[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/05/26/nkorea.test/art.kimfinger.jpg caption="North Korean leader Kim Jong-II is suspected to have suffered a stroke last August."]
Tom Foreman | Bio
My success in navigating the vagaries of foreign cultures is spotty at best, because while I speak no language other than English fluently, I try them all with unhinged enthusiasm. So I have dazzled a French waiter by informing him “Your pajamas are smashing.” I have told a Spanish sales clerk, “No, no! I need to see the lawnmower canoe.” And I wonder if that Albanian has yet realized that I had no intention of buying his rabbits.
Still, even as the latest North Korean nuclear bomb test is reverberating around the globe, I am starting to grasp the logic of their game. Or rather, I should say, by talking to smart foreign affairs analysts and reading an awful lot of obscure reports, I am beginning to get the gist of the overall situation.
So my loyal readers (or accidental readers, if that happens to be the case,) here is Tom’s Quick Guide to Understanding North Korean Nukes.
Question: Didn’t Kim Jong Il, (the president of North Korea, who is often mistaken for the fifth Teletubbie) blow up a big part of a nuclear plant last year as a sign of his willingness to disarm? Answer: Yes. But it wasn’t that big. A cooling tower. The rest of the facility seems marvelously intact and the Pentagon has detected signs of renewed activity.
Question: Are North Korea’s nukes any good? Answer: Even a poorly made nuke is not exactly a firecracker. So far Kim & Company have achieved about the explosive power that we had in World War II; which, as Japan can sadly tell you, was horrifying.
Question: What does Mr. Kim stand to gain by infuriating the world this way? For starters, better nuclear weapons. And every time he improves his nuclear arsenal, he also raises the stakes with all the countries that want him to give up his nukes. He can force them to trade even more food, economic assistance, and other types of aid to his struggling country.
Question: Isn’t that like nuclear blackmail? Answer: Yes. Totally. Way.
Question: Wait, North Korea has nukes!? Answer: Yes. Please try to keep up.
Question: Is Kim Jong Il crazy? Answer: Well, nobody knows, and that’s a serious problem, all kidding aside.
It is easy for us to dismiss his bluster and declarations of war as the ramblings of a paranoid and politically weakened tyrant. But less than three years ago he tested his first nuclear bomb, and despite all the international threats, sanctions, and efforts to shut his nuclear program down, he is still testing weapons. Maybe he is crazy like a North Korean fox.
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