Vice President Dick Cheney criticized North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during an appearance on CNN’s “Larry King Live” show last week. Because of the holiday, his bellicose comments have gone largely unreported in the American mainstream media. However, they were heard loudly and clearly in Pyongyang, where North Korean leaders responded with a personal slur against U.S. Secretary of State Condileeza Rice.
Tensions between the United States and North Korea increased Monday as both sides turned up the rhetoric after a decision in Washington to dispatch 15 Nighthawk stealth fighters to the Korean Peninsula.
Vice President Dick Cheney of the United States described Kim Jong Il, the North Korean head of state, as an “irresponsible leader.”
North Korea, in turn, called the deployment of U.S. aircraft a prelude to war. On Monday, the state-run Pyongyang Radio, using a vulgar epithet, compared Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of the United States to a dog “that has no fear of a tiger and barks at it.”
The comments the Vice President made on CNN were in his classic understated but hyper-agressive style and obviously intended to provoke the North Koreans:
“I am concerned about it,” Mr Cheney said of the stalled negotiations, “Partly because … Kim Jong Il, who’s the leader of North Korea, is – I would describe as one of the world’s more irresponsible leaders.”
The Vice President accused Kim of running “a police state” and one of the most heavily militarised societies in the world while the bulk of the North Korean population lived “in abject poverty and stages of malnutrition.”
“He doesn’t take care of his people at all,” Mr Cheney continued. “And he obviously wants to throw his weight around and become a nuclear power.”
Mr Cheney called the stalemate with North Korea “a major problem” and assured that the Bush administration was “continuing to work it very hard” to re-launch the talks.
He said officials in Pyongyang must “understand that they’re not going to have normal relationships with the outside world, in terms of commerce, industry and trade, if they become a nuclear power.”
The Vice President also urged China to more aggressively use its clout with Pyongyang in trying to persuade it to return to the negotiating table.
“The Chinese need to understand that it’s incumbent upon them to be major players here,” Mr Cheney said.
This is the sort of “diplomacy” we can expect from Cheney’s man John Bolton when he’s confirmed as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The dirty little secret here (that isn’t a secret at all) is that our military is stretched thin. If we are to make good on Cheney’s threats, the U.S. will have to go back to war with North Korea, meaning either a bombing campaign – which could provoke a nuclear response from Pyongyang – an invasion by newly drafted American forces, or both.
Considering how poorly the invastion of Iraq was planned and implemented, we could be standing on the edge of a very dangerous precipice. This is the price we pay when we turn our government over to corrupt, lying and incompetent folks like the crowd in Washington now.