Best columns: International
It’s not a good idea to mock Kim
Global Times (China)
U.S. President Donald Trump does not understand diplomacy in the context of Asia, said the Global Times. When speaking by phone to South Korean President Moon Jae-in last week, Trump called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man” for his habit of testing ever more powerful ballistic missiles. He then used the pejorative name on Twitter for the entire world to see. “It’s probably no big deal to use nicknames in American culture,” but this is not a freewheeling political campaign. It is nuclear diplomacy. In North Korea, mocking the leader is a capital offense. If Kim takes Trump’s throwaway comment as a deliberate insult, “Pyongyang may become more hostile to Washington, adding fuel to the fire of the current confrontation.” And if Trump really did mean to provoke Kim, then his strategy is “definitely neither masterful nor morally justifiable.” The North Korean regime is not an eccentric, unpredictable actor, as Westerners mistakenly think. It has “a classical geopolitical mindset,” believing it can preserve its existence only through military strength. The regime is preoccupied with being respected on the world stage. It is never appropriate for world leaders to engage in name-calling; for Trump and Kim, such behavior could have deadly consequences.
Failing the legacy of Biko
Mail & Guardian
This is not the South Africa Steve Biko would have hoped for, said Jo-Mangaliso Mdhlela. Forty years ago, the Black Consciousness leader was killed by the apartheid government that he so bravely resisted. For nearly a month in 1977, he was “cruelly interrogated” in detention, “manacled, badly beaten, and tortured.” He died in prison at age 30, so young yet having achieved so much. Biko gave the rest of us a vision of freedom, the hope of a new South Africa of opportunity for all. Yet this country falls far short of that ideal. Today, black South Africans still experience oppression “not materially different” from that of apartheid days.
Most of the country’s wealth remains in the hands of the white minority, and more than half of blacks live in abject poverty. Nor are blacks lifting one another up. Biko wrote that we should free one another from oppression and spread happiness. That’s a far cry from what President Jacob Zuma is doing. Zuma’s tenure has been “marked by regression and bad governance and the purging of good men and women in his own party.” He campaigns through smear and innuendo, and he has been charged with corruption, fraud, racketeering, and money laundering. Black rule has not brought equality. Will Biko’s vision ever be realized?