THE escalating war of words between Washington and Pyongyang sets a dangerous precedent that could easily evolve into a nuclear holocaust, raising the need for cooler heads to intervene and douse the inflamed passions of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un before it’s too late.
The problem is that there are no cooler heads in sight, not in Beijing, not in Moscow—despite their voices of concern in trying to pacify the US President and the North Korean leader—and certainly not in Seoul and in Tokyo as the Japanese and South Korean defense forces are now scrambling to head off the worst-case scenario of Pyongyang launching another Hwasong intercontinental ballistic missile aimed at Guam, 3,432 kilometers southeast of North Korea.
The Europeans are deep in their own economic and security woes, trying to keep the European Union from disintegrating further in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, to care much about what’s happening in this part of the globe.
Maybe it’s time for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to bring into play its regional weight and broker a political and diplomatic solution to the crisis. Actually, Asean has a ready-made venue, the Asean Regional Forum (ARF), the one international meeting where Pyongyang sits with the other five members of the now suspended Six Party Talks – the US, Japan, South Korea, China, and Russia. North Korea has been a participant since 2006.
The ARF’s raison d’être fits perfectly well with the task at hand of bringing down to a quiet simmer the brewing tension in the North Korean peninsula. The only question now is if the Asean leaders are up to it.
Coincidentally, the ARF held its 24th meeting during the annual conference of Asean Foreign Ministers and Asean dialogue partners in Manila last week just as the rhetoric between the US and North Korea was ramping up. There were reportedly “heated” discussions on the North Korean crisis at the Manila meeting, at the end of which the ARF issued a chairman’s statement in which the foreign ministers expressed grave concern over North Korea’s recent ballistic missile tests.
The foreign ministers urged Pyongyang to comply fully and immediately with its obligations under relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Some ministers reiterated their support for the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner, called for the exercise of self-restraint, and underscored the importance of creating conditions conducive for dialogue to de-escalate tensions.
Surprisingly, the cooler heads in this equation are the Guamanians as life on the island this weekend has been described by the Pacific Daily News as practically business as usual, in spite of the emergency preparations for a nuclear attack issued by the Guam Homeland Security.
The US Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook noted the latest population figures of Guam at 162,742, based on estimates as of July 2016, of which 23.6 percent, or 38,407, are Filipinos.
Guam has a land area of 544 square kilometers, slightly larger than Biliran Island in Eastern Visayas at 536 sq km.
Once Pyongyang launches a Huwasong ICBM, it will hit Guam in 14 minutes, but most Guamanians are taking a fatalistic view of things. After all, 14 minutes isn’t much of a leeway to seek shelter in one of the nuclear bunkers in the island and those at ground zero when the nuclear warhead detonates above them would be blown into smithereens they wouldn’t even know what hit them.
Yes. There are still people on earth without any qualms or conscience about slaughtering tens of thousands of people and even brag about it, not in graphic terms but as open threats to those with a different ideological point of view.
The devastation from a nuclear bomb on life and property does not end right after it detonates. “Radioactive fallout poses the greatest threat to people during the first two weeks, by which time it has declined to about 1 percent of its initial radiation level,” according to the Guam Homeland Security.
In the face of a nuclear holocaust, we need a new breed of leaders to emerge whose agenda center on world peace and the greater good of mankind. Humanity needs a break from threats of global terrorism in any form. Otherwise, the fatalism of Guamanians may be the best form of psychological defense in such situations where flight or fight is not an option.