William F. Buckley

When Dear Leader sat his counselors down, the radio turned on, instant translator at hand, they listened to hear the repercussions of their bulletin about the nuclear test. Kim Jong Il's thought is never immediately decipherable, even to his intimates. They sat, looking at the screen on which the translations were being shown. There were reports from all over the world. There was a murmur after Tokyo's measured statement of disapproval. But Kim raised his finger and there was instant hush. "Wait," he said, "for Moscow and Peking."

"And, of course, Washington," said his elderly secretary, Ku Hi Sun. She took the liberty of raising her voice every now and then. After all, she had known Kim Jong Il since he was 7 years old. Dear Leader turned his eyes to her for a second, then back to the screen. "Of course. Washington."

At that moment the screen began to reproduce President Bush's short statement. "Give me that later also in English," Kim said to an aide, as they listened.

"... We're working to confirm North Korea's claim." Kim grunted. Others in the room grunted. "Nonetheless, such a claim itself constitutes a threat to international peace and security."

Kim raised his hand. "Freeze."

The projection stopped.

Kim addressed Chun Yang Ha, former ambassador to the United Nations, and expert in the English language. "What does he mean that our 'claim' constitutes a threat to international peace and security?"

"He means, Dear Leader, that so long as we had announced a nuclear test, even if we -- you will forgive me -- had failed actually to execute one, the claim would bring insecurity to the world."

Kim lifted his finger. "Proceed."

The president's speech flashed back on the screen. But after the next sentence, again, "Freeze."

Kim repeated the words they had just heard. "'The United States condemns this provocative act. Once again North Korea has defied the will of the international community, and the international community will respond.'

"Blayim!" His aides gave their well-practiced mini-grunt, combining acquiescence, appreciation, amusement and suspense. They would not, at the scheduled debriefings, repeat the epithet even to their juniors. Dear Leader's emotions were not to be transcribed. He signaled the projectionist to proceed.

William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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