An expert at cage rattling

Like his father before him, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has become an expert at rattling the American tiger’s cage, with seeming impunity. But now, he has ratcheted up his rhetoric to the point that he risks triggering a war.

Some analysts say it is all an act, intended to make Kim more popular among his own people while intimidating those in the United States who talk of regime change in North Korea. And, of course, anything that sets Americans on edge pleases Kim’s patrons in China.

Indeed, Kim and his predecessors in power, his father and grandfather, have used bellicosity as a strategy. The difference is that now, Kim puts a sharper edge on his threats by demonstrating through missile tests that his country has more power than ever to harm its enemies militarily.

North Korea already has tested medium-range missiles capable of penetrating deeply into the U.S. mainland. The regime also has tested nuclear weapons and may well have miniaturized them enough to deliver them on rockets.

This week, North Korean officials announced they are planning another missile test. This one would launch several rockets toward Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific. In addition to the about 7,000 U.S. military personnel on Guam, the island has a population of 160,000.

Pyongyang’s plans are for missiles to splash down in the Pacific, as close as 19 miles to Guam.

Of course, North Korean officials add, Kim himself must review and approve the plan before it can proceed. Rest assured the dictator already is aware, and ordered the plan be publicized.

How should U.S. officials respond, if the test is carried out? President Donald Trump already has vowed “retaliation with fire and fury …” Some have criticized him for that, arguing his comments tend to increase tension with North Korea.

That suggests Kim is a rational, reasonable adversary, of course. He is not.

Kim has created the current crisis all by himself. Having seen that decades of bullying behavior worked for his regime, he has taken the gigantic leap from threatening a conventional war in his region to risking a nuclear conflict.

In other words, Kim has escalated the confrontation to the point a tiny miscalculation could claim the lives of millions of people.

Such a state of affairs is unacceptable.

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