North Korea is a bratty 12 Year old boy allowed by anti-social parents to play with guns because they like to scare the neighbors. The regime starves its people at gunpoint and is increasingly unsustainable in an age of satellite and cell phone communications. Its inevitable collapse will damage mostly China, Russia and South Korea via hordes of refugees.
We wonder why this rather remote pariah state is occupying so much public space these days. Yes, it has relatively primitive nukes and is enthusiastically developing delivery missiles. So do several other places, including Pakistan. Pakistan is an exporter of Islamic terrorism and regularly attacks India at its borders. Like North Korea, Pakistan is a Chinese client: China is building roads, railroads and a naval port for Pakistan and is its primary military supplier these days. But somehow, Pakistan is seen as an ally, not a threat.
Then there is Iran, another sabre rattler of missiles and avowed developer of nukes already sworn to eliminate Israel and the U.S. from the planet. Iran is also an exporter of Islamic terrorism and a constant threat to its neighbors. Along with China and Russia, it actively opposes U.S. interests and does so on a wider front than North Korea can manage.
Finally, there is the never-asked question: Where else are nukes being quietly acquired? Is it likely that Saudi Arabia will watch Iran arm itself without taking its own steps? Will South Korea and Japan leave China with nuclear leverage over their futures? How long will Germany sit defenseless between Russia and France? How will Switzerland continue to protect its traditional neutrality? And the technology isn’t so secret anymore, just expensive and inconvenient.
So again, why is distant, self-isolated economically negligible North Korea receiving so much U.S. attention?
Well, because it is uniquely used by China and Russia to annoy their perceived opponents. And like a schoolyard bully taunted by another, said perceived opponents feel constrained to posture and threaten in return for the benefit of their common audience. It is the foreign policy staging of political theater, serving to both distract unhappy citizens of both sides and to justify their compulsory sacrifices. .
This is not to say that there is no real danger in all of this flimflammery, just to point to the reality that danger is not specific to North Korea. Drones once limited to major governments now serve the purposes of drug gangs and individuals; nukes follow that path inevitably, though at a slower pace.
Going forward, the world is always more dangerous, the risks grow with progress; that is one of its costs. Nukes will continue to proliferate, fools and psychopaths will achieve power and what can happen, will happen sooner or lat. That’s just the way it is in our universe.
Governments though, want us to feel that our safety lies in our doing as they wish and providing them whatever they desire, so they downplay dangers that they can’t manage while showcasing those that they do not really fear. That is done so as to scare us into submission. They all do that; it seems to work. Until someone screws up and it breaks down. But that’s a risk worth taking when the lives and treasure at risk belong to the followers, not the leaders.