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US-North Korea spat has moved us closer to armageddon; United Nations needs to get involved

Most Indians will not be ruining their breakfasts over the US-North Korea impasse because we feel it does not really concern us. There is an irony here: Washington’s policy has always been to project India and Pakistan as the two nuclear powers likely to move the Doomsday Clock to midnight and usher in armageddon.

File image of King Jong-un. AFP

File image of King Jong-un. AFP

America, the only country in the world to ever drop an atomic bomb in anger, might yet again place its itchy trigger finger on the trigger. After all, if you carry a black bag with nuclear codes wherever you go 24/7, one day you will inevitably use it. Consider it the Chekhov's gun principle: If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there.

If North Korea is not intimidated into coming to the bargaining table, the war of nerves between a feisty cowboy hat wearing Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, whose hard-nosed attitude to the US has not changed a whit, sends a message to the world that it is in peril. It makes the Indo-Pak hostility seem like stuff of kindergarten.

We would all do well remove the cotton wool from the UN and get the peacekeeping body involved. Because this feud should concern us. Terribly.

Even as president Trump aggressively ups the ante by choosing this untimely moment to pick a fight with South Korea, his closest ally in the region, over the payment of $1 billion for the Theater High Altitude Area Defense ( THAAD) anti-missile system, China inches closer to Washington by expressing its concerns over Pyongyang conducting nuclear and rocket tests and not slowing down its nuclear programme.

China is in a quandary because, at the same time, it does not support the US deployment of this complex anti-ballistic missile system.

You can see the teams lining up. Russia has indicated it is hugely unhappy with the deployment of THAAD. Meanwhile, Trump's decision to threaten Seoul by indicating he will cancel the free trade agreement leaves South Korea in a bind. It is poor timing to get into a tiff with your best buddy in the region when it is on the verge of an election that might see a changing of the guard in two weeks.

The front-runner for president, Moon Jae-in, has already gone on the record as saying the new administration will take the final decision on the Trump's demand for payment, but has also hinted that friction with Trump is on the cards.

What this does: Leaves South Korea vulnerable to the machinations of North Korea, which has always wanted to bring  South Korea back in to the fold.

For the Russians, this is another opportunity for Putin to feel aggrieved and see the placement of THAAD as another US attempt to monitor military movements within national borders in the region, something that even concerns China. Moscow sees the placement of THAAD as an overt attempt by Trump to expand US presence in the region.

And if all this is not enough to keep the world awake at night, consider this: The North Koreans have justified their nuclear capability (at least to themselves) by pointing to the massive US-South Korea military exercises over the past 50 days. This all out display is not sabre-rattling, says North Korea, but a deliberate attempt to bring ‘us’ to the brink of a nuclear disaster. "And our nuclear arsenal is the shining treasured sword of justice." Beat that for rhetoric.

Between themselves, Trump, Putin,  a watchful Xi Jingping, North Korea and South Korea, are holding the world hostage.

As things stand, there is no quick fix to the standoff.

With Pyongyang well on its way to acquire the capability to hit the United States with nuclear missiles by 2020, Trump seems at a loss for ideas. So are the rest of us.

Don't sleep too well. The Doomsday Clock is ticking.


Updated Date: Apr 29, 2017 15:34 PM

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