Threat is perceptual; that means it might take a single comment from an in-the-know source to create a panic, and a crisis. This last Thursday
a pentagon official slipped up when a classified portion of a report on North Korea was released, indicating that North Korea now has the ability to put a nuclear warhead into a mid-range missile that would be able to travel at a distance of up to 2500 miles. The US Territory of Guam is in danger – if the intelligence report is correct, if the North Koreans decide to actually follow through on their threats, and if the purportedly ‘unreliable’ missile technology they currently possess actually works.
Nonetheless, when the White House realized the report had been made, Obama and his administration scrambled to make a response.
Secretary of State, John Kerry outright denied the statements in the classified report, saying, “It is inaccurate to suggest that (North Korea) has the capability articulated in that report — they have a missile but that is very different than having the militarization, nuclearization, etcetera.” (Fox.com)
On the other hand, in an international UN press conference Secretary Kerry made a different statement sitting next to South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se: “If Kim Jong Un decides to launch a missile, whether it’s across the Sea of Japan or some other direction, he will be choosing willfully to ignore the entire international community, and it will be a provocation and unwanted act that will raise people’s temperatures.” (AP)
In an AP report Kim Sung Sim, a denizen of Pyongyang North Korea, said, “It is because we have a nuclear deterrent like nuclear weapons that we are able to live our normal lives and have a beautiful flower exhibition like this,” gesturing toward a beautiful flower exhibit put together as a part of the festivals for the birthday of North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung. (AP)
Pentagon spokesman George Little says that the passage of the classified report is out of context:”While I cannot speak to all the details of a report that is classified in its entirety, it would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed, or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced in the passage.” (Fox.com)
We may never know where North Korea actually stand in their nuclear development program because there is so much conflicting information coming from the direction of the government. But in this case, since threat is perceptual, is it possible that keeping a lid on the jar is the best thing to do? Downplaying some of the information that was leaked would potentially seem better than if it all were public knowledge, because when it all comes down to the line, no one but the government can do anything about North Korea being able to launch a nuclear attack. And the fact is, when people perceive threat but can do absolutely nothing about it, they panic.
We made it through the Cold War. Now we just have to deal with North Korea.