NORTH Korea knows exactly what it wants to do to provoke the US, and only the US, promptly announcing it would fire four of its Hwasong-12 missiles over Japan and into the waters 30 to 40 kilometers from Guam. That is in response to the “fire and fury” that Donald Trump said he would unleash on Pyongyang for its endless nuclear threats against the world’s only remaining superpower.
It may be inferred that North Korea has more than four of such missiles, which could give the US leader a great source of anxiety until possibly the end of his presidency.
Washington could only resort to rhetoric to counter the tirades from the Korean Peninsula, not that we expect it to spell out its own game plan, like perhaps send over four of its ICBMs to the North Korean capital to unmake the day of Kim Jong-un.
For the US to be more specific on how it plans to counter the bluster coming from the North Korean leader would make Trump the bad guy and Kim the bullied one.
In playing cat-and-mouse not only with the United States but the entire democratic world, Pyongyang has once again pushed the envelop by targeting this time the tiny American island territory of Guam (population: 160,000), in the Pacific.
The island is fair game for the North Korean leader because, for one, it is home to 6,000 or so American soldiers and other military personnel and, for another, Guam is a staging ground for US stealth bombers that, according to a report, could be used to attack Pyongyang.
It appears that the much-hyped threat to possibly obliterate at least a part of Guam may be a preemptive strike.
With no choice but to deal directly with North Korea’s ceaseless warmongering, Washington could only try to get its allies behind its cause of keeping the world safe from nuclear annihilation through the power of the spoken word and not much else.
In so doing, it would prevent a scenario straight from “Dr. Strangelove: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) could be a strategic ally of the US in containing the nuclear bombast from North Korea, with member countries of the regional association not being known to host US military troops, more so, nuclear weapons.
Such troops and weapons would have raised the hackles of Pyongyang. In the case of the Philippines, no US soldiers and no US arms have found their way to the country—at least their presence here has been denied by Manila and Washington—since the Visiting Forces Agreement was signed between the Philippines and the United States.
China, however, could be a stumbling block but only if the Philippines continues to press its claim to territories in the South China Sea that are also claimed by Beijing.
Perhaps only Beijing could stop Pyongyang from nuking Guam now. Perhaps Asean could also help, if Manila and other claimants from Hanoi to Kuala Lumpur keep their mouths shut over supposed minerals and other riches in the contested waters of the South China Sea, at least until North Korea regains its bearings.
For now, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is right in allaying fears over the possible effects on the country of Pyongyang’s plan to direct is four Hwasong-12 missiles at Guam, which is located some 2,414 kilometers from Manila.
That the Philippines could be affected by the nuclear strike is “remote,” AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. said on Friday.
Padilla expressed confidence that there “is still a lot of room for dialogue” to thwart North Korea’s plan, citing the presence of Pyongyang’s foreign minister at the Asean meeting in Manila last week as a “positive sign.”
Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary Kristoffer James Purisima of the Office of Civil Defense said the government is “[preparing]appropriate contingency plans, alerts and warnings for the awareness and protection of our civilian population.”
It always pays to be on the side of caution.