding a particular place).

The continuous belligerence (ready or likely to attack or confront)  of North Korea is only one side of the story. The other is that the international community, led by the U.S. and nations within striking distance of the North’s aggression, has hardly managed the conflict (a serious disagreement or argument) consistently. The commendable effort of the Six Party Talks to invest diplomatic currency in bringing Pyongyang back to the negotiating table got derailed (cause to leave its tracks accidentally) early on in President Barack Obama’s first term. The cycle of sanctions and international isolation fuelling further bravado by the Kim regime then dominated the denouement (the outcome of a situation, when something is decided or made clear) , as indeed it has since 1992. This time the conflict seems to be following a distinctly more unstable trajectory as Mr. Trump has authorised the deployment in South Korea of the first elements of the U.S.’s advanced anti-missile system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD), disregarding the possibility that it may be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the presumed (be arrogant or impertinent enough to do something) retaliatory (characterized by a desire for revenge) move of THAAD deployment glosses over the fact that in the past week the U.S. and South Korea had conducted military drills in the region, war games that Pyongyang views as overt (done or shown openly; plainly apparent.)  hostility (fighting) . On the other, Washington has clearly decided to ignore the justifiable fears of Beijing and Moscow that THAAD’s nuclear umbrella threatens their interests in the region too, not North Korea’s alone. Unless de-escalation (decrease) becomes a priority for all parties involved, the Korean Peninsula region will remain a flashpoint.

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