Of all the dopey countries on the planet, none is dopier than North Korea.
North Korea is one of the poorest nations in the world with a per-capita GDP of about $1,900 per year. According to the CIA's World Factbook that ranks 188th behind such economic powerhouses as Laos, Western Sahara, and Kosovo.
South Korea's per-capita GDP, by comparison, is $28,000 (49th in the world). I won't make you look it up; the per-capita GDP of the United States is $46,400.
One of the reasons North Korea's populations hovers on the brink of starvation is because the central government, led by His Dopiness Kim Jong Il, spends every available won (the unit of currency) on its military: service members, arms, ships, planes, missiles and, of course, nukes.
As you may remember, on March 26, 2010, the South Korean warship "Cheonan" was attacked and sunk by what most of the world believes was a torpedo launched from a North Korean submarine. Forty six sailors died in the attack.
A couple of weeks ago, the United Nations condemned the sinking, without (acceding to the demands of China) condemning the sinker.
The United States Navy in conjunction with naval forces of the Republic of South Korea decided to hold a joint combat exercise off the coast of the Korean peninsula to show the North Koreans that the U.S. and South Korea are taking that kind of provocation (diplomat-speak for "act of war") seriously.
We are, in a very real sense, wagging a finger under the nose of North Korea.
The South Koreans doing a little finger wagging of their own, under the protection of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. George Washington and its battle group, claimed that these exercises were "not defensive training" according to the Washington Post.
Times reporters John M. Glionna and Ju-min Park wrote yesterday that these were were no small-scale maneuvers. The exercises "feature about 20 vessels, including the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier George Washington which left port just after dawn Sunday, shadowed by hundreds of U.S. and South Korean fighter jets." They report nearly 8,000 U.S. and South Korean military personnel are involved as are, for the first time, F-22 Raptors - the newest stealth fighters in the U.S. arsenal - which will operate in South Korean airspace.
Not to be outdone, the North Koreans announced that if the U.S. went through with these military exercises it would signal the need for a "retaliatory sacred war" which included, according to the LA Times, "putting its military and residents on high alert."
New York Times' reporter Choe Sang-Hun added North Korea had "vowed to counter these 'largest-ever nuclear war exercises' with its own 'powerful nuclear deterrence.'" Thus, wagging a nuclear finger under the joint noses of the U.S. and South Korea.
Originally the exercises were to take place near the site of the sinking - in international waters off the western coast of North Korea. That area of the Yellow Sea happens to also be off the eastern coast of China so, after some big-time grumbling by Beijing the exercises were switched to the east coast of the Korean peninsula (which is off the west coast of Japan, but Japan doesn't appear to care much).
That grumbling was codified into some Chinese finger wagging by the newspaper China Daily which described the Yellow sea as "a sea stripe between China and the Korean Peninsula" and quoted the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry saying,
"We sternly oppose activities that affect China's security by foreign military vessels or aircraft at the Yellow Sea or in China's offshore waters."
With all these fingers wagging, everyone's interests are being served:
-- South Korea will show North Korea it is under the protection of the United States;
-- The United States will show the world it is still the good guy when it comes to calling out rogue states like North Korea;
-- North Korea will show the world that it won't be cowed by the United States; and,
-- China gets to continue to demonstrate why it, and not Japan, is the country to be reckoned with in the region.
Let's just pray those fingers keep wagging and none get wrapped around a trigger.