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Plump 20-something North Korean kid actually pretty goddamn scary, Americans agree

North Korea_mar 8

After repeatedly being told that North Korea simply doesn’t have the capability to fire nuclear-armed missiles at the United States, a majority of Americans went ahead and agreed that North Korea had the capability to fire nuclear-armed missiles at the United States.

It seems like only last March that North Korea struck a deal with the United States to slow down its nuclear program as part of a generous food aid deal (Washington had halted delivery in 2009). Wait a minute; it was last March. If you recall, things were beginning to look up back then. Kim Jong-il was out of the picture (he was dead) and Pyongyang looked poised for a magical transformation (led by a rambunctious and unpredictable 29 year old). Yes he was squishy, but he liked basketball, they said (although it was difficult to imagine him actually playing it). He went to boarding school in Switzerland, for chrissake. Even you didn’t go to boarding school in Switzerland.

Fast forward to now. Still squishy, Kim Jong-un has taken an innovative approach to his country’s relations with the West: just don’t have relations. Sounds good on paper. There was, of course, the April 2012 rocket launch (the rocket broke apart mid-air and fell into the ocean), then another launch in December 2012. And then there was that pesky underground nuclear weapon test in February 2013.

In short, the North has been, well, a prick. There’s no doubting it. That being said, it has been an admirably successful prick; and those, as you know, are generally the worst kind. Whether Pyongyang’s motive is to shore up support for the country’s new leader, or to force the United States and its allies to the bargaining table the regime has ultimately ran a successful public relations campaign, boosting its name, attracting diplomatic attention, and most importantly, scaring Americans–who, let’s be honest, are pretty easy to scare.

Given that North Korea has nuclear weapons, but no feasible way of delivering them to potential targets, it might seem strange to you that a recent poll found that 47 percent of Americans believe that Pyongyang is capable of launching a nuclear missile that can hit the United States, and that another 10 percent said they didn’t know. North Korea doesn’t have missiles capable of reaching the United States. If it did have missiles with long-enough range, it still wouldn’t be able to to make a nuclear bomb small enough to attach as a warhead to a missile. No reason not to be scared of this happening, of course. The fact that something can’t happen should never get in the way of worrying that it might happen.

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