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Americans laugh at raised missiles

Posted on 04.24.2013

North Korean leaders have been making threats for as long as most people can remember. Recent threats have been amplified and more extreme than before. This round of threats has involved nuclear bombs and raised missiles, but even during all of this extreme behavior, many Americans have been laughing at these threats.
When it was reported that terrorists had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, Americans rallied around the decision to go to war to find those weapons. The nation was terrified by the thought of any other country having such capabilities.
Even though we later discovered that the weapons never existed, we still rallied without any proof. Now that North Korea has shown us that they have working weapons, we laugh.

Cartoon by James Figy.

Cartoon by James Figy.

North Korea should be taken seriously. The situation should not be dismissed with an “oh you” response to Kim Jong Un’s threats. These are nuclear weapons. Why do Americans not have the same fear of these weapons that we had 10 years ago?
Associate Professor of History and Political Science Douglas Woodwell believes that because North Korea has made threats in the past, we may be used to them. Woodwell also said that past North Korean actions have set them up to be discounted a little bit.
“I think the one distinguishing factor involves the leader himself [Un].  He’s the wild card in this situation,” Woodwell said. “It’s unclear how much control he has over the country for one. I personally think he probably doesn’t have nearly as much as his father did, just by virtue of his age and by the fact that he’s new.”
Un has a legacy to live up to. His father was held up as almost divine within the country, and Un, who is only 29, has to make a powerful impression on the generals. This need to impress high-up officials can come with a price. An interactive map on the CNN website shows that current North Korean missiles could reach parts  of Japan and Guam. This map puts United States bases in the line of fire. Woodwell believes that North Korea, even though it frequently bolsters its weapons, always will find a way to get out of using them.
“They [North Korea] walked up the line a lot. But they’ve always sort of left themselves some sort of out,” Woodwell said. “And with the current leader [Un], he’s not going to just invade South Korea or something like that. But the question is, ‘Is he somebody who might unintentionally, through recklessness, provoke a crisis that the sides can’t step back from?’”
North Korea has had the ability to do damage to other countries even before its most recent round of intense rhetoric. The United States stayed out of its nuclear weapons program because of the capability North Korea had to inflict damage on South Korea’s capital of Seoul.  Woodwell does not see North Korea as an imminent threat to other countries but recognizes the power the country possesses.
“They could do plenty of nasty things before they had nuclear weapons, and they still can. Again, I think you’re not talking about high probabilities [of attacks], but you are talking about catastrophic consequences,”  Woodwell said.
Even though the North Korean threats may seem random, Woodwell believes the most recent threats may have been triggered by recent contact with South Korea. There also is an underlying tone  of bitterness to North Korea’s aggressions towards the United States.
“The question is, ‘Why do they do this stuff?’  The answer is because they consider this basically bargaining leverage. They want more stuff from us. What they really want more than anything is a peace treaty,” Woodwell said.
According to Woodwell, a peace treaty was never signed to officially end the Korean War. This action, he said, has left the North Koreans paranoid and always on the defensive.
“There has never been an official peace treaty ending the Korean War. So there’s just a cease-fire, and North Koreans want that peace treaty, because a peace treaty would validate their existence,”  Woodwell said. “In a way, they’re not really recognized as even having a right to exist by the fact that the Korean War only has a cease-fire.”
North Korea is nonetheless dangerous. Even if its threats are hollow and for show, their weapons can still level cities. This is what Americans need to worry about. North Korea’s capabilities now put that nation in a place to create more weapons and stockpile them. This proliferation is what makes that nation a real threat to the United States and gives Americans a reason to stop laughing and start paying attention.
“It [Americans not being scared] does bring up the issue of why are we more concerned with the proliferation of these weapons? That’s really the scary scenario of all the scenarios,”  Woodwell said. “It’s really not the missile with the nuclear warhead that’s scary, because we know where that comes from.”
When it comes right down to it, North Korea never has given us a real reason to build bomb shelters. But that is not a reason to push their threats aside. These threats are backed up with weapons proven to reach other countries. Americans should not run to their senators demanding war. But they should keep up with the news.  Americans need to keep in the back of their minds the devastation that one of North Korea’s weapons could inflict.
We can all get a good laugh from the Korean man with a bad haircut. But what will you think when it is reported that he has weapons that can reach our allies, and he’s not lowering them?


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