North Korea’s leader, Kim Jung Un is reported to be a gaming fanatic.
According to those who were once close to Kim, there is nothing he likes better than an evening in front of his computer screen, blowing away virtual enemies, climbing to ever higher levels and degrees of difficulty.
Now the man who has probably the most recognisable face on the planet is taking his gaming talents to new heights in the real world — and in the six years since he assumed absolute power in North Korea after the death of his father, the Great Gamer has consistently outplayed his opponents.
Level One: Constantly berate and threaten the United States and its allies.
Level Two: Show off his armed forces in huge and fantastic parades through his capital, Pyongyang. If paramilitaries are counted, it is estimated that 25 per cent of the country’s population receives regular military training.
Level Three: Develop a nuclear arms capability, ignoring the protests of the wider world.
Level Four: Develop missile capability, ignoring international protests.
Level Five: Explode atomic bomb, ignoring protests etc.
Level Six: Launch test missiles into the surrounding region putting his near neighbours into helpless rage and panic.
Level: Seven: Explode a thermo-nuclear device, four times more powerful than those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. Japan of course is a near neighbour and in the firing line.
What have Kim’s opponents been doing as he progresses through the levels? They have issued cries of outrage, been to the United Nations Security Council on innumerable occasions, issued some trade sanctions with so far fruitless calls for more, while others have made even more fruitless calls for dialogue and negotiation.
There are higher levels in this game, but as far as Kim is concerned it is over. He has won. Of course he has no interest in using the weapons he has acquired, because that would inevitably lead to the end of his regime and the destruction of his country, but he has them, and that is all he needs.
In the weeks, months and probably decades to come, the North Korean dictator will continue to explode a few bombs, launch a few more rockets and make ever more outlandish threats, while the international community will run out of adjectives to describe his behaviour and continue to call for more sanctions at ever more irrelevant Security Council meetings.
We will, at least for a while, continue to see click-bait headlines forecasting doom and destruction. China will continue to call for dialogue while sending its neighbour all the oil it needs to keep its economy running; likewise Russia.
Eventually condemnation fatigue will set in and the world will have to accept there’s another nuclear power to worry about and return to business as usual.
There is one wild card that could upset the equation — the United States President. Donald Trump gets really upset with the way Kim insults him and has issued some very colourful threats about what he is prepared to do.
The feeling in some quarters is that if Kim prods him enough he might explode into action.
But Washington is no stranger to brinkmanship and Trump would find it would never be a case of him just calling up his nuclear codes and pressing the button.
While Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) might not actually be the case in a conflict between the US and North Korea, the devastation that would probably result to its major allies in the area, and the damage to US standing in the world would make such an action unthinkable.
In other words, Trump would be told, gently but firmly, to remove his hand from the trigger.
Not the best outcome for the majority of civilisation that would prefer to live in a world free of nuclear weapons – or at least with an effective means to control them — and certainly not for the North Korean people who must live with their ruthless and uncaring dictator for another 30 years or more.
But in effect, it’s game over.