Wednesday, March 05, 2003

While Bush fiddles about Iraq, there is a report that part of a North Korean missile warhead has been found in Alaska. This is a rather convoluted story out of South Korea, referring to a report made to the Korean National Assembly which quotes former Japanese foreign minister Taro Nakayama, who refers to a 'U.S. document' (the South Koreans are trying to play down the chance of war, but the Japanese are usually looking for an excuse to arm themselves, so it is difficult to see whether there is some hidden agenda here). A North Korean missile in Alaska seems very unlikely as North Korea has not demonstrated an ability to deliver a warhead that far, and because American radar and other sensors would have detected it. On the other hand, there is informed opinion that North Korea does have the capacity of delivering a warhead to Alaska (but consider that the CIA has a history of overestimating the weapons threat of American enemies, and some dispute that North Korea currently poses a threat), North Korea is obviously spoiling for a fight and would see this as a provocation that would lead to a fight, and the United States is studiously trying to pretend that North Korea doesn't exist so it can attack Iraq (the other possibility is that the North Koreans, knowing that the Americans are trying to avoid any confrontation, have taken this opportunity to test their missile to see if it could reach Alaska, knowing that the risk of retaliation at this time is very low). It is therefore possible that a test was made and the Americans were aware of it, but chose to pretend it didn't happen. Due to the diplomatic incompetence of the Bush Administration, they have not left themselves a way to back off the attack on Iraq without being seen as losing face. It would be ironic if their incompetent diplomatic bungling over North Korea gave them a way not to attack Iraq by forcing them to confront North Korea. They could reasonably begin to move their troops out of the Middle East in the general direction of Korea, while Bush claims he was giving the weapons inspectors in Iraq time to do their jobs while ensuring that troops were available in the Far East if needed to protect the United States and its allies from attack. Completely unlike Iraq, an attack on North Korea might be justifiable if North Korea threatens the United States with attack and can be plausibly said to have a chance to make an attack against the United States or an ally like Japan. Of course, North Korea, unlike Iraq, is a real military threat, and any war would kill thousands of American soldiers.