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February 19, 2019

“A screaming comes across the sky”, North Korea

Alykhan Satchu .photo/PATRICK VIDIJA
Alykhan Satchu .photo/PATRICK VIDIJA

Gravity's Rainbow is a 1973 novel by Thomas Pynchon which is about the design, production and dispatch of V-2 rockets by the German military. In particular, it features the quest undertaken by several characters to uncover the secret of a mysterious device named the "Schwarzgerät" (black device), slated to be installed in a rocket with the serial number "00000". As the world watches PyongYang, I cannot help wondering if Kim Jong-Un has read Pynchon which speaks of "A screaming comes across the sky" and North Korea.

“But it is a curve each of them feels, unmistakably. It is the parabola. They must have guessed, once or twice -guessed and refused to believe -that everything, always, collectively, had been moving toward that purified shape latent in the sky, that shape of no surprise, no second chance, no return.''

Last week, in response to enhanced UN sanctions, North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific. The Missile flew over Japan (North Korea is particularly unhappy with Shinzo Abe's Japan and a Spokesman said this "The four islands of the archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche. Japan is no longer needed to exist near us") and 2,000 km, over Hokkaido and was the second to threaten Japan since August 29.

Kim Jong-Un has been precise and calibrated in his response to President Trump who said not too long ago "They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen ... he has been very threatening beyond a normal state. They will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before."

“Our final goal is to establish the equilibrium of real force with the U.S. and make the U.S rulers dare not talk about military option,” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was quoted as saying by the state news agency, KCNA. One of the strategies of the pre-regime change moment has been to demonise the other leader. And front and centre in Kim's mind must be the image of Saddam Hussein being hung by his neck (at approximately 06:00 local time on 30 December 2006, the day of Eid al-Adha) and of Muammar Gaddafi meeting his death after having been sodomised with a bottle. When you view things from Kim the rocket man's perspective, you might appreciate that far from being illogical, he is in fact being ruthlessly logical and he is speaking the language his adversaries understand lucidly. 10 million folks in Seoul just 60 kms from the border, 28,500 US soldiers are all in the line of fire.

There is plenty of myth-making in our new Media Universe (but what is interesting is how singularly effective Putin (in particular) has been in his mission to “break the monopoly of Anglo-Saxon global information streams”) and one of those myths is that Xi Jinping with some cajoling can be made to effect a clean break with PyongYang. Consider that PyongYang is a buffer state between China and the US and that PyongYang is in fact a near perfect (geopolitical) attack dog. The attack dog is not on a Chinese leash but its surely aligned with a resurgent rising China whose aim is to surely eject the US and its allies from what it considers its sphere of influence. Just take a look at the South China seas where the US and its allies have largely capitulated and the US is now left performing some half-hearted and quite forlorn FONOPs once in a blue moon. North Korea by lobbing those missiles over Japan is seeking to prise Japan away from its US alliance, something that China is surely trying to achieve as well. When you look at geopolitical alignment, it is entirely unlikely that the West has anything to offer the Chinese that can compensate them for the loss of their hinterland, buffer and instrument of attack.

“The combat efficiency and reliability of Hwasong-12 were thoroughly verified,” said Kim as quoted by KCNA. Kim added the North’s goal of completing its nuclear force had “nearly reached the terminal”.

What is clear to me is that North Korea has already established the facts on the ground and has a credible nuclear deterrence (something that neither Muammer or Saddam achieved which led directly to their sorry demise).

“For those ... who have been commenting on a lack of a military option, there is a military option,” Mcmaster said, adding that it would not be the Trump administration’s preferred choice. The reality is that the price of the military option is just too high.

War with North Korea is therefore a ''tail risk'' tail risk was thus described by Ben Bernanke as ''really, really bad outcomes." Investors reflexively reach for gold, the Yen and G7 bonds in environments where the ''tail risk'' is elevated.

Kim Jong Un has proved to be very calibrated and precise in his ratcheting higher of his response. For all the bluster, Western powers have now been presented with a Fait Accompli. Kim has skipped into the End-Zone.




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