Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Threat over horizon seems over the hill

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BRISBANE -- Australians living in the nation's far north have been gazing at the horizon in recent weeks and contemplating the arrival of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The Northern Territory capital, Darwin, has been credibly identified as a target if North Korea's Kim Jong Un's trigger finger gets more than just itchy.

Curiosity got the better of the local newspaper The Northern Territory News, which set about identifying the model of missile that could be dispatched to annihilate the charming tropical enclave.

According to journalist Nigel Adlam, it's the Taepodong-2, which could make the 6,000-kilometre journey, clear the Arafura Sea and perhaps explode somewhere around the delightfully named Fannie Bay.

But it's clear they'd need a 21st-century Annie Oakley in Pyongyang in order to score a bull's-eye.

They'll need a lotto luck to jag a hit, was the cheery headline above Nigel's piece which, without quoting official diplomatic sources, subtly suggested Darwin is not facing so much a Bay of Pigs as a Pigs Might Fly scenario.

"I hope this doesn't affect property prices,'' wrote one droll Territory reader.

The threat of nuclear annihilation, it would seem, doesn't make us wet our pants the way it used to, and not because the prospect has become less likely.

It's simply become less fashionable since the heady days of the 1960s when the mushroom cloud was odds-on favourite in the Doomsday stakes. Since then, fission has fizzled in popular appeal along with those four horsemen as the Book of Revelations updates its resume with more intriguing plot lines, like global warming or an asteroid strike.

There's also serious casting problems with the present crisis, which robs it of authenticity.

The 1961 Cuban drama had great location and starred the handsome, resolute JFK up against a Soviet villain straight from an Austin Powers movie. It also gave us the love interest in the bewitchingly beautiful Jackie Kennedy.

In this version, we've lost the bristling machismo of Castro, Barack Obama looks (as always) like the calm adjudicator at a university debating competition, and the smooth youthful face of Kim Jong Un has none of Khrushchev's gruff gravitas.

Kim's southern neighbour, South Korea, has done little to sharpen up his attempt to present himself (as Robert Oppenheimer might say) as "a destroyer of worlds."

A young Korean male can't hope to threaten the extirpation of the human race when there's a reasonable expectation he'll don Super Ciccio Black Gold sunglasses and launch into a Gangnam Style-style dance routine.

And there's no doubt anyone who launched a nuclear attack on such a convivial people as the Australians simply because of military links with the U.S. would have mental health issues.

Australians, when referring to mental illness in a compatriot, are often heard to express a sympathetic concern they have a "few kangaroos loose in their top paddock.''

Yet Kim Jong Un is clearly well balanced -- a sensible bloke who likes basketball, received a fine education in a Swiss school and is no doubt proud of a genealogy including grandpa Kim II Sung, who apparently created the world.

Kim Jong Un is at least as sane as his dad Kim Jong Il, whose top paddock kangaroos were so firmly tethered he could apparently control the weather according to his moods.

While Prime Minister Julia Gillard was visiting China (perhaps the globe's safest address at this juncture in international affairs), former prime minister John Howard, whose sober views have made him a comforting grandfather figure, reassured us we have little to fear.

What's going on in North Korea is little more than adolescent foolishness, Howard said, adding disquietingly the only problem with adolescent foolishness is it could lead to nasty accidents.


Michael Madigan is the Winnipeg Free Press correspondent in Australia. He writes mostly about politics for the Brisbane-based Courier Mail.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 12, 2013 A12

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