For the last few days I’ve been following with interest the story of the mystery submarine off the Japanese coast. Considering previous occasions where unidentified vessels have entered Japanese waters, it seemed likely at first that this might be another move by North Korea to test the water (no pun intended) to see what the regional and global reaction would be to belligerant moves, post-Bush’s election.
North Korea has been playing silly buggers with Japan for decades, recently scaring the constitutionally pacifist Japanese with news of potential new missile tests which, after previous launches into the Sea of Japan, and rumours of North Korean missiles capable of hitting the United States (and even that some have landed in Alaska), are naturally taken quite seriously. It is, in part, this bizarre standoff which has prompted some in Japan to talk of potential war and move to change the constitution to allow Japan to build up an independent military.
The Far East is a worried region – Bird Flu, SARS, Chinese civil repression in Hong Kong, military coups and the all pervasive Islamic extremist groups are combining to make the north west Pacific anything but.
It is unlikely that China is going to start getting uppitty and causing trouble, but the worries over this submarine – especially following so soon after the news of the two mile wide mushroom cloud detected in North Korea in September (which, apparently was not nuclear, but still might have been) – highlight quite amply that the more publicised Middle East and African crises are not the only potential world troublespots, and that of the three nations that made up the so-called axis of evil, the country with the most obviously belligerent and dangerous attitude to the rest of the world continues unabated and largely unchallenged by the Bush administration.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has already announced that an attack on Iran is “inconceivable” and stated categorically that “I don’t see any circumstances in which military action would be justified against Iran, full stop.” Could it be about time for the US/UK coalition to turn their attention towards North Korea? If we’re going to be getting rid of madman dictators like Saddam I can think of few better candidates than Kim Chong-il and his buddies.