North Korea’s sixth nuclear test occurred within hours of the end of 10 days of US-South Korean military exercises only 30 miles from the North-south border.
Those manoeuvres with 17,500 Us troops together with contingents from Britain, Australia, Colombia and elsewhere went ahead despite pleas from China and Russia not to raise the temperature any further.
The immediate response from President Donald trump was to tweet a stream of bellicose remarks, all of which demonstrated why he is temperamentally unfit to be the “commander-in-chief” of the world’s most powerful armed forces.
In one message, trump declared that “south Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work” because “they” — the North Koreans — “only understand one thing!”
Yesterday, the Us President apparently agreed to proposals drawn up by Us and south Korean military chiefs to take as yet unspecified action against the North.
On Saturday, he had repeated his intention to end the current Us-south Korean free trade agreement, first threatened in July after newly elected south Korean President Moon Jae In called for talks with Pyongyang.
On Friday, trump had promised Moon access to longer-range missiles.
So it is clear that trump and the Pentagon hawks have a preference for war-war rather than jaw-jaw.
Naturally, Britain’s Prime Minister and Foreign secretary rushed to join German Chancellor Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron in one-sided condemnations of North Korea’s “reckless” and “threatening” h-bomb test, while remaining silent about Us belligerence and provocation.
Admittedly, Boris Johnson tempered his comments with a reference to Seoul’s fatal vulnerability to a military attack from the neighbour only 35 miles to its north.
But where are the Western voices of sanity? China and Russia urge caution and multilateral talks to resolve the crisis on the Korean peninsula, which they understand will have to include a formal peace treaty and the removal of Us troops and all nuclear weapons from Korea.
Cancellation of Japan’s substantial rearmament programme would also help ease tensions in the region.
More widely, the world’s nuclear powers should begin to fulfil their Non-Proliferation treaty obligation to work towards the global elimination of nuclear weapons.
Why should North Korea forgo possession of the atom bomb when states such as Britain declare it vital to its own national interests, even to the extent of spending £150 billion on renewing Trident?
The third round of Brexit negotiations finished last week, followed by the customary EU jibes about British light-headed incompetence over the weekend.
This is despite the reality that progress was made between Brexit secretary David Davis, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and their respective teams — or massed army in the latter case — of officials.
While the divorce settlement demanded by the EU was exposed item by item for the financial extortion that it is, agreement was reached on important aspects of citizens’ rights and the Irish border.
What is becoming clearer, however, is that the intransigence is coming mostly from the EU side, with Barnier’s hands tied and his wires being pulled by eU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.
The EU bosses in Brussels, Bonn and Frankfurt want to show other dissident member states that it doesn’t pay to leave their big business club.