The utter failure of Kim Jong-un's latest missile launch, on Wednesday, is a heartening reminder that he is not some unstoppable evil genius after all.
The North Korean nuclear-weapons program continues to be extremely dangerous. But this time, the missile failed within a few seconds. Only a few days before, the North Koreans boasted that they had perfected a high-thrust rocket engine. So much for that.
Mr. Kim has also boasted that the North Korea nuclear program is not far from being able to strike the west coast of the United States, which would devastate California.
In recent months, however, the North Koreans have mostly demonstrated their ability to cause mayhem in their immediate region. They have been firing missiles into the Sea of Japan, close to the edge of what the Japanese call their exclusive economic zone, successfully targeting a significant line in the sea. That zone also touches on South Korea.
The failed missile launch is evidence that Mr. Kim – for all his abundant symptoms of megalomania – is not the trans-Pacific threat he likes to portray himself as. He may also be too clever by half. Lately, his misdeeds have been coming back to haunt him.
North Korea has now lost its access to the international bank SWIFT, based in Brussels – its only banking facility. This powerful financial institution said North Korean banks are "no longer compliant with SWIFT's membership criteria."
SWIFT is probably fed up. There is evidence that North Korea stole US$81-million from the central bank of Bangladesh's account at the New York Federal Reserve. The FBI is preparing charges.
China, usually a reliable friend, is showing its displeasure by not buying any coal from North Korea, at least until the end of the year. The boycott was brought on by the murder of Mr. Kim's half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, who was favoured by Beijing.
What's more, the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, has made it clear that United Nations sanctions against North Korea must be observed strictly.
None of this means that North Korea is no longer a threat. Still, it is encouraging that Mr. Kim may not be quite as dangerous as many have feared – or quite as clever.