Reports North Korea may be planning to test a long-ranged Taepodong-2 ballistic missile that could hit North America have ignited a major international crisis.
As tensions rise, three US carrier battle groups and 26,000 troops are ostentatiously staging war games in North Pacific waters. North Korea accuses US spy aircraft of violating its air space which is very likely true.
Why is isolated North Korea provoking this dangerous crisis when it desperately needs foreign financial aid? Experts offer a host of complex theories. My own theory: James Bond.
North Korea's eccentric leader, the 5ft 2in tall Kim Jong-il, is crazy about movies. He has a library of over 2,000 films and even obtained his own in-palace movie-maker by having his agents kidnap South Korea's leading film director.
South Korean intelligence says Kim's favorite films are his complete collection of James Bond movies.
`Dear Leader' Kim seems to be patterning his weird outfits, studied mannerisms, and megalomaniac behavior on author Ian Fleming's sinister villain, Dr No.
North Korea is Kim's version of Dr. No's island lair. Is it a coincidence North Korea's main operational missile is called `No-dong?' I think not.
Remember how all the James Bond villains try to extort billions by threatening the world with weapons of mass destruction? Think of North Korea as a giant James Bond movie directed by Dr Kim. Even his nuclear warheads and poison gas are stored in deep underground caves and caverns straight out of `You Only Live Twice.' He's probably also got a death ray.
Come to think of it, maybe President George Bush has also been watching too many James Bond movies.
The Dear Leader is not crazy, contrary to what many Americans believe. It's unlikely he plans to invite nuclear vaporization of North Korea by lobbing a few nuclear missiles at the US unless North Korea is attacked. No one even knows if North Korea has hardened and miniaturized any of its estimated 6-8 nuclear warheads to mount on its Taepodong-2 ICBM.
Two years ago, the US Defense Intelligence Agency reported North Korean missiles could hit the US(or Canada). This blockbuster came after the Bush Administration had invaded Iraq, supposedly to eliminate strategic weapons it did not have, and was threatening war on Iran, which also did not have any strategic weapons. Talk about getting priorities backwards.
Kim is rattling his missiles because the Bush Administration, totally absorbed by Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, has been ignoring North Korea. The Dear Leader wants attention, and money, lots of it.
The only way Kim can obtain hard currency is by getting Japan, South Korea and the US to pay him not make trouble. North Korea's other former money-earners, counterfeiting and missile exports, have been mostly shut down by the US and its allies, leaving extortion as North Korea's sole cash crop.
But Kim also has another, more subtle objective. Each crisis he whips up with the US seriously rattles South Koreans. The threat of a US attack on North Korea and inter-Korean war terrifies South Koreans who vividly recall the 2.5 million Koreans killed and destruction of their major cities in the 1950 conflict. The North has some 11,000 artillery pieces and rocket launchers near the DMZ within range of the outskirts of Seoul.
Many South Koreans are dismayed by the Bush Administration's refusal to negotiate directly with North Korea and refusal to give it guarantees the US will not attack. They suspect Washington, and close ally Japan, are determined to thwart Korean reunification. So many Koreans see Washington, not North Korea, as the main problem.
Anti-Americanism is growing in South Korea. Young South Koreans, who do not remember the atrocities and brutality of the communists, even see Kim, his prison regime, and creed of `Juche' (pride and self-reliance) as the `authentic' Korean leader who is truly independent and does not take orders from Washington.
Ironically, President Bush's previous saber rattling and hostile comments about North Korea have boosted Kim Jong-il's standing among South Koreans and made him a hero to many.
Washington refuses to dignify Kim's regime by direct negotiations. Yet it deals with other ugly regimes worldwide, like Morocco, Egypt, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. Talking does not imply approbation or love.
It's your enemies you need to negotiate with, not your friends. Paying Kim to be good is far cheaper and much less dangerous than the current military confrontation.