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North Korea

Kim Jong-Un's Sabre-Rattling And The First Lesson Of The Cold War

Nuclear arms are more shield than weapon, so long as no one is suicidal.

Heading into trouble?
Heading into trouble?
Dietrich Alexander


BERLIN - The world better get used to it: North Korea is a nuclear power and will remain one. Dictator Kim Jong-un has drawn the main lesson from the Cold War – a country with nuclear weapons will not be attacked.

That doesn’t, however, mean that North Korea can act any way it wants. Even a destitute state plagued with existential supply needs and a hopelessly outdated infrastructure has to observe certain rules, like not crossing their powerful – and only – ally, China.

Beijing expressed “regret” over North Korea’s plans to restart its Yongbyon nuclear reactor, which – allowing for the diplomatic phrasing – is a clear statement. Pyongyang should already have taken notice when China voted in the United Nations Security Council for stricter sanctions against the Stalinist country.

Kim Jong-un must avoid overstepping the mark. The ruler of this immature, pre-modern society is rattling the saber for show on the world stage while behind the scenes he attempts to remodel a country, particularly economically, that so far as not benefitted from globalization.

Kim may suffer from delusions of grandeur, and may be an incurable autocrat even as he suffers from myriad inferiority complexes – but one thing he’s not is suicidal. He wants to save his “dynasty” as he steers his country into the modern era – transforming the country while retaining power. And because they too stand to lose a lot if they don’t, most of the North Korean apparatchiks will go along with him.

However, for that transition to happen without popular uprisings, or indeed a revolution, he needs to keep up the bellicosity towards the outside “enemy.” That there is no enemy is not something the people of North Korea can know – for generations, all they’ve only known is what the Kim dynasty has told them.

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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