Today is the birthday of Kim Il-sung, traditionally an excuse for North Korea to very publicly flaunt its military might. The national holiday is usually celebrated with an ostentatious parade, but last year also served as an occasion to attempt to launch a rocket into space. The launch was a spectacular failure, but it did add a certain weight to Kim Jong-un’s recent bluster, leading analysts to think he might fire off some short- or medium-range missiles to coincide with his grandfather’s birthday.Overall, Kim’s over-the-top threats appear to be more ridiculous than frightening on this side of the Pacific, but that is certainly less the case when you’re living right next door to the madman. John Kerry’s remarks in Tokyo this weekend were therefore much appreciated:
“The US will do what is necessary to defend our allies against these provocations, but our choice is to negotiate,” he said after meeting Fumio Kishida, Japan’s foreign minister. […]Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, on Sunday said the international community “needs to make North Korea understand that the situation will become progressively severe”.
Readers should keep in mind, however, that this latest crisis is as much about China as it is about the Korean peninsula itself. China’s decision to continue to back their unhinged ally in the North is pushing Japan to deepen its security ties with the United States. Having the Kim clan in their back pocket may have seemed like an asset to Chinese strategists in the past, but it’s doing nothing good for them today. Indeed, it’s pretty much playing right into Obama’s pivot strategy.