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Bonhomie of Sport

Editorial |

Visuals of the North and South Korean delegation leaders greeting each other at the demilitarised zone of Panmunjom do testify to a measure of de-escalation after the volley and thunder of recent ICBM tests.

aving said that, it would be presumptuous to imagine that the worst is over. Not really; there is little doubt that the North will be under renewed pressure in the event of the next stand-off. For now, through a deft diplomatic gambit, Kim Jong-un seems agreeable to the North’s participation in next month’s Winter Olympics in the South; towards that end, figure skaters and cheerleaders are to be sent across the fence. To that extent, the meeting has without question registered a fair measure of forward movement.

After frequent bouts of defiant muscle-flexing, Pyongyang is seemingly anxious to be recognised by the comity of nations, thus shedding its pariah image for which it has only itself to blame. There is a degree of symbolic significance too in the North’s participation in the Games, and it is pretty obvious that President Kim has played to both the domestic and international gallery.

Yet a degree of cynicism is bound to persist in the context of previous crises, specifically the snapping of ties and the bellicose rhetoric… with the likes of Donald Trump now pulling up a chair. The US President is grossly mistaken in his belief that his threats will resolve international disputes ~ from Pakistan to Pyongyang via Palestine. Geopolitics is a much too complex phenomenon to be settled through a competitive exchange of innuendos.

There is no entente cordiale quite yet. And central to the war of nerves must be North Korea’s spectacular progress in its weapons programme. The nature of contemporary geostrategy would suggest that denuclearisation is unlikely. Ergo, the rational course of action is a nuclear freeze, an issue that was somehow skirted at the recent conference, riveted as it was to the Winter Olympics. Both sides are acutely aware that the friction ~ bilateral and further afield to the US, China, and Russia ~ goes beyond the fun and games.

Mr Trump’s praxis of ramping up the pressure is unlikely to bring about any tangible change on the ground. He has reasons to be alarmed over the possible targets of North Korean missiles on the US mainland.
Hence his vow to respond to North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen” and the fearsome vision of a”preventive war”. Hence also his boast that his “nuclear button” was bigger and more powerful than Kim Jong-un’s. The rhetoric chimes oddly with President Trump’s signal of intent to effect a ten-fold increase in the US nuclear arsenal. North Korea remains the most immediate reason for the world to fear two reckless Presidents.