Just over a month after moving its ballistic missiles to a launch site in the direction of the United States, the North Korean is pulling back and removing two Musudan missiles from launch ready status. One anonymous U.S. official told Reuters "that the missiles were still mobile and the fact that they had been moved was no guarantee they would not be set up elsewhere and fired at some point." Another said that the U.S. believes that the missiles have been taken to a "non-operational location," not another launch site. And a third corroborated the claims. In other words, North Korea is retreating.
This is great news for everybody. Seriously everybody in the entire world. In those tense days of late March and early April, when North Korea was moving missiles and preparing nuclear tests and pissing off Japan, it became increasingly clear that if the situation escalated, the free world might find itself at war with a nuclear-ready regime run but a basketball-loving young leader who still has that new despot smell. Secretary of State John Kerry told Kim Jong Un and his cronies that even testing North Korea's missiles would be a "huge mistake."
That was around the time that North Korea named Tokyo as its number one target, a threat that did not go over well with the U.S. "The bottom line is very simply that what Kim Jong Un has been choosing to do is provocative, it is dangerous, reckless and the US will not accept the DPRK as a nuclear state," Kerry said. "And I reiterate again the US will do what is necessary to defend ourselves and defend our allies, Korea and Japan. We are fully prepared and capable of doing that and the DPRK understands that."
Well, hopefully we're not jinxing things by taking the optimistic point of view here, but it looks like North Korea is finally calming down — though one U.S. official warned that it would be "premature to celebrate it as good news." But it's certainly not bad news. It's also hard not to connect the shifting intimidation tactics with the recent sentencing of Kenneth Bae, an American citizen recently sentenced to 15 years in a North Korean prison camp. Just a few hours before the missile news, the country's state-run media floated a report that suggested the regime planned to use Bae "as a political bargaining chip."
At this point, the propaganda is so deep, it's hard to breathe. Do take the Bae threat seriously and try to engage with the regime? Do we send more warships over to the peninsula, guns hot, or double down on the intimidating military exercises with the South Korean army? Do we bluff and start paying more attention to the Syrian conflict, where attention is due? Do we stay scared?
How about none of the above? The best thing to do at a time like this, when you're not sure how crazy North Korea is acting, is to revisit the wonderful day that Korean Central News Agency reported that they'd found a secret unicorn lair — or rather the lair of a unicorn-like mythical creature. It's always encouraging to realize that you've got a firmer grasp on reality than your enemy.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.