Let’s take former NBA star Dennis Rodman’s perspective on North Korea’s President Kim Jong-un seriously for a moment. It then follows that all that this “awesome” young man wants is a phone call from President Barack Obama.
Kim has told Rodman that he does not want to “do war.” Apparently, he just wants to watch basketball games in the company of Rodman and receive an occasional phone call from Obama.
If only Washington had listened to Rodman’s sage advice a couple of days ago, it would have avoided being threatened by Pyongyang. The threat was issued by a spokesman for the North Korean foreign ministry who was quoted by the wires as saying, "Since the United States is about to ignite a nuclear war, we will be exercising our right to preemptive nuclear attack against the headquarters of the aggressor in order to protect our supreme interest.”
At the heart of Pyongyang’s pique are the looming new sanctions by the U.N. Security Council. Perhaps it is time for the Obama administration to send Rodman back to Pyongyang to find what it is that bugging dear bro. But before they do that, how about a phone call from the U.S. president? It may go something like this:
Obama: “No war, bro.”
Kim: “좋아요, 전쟁, 친구.” **
That’s it. War avoided. It’s all cool now.
Jokes aside, the maxim of technology being a great equalizer becomes manifest in often bizarre ways. Here is a country, where starvation is not just chronic but an important element of statecraft, feeling confident precisely because it has the nuclear weapons technology. Despite everything else being so grotesquely unequal, it is solely on the strength of its nuclear weapons program that Pyongyang feels assured enough to issue a threat like that to the United States. It may or may not make good on its threat but it knows that the world knows better than taking that chance.
I am not even remotely qualified to comment on all the complexities of the North Korean question but a cursory reading of the situation tells me that it is about a cruelly archaic regime desperately hanging on to power at the cost of its starving millions. Once you bring the nuclear weapons into the mix, it acquires a wholly new dimension. While one cannot say for sure that Pyongyang will never use its nuclear arsenal, it is equally reasonable to assume that its leaders could not be unmindful of the massive retaliation that would follow.
If nothing else, I am certain that the barely 30-year-old Kim would like to spend some quality time with Rodman in the future watching a game or two. Some experts on North Korea have said that there could be a disconnect between the callow new leader and the entrenched North Korean military establishment. The logic being that while Kim can continue to indulge his boyish preoccupations such as inviting Rodman, the military will do the more serious business of posturing and threatening.
** Google translation of ‘Okay, no war’ into Korean. I cannot vouch for its veracity. I hope it does not actually mean, ‘The war is on’.