NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

April 17, 2013

A madman at the helm

It is difficult to determine what makes a madman tick. With some, it is possible to detect a method to their madness.

But with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, there doesn’t seem to be any method at all. Indeed, to Western observers the entirety of the laughably named Democratic People’s Republic of Korea seems more like an open-air lunatic asylum — the primary difference being that, with an asylum, someone with a connection to reality is in charge of the keys.

Kim Jong Un has inherited the keys to the Hermit Kingdom from his father and grandfather before him. But at 29 or 30 years old — it is unclear whether he was born in 1983 or 1984 — he is struggling to prove he can keep them. So, as has been the usual practice in North Korea for years, Kim is ramping up the bluster against the West, and specifically, the United States.

The problem today is that North Korea can back up its ranting with nuclear weapons.

North Korea has been a confirmed nuclear power since 2009, with some tests dating back as far as 2006. The country conducted its most recent nuclear test in February. The North also has rockets that can reach as far as Alaska and it is working on the development of true intercontinental ballistic missiles.

For years, we here in the United States have been told that, while North Korea may have bombs and missiles, it cannot put the two together for a credible long-range nuclear threat. Last week, however, congressional testimony suggested that the Pentagon believes North Korea may indeed have made nuclear bombs compact enough to be carried on their rockets.

That makes the North’s recent bluster all the more worrisome.

The Korean war of 1950 to 1953 never officially ended; a cease-fire agreement has held, more or less, for these 60 years. Last month, Kim declared the armistice is no longer valid and that a state of war exists again between the North and the South.

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