The Great Sea Gate Contest

The Great Sea Gate Contest

The current push by China to control the world’s seaways is but part of a massive change in the world order.

Not many years ago, Britain ruled the global seaways and controlled virtually every strategic sea gate on the planet.

The miraculous victories of the British nation vanquishing the Spanish Armada in 1588 and sinking the cream of the combined French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar in 1805 opened the way for Britain to be gifted these assets.

After World War i, however, Britain’s ability to maintain these great sea gates vastly diminished. By the end of World War ii, Britain, exhausted with war weariness, its economy in tatters, the cream of its crop of young, up-and-coming leaders sacrificed largely in those two great battles, had started to yield up its vast empire—on which, it was once said, the sun never set. Within two decades, Britain had virtually given away its vast imperial holdings and yielded up control of every strategic sea gate, with three specific exceptions: Hong Kong, Gibraltar, and the Falkland Islands.

When Argentina attempted to seize the Falklands from Britain in 1982, the feisty Margaret Thatcher, prime minister at the time, would have none of it. Dispatching a British naval force to the rescue, Britain defeated the Argentinean incursion to retain control of its southernmost sea gate.

In 1997, however, under Prime Minister John Major’s administration, Britain did yield control to mainland China of another of those sea gates. Over two centuries, Britain had transformed this once barren rocky outcrop into a thriving port city, a financial hub and great trading crossroads between East and West: the city and territory of Hong Kong. The old British Empire’s last outpost in the Far East ceased to exist as such with the consequent withdrawal of its last official British Commonwealth-appointed governor, Chris Patten.

Pressure now mounts on Britain to hand over iconic Gibraltar, one of the last great remaining symbols of the old empire—and all that stands in the way of the monolithic European Union from sewing up control of the Mediterranean gateway to the Atlantic Ocean and that which lies beyond.

Since the close of the Cold War, with the collapse of the once vast Soviet political, economic and military system, the United States has struggled to maintain some semblance of global order and security as the world continues to shake itself into a new geopolitical structure. That American power is on the wane should be obvious to astute observers. That the EU, the Iranian-led Islamic states, Russia and China each have an agenda to become influential in creating a new world order is glaringly apparent to the most sensible analysts of the global scene.

As to the future of this present struggle for world dominance, even the very best of commentators, the sharpest of minds in our think tanks, cannot see it. But there is a way to comprehend the stupendous nature of its eventual outcome.

Take just one current example, involving the seaways of the Far East.

Stratfor reported October 19, “The U.S. Marine Corps will participate in unprecedented exercises with the Sri Lankan Navy at the end of October, deploying more than 1,000 Marines and large support ships to drill with the Sri Lankan armed forces on amphibious and counterinsurgency operations. Coincidentally, the exercise is occurring on beaches in Hambantota—precisely where the Chinese are planning to build oil and bunker facilities.

“The United States has a large interest in Sri Lanka. On a strategic level, the island sits on some of the most important shipping lanes in the world near many geopolitical hotspots, and has one of the finest ports in the world, Trincomalee” (emphasis ours).

Ruled by Britain from the 19th century through the period of the empire’s greatness, India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) were decolonized in 1947-48. A great, strategic gateway—a crossroad guarding the sea traffic flowing from Europe through Suez, from the oil-rich Middle East to Southeast Asia—was thus lost to Britain.

As a consequence, since the end of the Cold War—with China looming as a future economic and military giant in the region, Islam having heavily penetrated Asia southward to the Philippines and Indonesia—the U.S. has maintained a presence in the area. Stratfor points out, “Significant geographical factors—such as the Himalayan Mountains and thousands of miles of jungle—prevent India and China from having any real disputes. However, the countries share a common naval frontier near the Strait of Malacca and Singapore. The United States, with Indian assistance, intends to maintain the Indian Ocean as its own strategic waterway” (ibid.).

In this intention, the U.S. stands to be roundly defeated in the not-too-distant future, as Britain was before it.

The legacy of the British loss of Asia’s most strategic sea gates is now haunting U.S. geo-strategists as they struggle to maintain a balance in the contest between two nuclear powers—India and China—for control of the crucial East Asian sea gates. Meanwhile, another potential nuclear power, Japan, looks on worriedly, contemplating its options.

As we have repeatedly pointed out, China’s long-term strategy is to possess the world’s primary sea gates in order to dominate control of the world’s sea trade. China has largely accomplished the first goal, and is now busy building new port facilities, and further developing those that exist, at strategic locations around the world in preparation for fulfilling the second goal.

According to Stratfor, “China’s intrusion into the area by building ports at Gwadar in Pakistan, in Myanmar and now possibly in Bangladesh irks New Delhi. Thus, it is no coincidence that the exact area of the U.S.-Sri Lankan exercises is Hambantota, the very harbor that China announced it would begin developing for Colombo in 2005. … Hutchison Ports Holdings [is also planning to] commence operations on port projects at Mumbai and Chennai” (ibid.).

But Stratfor’s excellent vision of present-day reality struggles to comprehend just what will be the outcome of this Asian sea gate scenario: “Whatever Washington’s reasons for the exercises, the maneuvers could not happen without India’s permission. … India cannot risk offending its own sizable Tamil minority if there is not a substantial reward involved. In this case, the reward is the chance to send a targeted message to one particular country with the U.S.-Sri Lankan exercises: China.”

That certainly is the intention of both the U.S. and India. Such an exercise suits the power goals of both—for the moment. But it’s with the longer-term outlook where human reasoning finds its limits: “Chinese President Hu Jintao’s upcoming visit, during India’s National Day, will give both sides a chance to mend some fences, but the U.S. Marine Corps exercises reveal a deeper geopolitical reality: The United States and India will not tolerate Chinese expansion, especially into the Indian Ocean” (ibid.).

Nevertheless, biblical prophecy indicates that it will be China, with India and greater Asia in support, that will eventually win out in this great contest for supremacy on the high seas. The Bible records a very specific prophecy that the U.S. and Britain would possess the strategic sea gates of the world, only to later lose them. (That the British and American peoples are descendants of the patriarch Abraham through his grandson Joseph is proved in our book The United States and Britain in Prophecy.) This collision of interests between the U.S. and China is quite prophetic, in the biblical sense, for it could never have happened without the prophecies of the loss of these strategic sea gates becoming a historic fact.

Believe it or not, the ultimate intention of China and these other Asian nations will, in the future, be to cooperate with Russia, and with certain Islamic states—even, albeit temporarily, with the greatest trading entity on Earth, the European Union, itself now dependent on friendship with China to maintain open access to the world’s ports. Why? To produce lockdown on the U.S., Britain and its old English-speaking dominions!

Your Bible prophesies of a time in the not-too-distant future when these nations will be locked out of all trade with all other nations! Read it for yourself in Deuteronomy 28:49-52.

And the reason for Almighty God rendering such an outcome on Abraham’s descendants? “Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies …” (verses 47-48).

But take heart! For the corollary of this is, if we turn and obey Almighty God, He will forgive us—and none of these curses for rebellion against Him will come upon us (Isaiah 1:18-19).

That is an outcome that no think tank can promise you.

Europeans Searching for Political Alternatives

Europeans Searching for Political Alternatives

In Belgian local elections on October 8, a Flemish far-right party won 20 percent of the vote nationwide, and almost 33 percent in the city of Antwerp. Though a particularly stunning result, countries across Europe, to greater or lesser degrees, are seeing a resurgence of neo-Nazi parties. Emanuele Ottolenghi wrote for National Review Online (October 19; emphasis ours):

[T]hese electoral returns reflect a larger European phenomenon: After decades at the margins of political life, extreme right-wing parties are making strong gains across the continent. Despite the fact that their historical roots are oftentimes buried deep in Europe’s dark historical legacy, they enjoy the support of an electorate, which, apart from a small hard-core of loyal voters, is moderate in its political views.

Clearly most Europeans are not eager to don jackboots and embrace neo-Nazi dogma. So why such electoral gains by far-right parties? What is the appeal of these parties? Ottolenghi asks,

Why are increasing numbers of decent, moderate, law-abiding and overall tolerant citizens of Europe voting for parties that have an extreme past, a militant rhetoric, and a political agenda that is sometimes dubious, sometimes ambiguous, and never entirely committed to liberal democratic values?

Ottolenghi puts it down to the increasing concern of Europeans over Muslim immigration: “The answer is a growing anxiety among the public for the future of Europe in light of the growth of Muslim communities on the continent.”

Europeans are worried about where their continent is headed. They fear a gradual, unremitting Muslim offensive that will destroy European identity and also cost them economically. Muslim acts of violence resulting from the Danish cartoon incident and more recently Pope Benedict xvi’s speech confirm the fears of many Europeans. For many, Muslim attacks on embassies, churches, priests and nuns—and anyone who dares speak out against Islam—not to mention the spread of Islamic rituals such as honor killings, are “a sign that a strong response is in high order” (ibid.).

If they vote for the extremists, it is not necessarily because they have become extreme, but because the parties at the political center, which should best interpret this anxiety and give it concrete political expression, are paralyzed by political correctness, fear of antagonizing a growing Muslim electorate, or simply too naive to understand what is at stake. On the left, things are no better. …[W]here elites and intellectuals see multiculturalism, electoral support, and revolutionary zeal, an increasing number of people see a threat to their national values, heritage, and culture, not to mention jobs and resources. After all, it is the lower-middle class and the working class that compete with immigrants for jobs, welfare benefits, and cheap housing. It is among those classes that the sense of national belonging and religious devotion are still at their strongest. … [T]he cultural and religious dimension of this clash only compound the phenomenon.

This is another sign that Europe is beginning to cry out for strong leadership and solutions, making it ripe for the rise of a demagogue. It also shows how easily, given the right political and economic circumstances, a populace can embrace extremism, or a dictator. European history—even relatively recent history—is full of such examples.

As Ottolenghi warned,

Europe after all has a historical precedent it would be foolish to ignore: In the 1920s, the political center gradually lost power—and control of the situation—under the double assault of left-wing and right-wing extremisms. Back then that situation was largely dependent on a drastic economic downturn, which only intensified the ideological struggle. …The recent Belgian elections are but a warning. More is to come.

Muslims Create “Intifada”—in France

Muslims Create “Intifada”—in France

Twelve months on from the devastating riots that plunged France into a state of emergency, the Muslim immigrant populations in parts of the country remain as volatile as ever. A surge of violent attacks against police in France’s housing estates have engendered warnings of an undeclared intifada, or uprising, with fears of worse to come.

France’s Interior Ministry reports that so far this year nearly 2,500 officers have been wounded in violent clashes. This month alone, Muslims have sparked three major clashes in Paris suburbs, including an incident where three officers were set upon by a mob of around 50 young people with stones, steel bars and a gun, resulting in one of the officers being hospitalized.

The level and intensity of attacks, taking place in low-income housing estates with large populations of immigrant Muslim youth, have led Michel Thoomis, the secretary general of the Action Police trade union, to demand that officers be provided with armored cars in certain areas. “We are in a state of civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists,” he said earlier this month. “This is not a question of urban violence any more, it is an intifada, with stones and Molotov cocktails. You no longer see two or three youths confronting police, you see whole tower blocks emptying into the streets to set their ‘comrades’ free when they are arrested.” The police union asserts that the estates are becoming no-go zones.

The number of attacks has increased by a third in the last two years, and is still rising. In September, Muslims unleashed 480 attacks on police and other officials, a 30 percent increase over August. “There has been a change over the past month. It’s like they want to kill,” said Bruno Beschizza of police union Synergie.

The mood in many parts of France is such that a repeat of something on the scale of last year’s three-week rampage, which spread to hundreds of French towns and cost $500 million, could be sparked by a single incident such as the death of a rioter or police officer.

However, “one of the biggest sources of dynamite,” in the words of the New Zealand Herald, is the upcoming presidential election campaign. Interior minister and presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy advocates harsh measures to deal with such violence. “With the vote only six months away, Sarkozy has declared the ‘cleanup’ of the suburbs as his rallying cry, and is stepping up high-profile snatch operations and patrols by crs riot police and gendarmes” (October 19).

The ongoing unrest and violence in France illustrates the failure of immigrant Muslim populations in Europe to integrate. The result will be further alienation of Muslims, and increased support for those political parties that promise solutions. The increasing popularity of far-right parties across Europe demonstrates that Europeans are starting to get fed up with the inaction of the mainstream parties. When Europe does eventually go after the Muslim problem in force, the current violence in French housing estates will pale into insignificance.

U.S. Weakness: Perception and Reality

U.S. Weakness: Perception and Reality

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North Korea is not the only nation that perceives the U.S. to be weak. With upcoming congressional elections likely to weaken President Bush, we can expect America’s global leverage to decline.

Why did North Korea choose this moment to test a nuclear weapon? One cannot discount the fact that it calculated—correctly—that the United States would not respond in a threatening manner. Pyongyang took advantage of the fact that, basically, Washington is too preoccupied with other crises.

Militarily, the U.S.’s commitment in Iraq is soaking up most of its resources. Iran and a host of other headaches also have Washington searching for remedies.

On top of these problems is America’s internal politics. As midterm congressional elections approach, an already weak and divided U.S. government has been thrown into turmoil with scandals and rifts: a leaked intelligence document containing a bad forecast for Iraq; a book containing revelations unfavorable to President Bush; a scandal involving a Republican representative sending salacious e-mails to teenaged congressional pages.

Many view these highly publicized events as evidence that President Bush is losing control of his government. That perception, whether or not it is grounded in reality, can have serious consequences, even globally.

On October 3, Dr. George Friedman of Stratfor wrote, “[T]he perception that Bush’s administration is imploding can have a significant impact on his ability to execute his foreign policy because of how foreign nations will behave. The perception of disarray generates a perception of weakness. The perception of weakness encourages foreign states to take advantage of the situation”—which is exactly what North Korea has done.

There is a real possibility America will not be able to recover from this perception of weakness—and that the window of opportunity it opens for hostile foreign states will remain open indefinitely.

Apart from several months in 2001-2002, President Bush has enjoyed control of both houses of Congress throughout his presidency. It is highly likely that this may change after congressional elections on November 7. Analysts say these elections may leave Bush a lame-duck president. “[I]f the elections go the way pollsters and pundits predict,” writes the Washington Post, “that would be the end of George W. Bush’s presidency as he has known it” (October 18).

A survey conducted earlier this month indicated that in the nation’s 48 most hotly contested House districts (consisting mostly of Republican seats), 51 percent of voters intend to support Democrats, while just 40 percent say they’ll vote for Republicans. The Republican Party’s approval ratings are at an all-time low, with Bush’s approval ratings languishing in the 30 percent range.

If the Democrats were to win both the House of Representatives and the Senate (though unlikely), “they could reshape U.S. policies and take them beyond the White House’s control,” writes Friedman. “And if the Democrats win only one chamber, they could block White House initiatives and throw the government into gridlock, leaving foreign powers with a two-year window of opportunity to press their own agendas” (October 10).

Of course, a well-timed event that puts President Bush in a favorable light—particularly a further decline in gasoline prices—could swing votes in the Republicans’ favor. But, should the Republicans lose the House of Representatives as anticipated, we can expect the increasingly bold rogue nations of Iran and North Korea to become even more brash, taking their chances to expand their spheres of influence and pursue their national goals. At the same time, more neutral—or, more subtly hostile—countries around the world will pursue their national interests with even less thought of any repercussions from the U.S.

If President Bush finds his hands tied now—by a strapped military, political infighting and low public approval ratings—how much more will his ability to affect policies in the global community be constrained if he loses control of Congress? Over the past two years, even while enjoying a Republican congressional majority, the president has struggled to win support for his policies.

The perception of American weakness is unlikely to disappear any time soon. America’s global clout is wearing thin: Tied up in Iraq, America no longer has the military options to back up its diplomatic initiatives. As a result, more and more, nations are just not taking the U.S. seriously. With little fear of repercussion, countries around the world can ignore verbal threats or coercion by the U.S.

North Korea, with its taunting of America’s commitment to not tolerate its gaining of nuclear weapons, is not the only nation acting on the perception that America is weak. Iran’s current foreign policy is more or less based on this perception. From its instigation of the Israeli-Hezbollah war and Shiite violence in Iraq in recent months to its intransigence with regard to its nuclear program, Iran is betting on American inaction. Even now, reports suggest Iran could instigate a major attack on U.S. forces in Iraq to further hurt Bush in the congressional elections. “Since the Iranians believe the United States lacks the will and ability to try regime change from the air, Tehran is in a position to strike without putting itself at risk” (Stratfor, op. cit.).

A less attention-getting example was a recent crisis in Georgia—a close U.S. ally—in which Russia blockaded the nation, in total defiance of America’s wishes. “The Russians do not fear U.S. responses. The United States needs the possibility of Russian backing on issues involving North Korea and Iran. … However slim the chance of real Russian collaboration might be, the United States can’t afford to provoke Moscow. The Russians are not concerned about U.S. responses to their behavior; they see themselves as having a degree of freedom of action that they lacked when the United States was in a stronger position” (Stratfor, op. cit.).

Nothing at present suggests the possibility for a turnaround in this state of affairs. Each time a country thumbs its nose as the U.S. and gets away with it, a dangerous precedent is set. And the danger goes beyond the boost of confidence it gives America’s enemies.

The more a nation is perceived as weak, the more difficult it is for it to gain allies. Considering that many of America’s allies today have been to one degree or another coerced into supporting the U.S.—whether for their own gain, protection against regional enemies or lack of options—as soon as the risks outweigh the benefits, America could find itself becoming even lonelier on the world scene. At the least, the cost of attracting allies will increase. Take Saudi Arabia, for example, a vital oil-producing state in the Middle East that America sorely needs on its side not only for stable oil prices but in its fight against terrorism. If Riyadh were to lose faith in America’s ability to protect it, it would be forced to rethink its alliance with the U.S.

Obviously, the perception that the U.S. is weak is enough to cause it untold problems. But is it just perception—or is it reality?

Dr. Friedman has a grim answer to that question. “If the United States is seen as a loser,” he wrote, “it will become a loser. … We believe that, in the end, reality governs perception. … And if the Republicans lose the upcoming elections, the perception that Bush lacks the plans and political power needed for decisive action will become the reality” (op. cit.).

Back in November 2003, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote, “President Bush said that terrorist attacks come, not because of our strength, but because we are perceived to be weak. But it is more than a perception of weakness. We are weak. We must face reality if we are ever to correct that problem.”

That reality is, the nation of America—a descendant of one of the birthright tribes of ancient Israel—is under a curse, a curse of weakness. God foretold this in Leviticus 26:19-20: “And I will break the pride of your power … And your strength shall be spent in vain ….” Our article “Weakness in Victory,” along with Herbert W. Armstrong’s book The United States and Britain in Prophecy, elaborates on why this curse is upon America.

Internet Addiction a Problem in U.S.

Internet Addiction a Problem in U.S.

More than one in eight American adults shows signs of Internet addiction, according to a new study. Those signs include spending an inordinate amount of time each week on non-work-related Internet use, hiding Internet use from a partner, and using the Internet as a form of escape.

Of more than 2,500 respondents to a phone survey, nearly 14 percent said staying away from the Internet for several days is difficult; nearly 6 percent believe their Internet usage hurts their relationships.

The October issue of CNS Spectrums: The International Journal of Neuropsychiatric Medicine reported on the study:

United States household Internet penetrance has reached 74%, with the number of active Internet users continuing to grow. However, a problematic side of this new tool is emerging. Accumulating data point to a growing number of individuals for whom the medium becomes a consuming habit with significant negative consequences for their personal and professional lives. Preliminary phenomenological studies of this problem have described the typical affected individual as a college-educated single white male in his fourth decade, with substantial psychiatric comorbidity, who spends ~30 hours/week on computer use that is not essential to his work or well being, resulting in significant subjective distress and functional impairment. E-mail, chat rooms, auction houses, gambling casinos, the “blogosphere,” and pornography sites are only a few of the Internet venues that have been associated with problematic use.

This says a typical afflicted person, a college-educated single white male in his 30s, spends around 30 hours a week on non-essential Internet use—over four hours a day—and suffers “significant” problems as a result. So there are likely far greater percentages of Internet users who spend less time online yet still exhibit some addiction-related qualities, but who largely do not register in this study. The report continues:

Problematic Internet use—variably termed Internet addiction, compulsive computer use, compulsive Internet use, pathological Internet use, “internetomania,” and computer addiction—shares features with the impulse control disorders recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV): The affected user experiences a repetitive, intrusive urge to perform an act that is pleasurable in the moment but that causes subsequent distress or functional impairment.

The study cited a 2002 survey in which 6 out of 10 American companies had disciplined employees for misusing the Internet, and over 30 percent had fired employees for that reason.

According to the lead author of the study, Elias Aboujaoude, problematic online usage takes many forms. DailyTech reported,

“Not surprisingly, online pornography and, to some degree, online gambling, have received the most attention—but users are as likely to use other sites, including chat rooms, shopping venues and special-interest websites,” [Aboujaoude] said. “Our survey did not track what specific Internet venues were the most frequented by respondents, but other studies, and our clinical experience, indicate that pornography is just one area of excessive Internet use.”

In a bbcarticle, Aboujaoude was quoted as saying, “The issue is starting to be recognized as a legitimate object of clinical attention, as well as an economic problem, given that a great deal of non-essential Internet use takes place at work.”

The Internet has opened up unprecedented resources for research and human connectivity, but, like all technology, it comes with dangers. Scripture enjoins, “Let your moderation be known unto all men” (Philippians 4:5). Allowing ourselves to fritter away hours in worthless—or worse, destructive—pursuits is failing to obey the biblical command to “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

What North Korea’s Nuclear Test Exposed About Our World

What North Korea’s Nuclear Test Exposed About Our World

PhotoSpin

The second of two articles exploring the ramifications of Kim Jong Il’s introduction into the nuclear club

North Korea’s detonation of a nuclear bomb last week revealed much about the present state of global geopolitics. Yesterday we discussed three unsavory truths unveiled by this important development. Here we look at two more.

One: The United States is so militarily and tactically stretched that it cannot handle new threats.

The United States is in a state of crisis overload. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are absorbing far more money, manpower and resources than the U.S. ever expected to expend on them. A volatile Iran and several other smaller emergencies also command attention: Israel, the make-up of the UN Security Council, Venezuela, Cuba, immigration and so on. Don’t even mention the looming congressional elections.

Certainly one must acknowledge that Kim Jong Il figured U.S. overstretch into his calculus in choosing his moment to detonate a nuclear weapon. As Dr. George Friedman described it, his nation decided this was “the perfect time to jerk Washington’s chain” (October 10).

The success of Kim’s gamble is reflected in the weakness of Washington’s response, which to this point has amounted to little more than fussy condemnations. President Bush has explicitly stated, “We have no intention of attacking North Korea.”

As Fraser Nelson wrote in The Business on October 13, “Three years ago, President Bush said that he ‘would not tolerate’ a nuclear North Korea—exactly the same form of words he uses for Iran now. But on Monday, the president moved the goalposts. He said it would be a ‘grave threat’ if North Korea were to sell its nukes to anyone else. A nuclear North Korea, it seems, will be tolerated after all.

“This is the lesson for Iran: Dictators with the bomb are treated differently to those without it.”

Friedman explained the problem facing Washington: “[T]he military reality on the ground in Iraq severely constrains U.S. options around the world. That, in turn, constrains U.S. diplomacy. Diplomacy without even the distant possibility of military action is impotent” (op. cit.). It is possible that Kim, in his megalomania, believes the U.S. is poised and ready to attack his nation on a moment’s notice. Realistically, however, it isn’t feasible. Already, in order to bolster its presence in the Middle East, the U.S. has reduced its force on the Korean Peninsula. Supposed superpower status notwithstanding, its options regarding North Korea are extraordinarily limited.

Critics excoriate the Bush administration for its “unilateral” handling of the Iraq threat, which is perceived to have created the unwinnable situation that nation is in today. To whatever degree this view may be correct, North Korea illustrates the difficulties posed by the opposite approach—rigid multilateralism.

Dr. Friedman continued, “North Korea is a perfect example of what multilateral diplomacy without a unilateral military option looks like: The United States has recruited Russia, China, Japan and South Korea for diplomatic initiatives with North Korea as it partnered with Russia and European powers for dealings with Iran. Since the interests of these powers diverge, the possibility of concerted action, even on sanctions, simply does not exist. Since the possibility of unilateral action by the United States also does not exist, neither North Korea nor Iran need take the diplomatic initiatives seriously. And they don’t” (ibid.).

Unable to respond to any new threats militarily, America can only talk tough. But its bluff is being called. North Korea’s nuclear test has clearly exposed just how overstretched the U.S. has become. This fact is far from being lost on other nations, including Iran, Russia, China and Germany.

This reality has enormous implications. It appears the days of America being able to maintain the status quo in international relations are past—and no signs exist that it can ever recover this ability. The door is thus open for other nations, or coalitions of nations, to begin to assert their wills and act aggressively in their own interests.

This portends dramatic changes in the world order, economically, politically, militarily.

Whatever direction this geopolitical restructuring takes, clearly it will be radically different from what we see today.

Two: Asia is likely to accelerate its arms race.

Russia, China and Japan are three powers on the rise, increasingly pushing their presence internationally. Kim Jong Il’s nuclear test provides a pretext for accelerating their military endeavors.

After the nuclear test, Japan said it did not want a nuclear weapon, having personally witnessed its horrors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War ii. Government officials referred to their dependence upon American promises to retaliate against any foe that would attack their nation.

But with the United States preoccupied elsewhere, the Japanese must consider this deterrent shaky at best. The debate over whether Japan should have nuclear weapons capability is back. In the wake of North Korea’s test, Shoichi Nakagawa, head of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council, advised reigniting the national discussion over the question. Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso yesterday reinforced the notion, calling for a national debate. This only adds to talk in recent months on the same subject, a sign of what many Japanese view as the tenuous nature of their alliance with Washington.

Japan’s new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, says he sees his country under direct threat from North Korea and has spoken of the need to speed up plans for a missile defense shield.

China and Russia, both nuclear powers themselves, do not see a serious threat in even a nuclear-armed North Korea, which is why their efforts to contain the threat have been all talk, little action. But both powers appear bent on maximizing the discomfort the U.S. experiences over the situation, further squeezing out its presence in their part of the world.

If anything, North Korea’s new nuclear status only highlights the profound differences between America’s national interests and those of Russia and China.

All of the realities uncovered by North Korea’s power move—the failure of nonproliferation efforts, the ineffectiveness of the United Nations, the opportunities open to Iran, the limits of America’s geopolitical options, and the rise of a more heavily armed Asia—illustrate the urgency of the time in which we live. Checks on more such power grabs, and on war-making on a devastating scale, are proving ineffective. The muscularity and confidence of new, more unpredictable powers is growing stronger.

Jesus Christ once warned of certain signs of the end of this age, and cautioned: “[W]hen ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” To the student of those prophecies, events of the past couple of weeks represent a hastening toward the climactic conclusion of the present age.

If you want to learn more about those prophecies, theTrumpet.com recommends reading these free booklets: The King of the South, and Russia and China in Prophecy.