The dangerous bluster of nuclear-armed North Korea’s increasingly wild-eyed dictator, Kim Jong Un, is destabilizing the Korean peninsula and keeping much of the rest of the world on edge.
Pyongyang has severed many of the remaining ties it had to the outside world, shutting down the joint industrial zone it operates with South Korea, advising foreigners to leave the south, talking of “all-out, merciless” war, moving ahead with its nuclear program and threatening to test-fire a mid-range missile. All this while preparing for its big holiday, the birthday of national founder Kim Il Sung.
In the face of such dangerous and erratic behavior, it is comforting to know that a key role in the calm, rational American military response is being played by the cool, experienced heads at Offutt Air Force Base. Few in the world have played the long game of chess with nuclear-armed foes as well or as long as those at U.S. Strategic Command.
The group’s most critical mission is deterring attacks on the United States and our allies. As World-Herald staff writer Henry Cordes detailed Friday, StratCom’s 2,200 Bellevue-based personnel include rooms full of capable people planning for possibilities like those involving Kim and his threats.
StratCom officials know a regime that cannot feed its people needs a bogeyman to help it rule by fear. They also know Kim is capable of irrational acts.
The B-2 bombers that flew from central Missouri to South Korea and back were a message to allies and foes that America is fully capable of standing by its friends, as were the joint military exercises near Kim’s shores.
While Kim brags about his missile program’s prowess, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and StratCom leaders are already boosting missile defenses.
Kim is likely angry about the latest round of international sanctions that limit his ability to import luxury cars and items for his personal stash.
But the game he is playing has costs for more than just him and his own people. It is crazy to threaten to miniaturize nuclear weapons and send them on a missile toward Guam. Such talk of using nuclear weapons preemptively is nothing to be taken lightly.
Despite the firm, measured U.S. response and near-universal condemnation by the international community, there has been no softening of Kim’s rhetoric.
U.S. officials say North Korea’s benefactor, China, is increasingly frustrated by the actions of its neighbor. Taking action to avoid further escalation or an accidental war is clearly in China’s own interests.
To their credit, Chinese leaders have publicly distanced themselves from Kim’s actions. Now China’s elders must step up and sternly explain the facts to their problem child.
In the meantime, over at Offutt AFB, our national security is in very capable hands.