Editorial: The world holds its breath as tensions rise

THIS year’s Anzac Day commemorations come at a time when the spectre of global war arguably looms larger than at any time since the Cold War.

Tensions between some of the world’s most powerful and unpredictable regimes have ratcheted up in recent weeks as the rest of the world watches on with fear.

The United States of America has signalled its intentions that military force is very much on the table when it comes to responding to the actions of rogue leaders.

First it was the launching of 59 Tomahawk missiles at an airbase in Syria where the chemical weapons president Bashar al-Assad use against his own people were said to have originated. Then it was the dropping of the world’s largest non-nuclear bomb on ISIS targets along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. But it is the manner in which the US handles the threat posed by North Korea – a regime beyond evil and beyond barbaric – that is the biggest test.

That US president Donald Trump has no qualifications or experience – and seemingly little knowledge, based on his public utterances – in the foreign policy sphere is a concern. When those three shortcomings are combined with a questionable temperament, there is every reason to look upon this period with trepidation.

The US has long pursued a policy applying pressure on China to use its influence to keep North Korea somewhat under control, relatively speaking. But either China has been unable or unwilling to put a halt to its neighbour’s nuclear ambitions.

Even if the communist country is exaggerating its nuclear capabilities, it seems only a matter of time before it does have the weapons to pose an unacceptable threat to South Korea, Japan and others.

For decades the US has resisted launching pre-emptive strikes against North Korea due to the expectation it would trigger a war claiming upwards of a million civilian lives.

But will the Trump administration, which is dying to flex its military muscles abroad in the wake of embarrassing policy failures at home, have the same patience as its predecessors and stick to the sanctions and diplomacy-based approach? Or will it strike first and wipe North Korea off the map, albeit not before the rogue country unleashes its arsenal of missiles and chemical weapons?

As we use the coming days to remember past conflicts, we can only hope that somehow this war will be avoided.

- Ross Tyson, deputy editor

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