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Thursday, May 28

The Mouse that Roared

And I don't mean the delightful movie starring Peter Sellers in a triple role, either:

I'm talking about the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (a/k/a the DPRK, or North Korea).

A few days ago the DPRK busted out into the ranks of the Big Boys by detonating a nuclear device in the 10-20 kiloton range, which is about what we dropped on Japan and is the standard size if you want to nuke a city. How many more arrows they might have in the quiver is unknown to me, and if anyone else knows they're keeping it under their hats. My best guess (based on a published report that the DPRK had about 70 kilograms of bomb-grade fissionables) is about ten.

Still, ten 1945-era Mark II devices can raise a lot of havoc when fitted to short- or intermediate-range missiles (provided, of course, they've been sufficiently downsized). When your primary targets are right on your border or a loud shout across the Sea of Japan, that's about all you need, really.

So there's a great deal of viewing with alarm at the latest screeds from Pyongyang. The spokesmen for Little Kim have stated that they will fire upon any ship that dares stop and search one of their freighters, that South Korea's joining in a Proliferation Security Initiative is tantamount to a declaration of war, and that they will no longer abide by the 1953 armistice agreement that ended the Korean War.

All in all, a rather bellicose series of threats. The DPRK has the second-largest army in the neighborhood, right behind China, so the United States and South Korea have their troops on alert, as do the Japanese Self-Defense Forces.

Needless to say, every square inch of North Korea is probably being fed into targeting computers for cruise missiles as I write this. If the Korean People's Army (KPA) comes over the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, we can expect a very nasty conflict. Seoul is the closest large city and well within range of the KPA's artillery and missiles.

Why are they doing this? I hear people asking.

Well, let me have a go at it.

A State Department analyst has suggested that the saber-rattling and the nuke test were all for domestic consumption, as a clique of generals are posturing for dominance in the event Little Kim dies or steps aside in favor of his youngest son, Kim Jong Un. Jong Un is reportedly Kim's successor, although how his older brothers feels about this is unreported but is easy to assume.

Another reason might be that the sanctions imposed are hurting the DPRK to such an extent that the military and political hierarchy feel that it is better to die on one's feet rather than live on one's knees. That is a very dangerous mindset, people.

A third reason might be that they are trying to convince the other powers in the neighborhood (including their biggest friend, China) that they have to be respected and treated like adults at the bargaining table. This is a nation-sized version of Wee Man Syndrome, where a small person will attempt to bully bigger people to show that he's unafraid of them.

Considering the size of the DPRK and the fact that Little Kim is about five feet tall (he wears platform shoes), this is not outside the realm of possibility.

And right now, everyone's waiting to see if that other platform shoe will drop.

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