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North Korea Launches Missile   April 5th, 2009
Administration suggests best response is words       


More observations...

It seems that President Obama is failing his first test in an international situation. North Korea launched a rocket on Saturday that overflew Japan's airspace and ended up splashing into the Pacific. It is generally accepted at this point that North Korea has at least a few nuclear weapons. Given an increasing capability to deliver a nuclear warhead to the United States, Obama's response has been words.

U.S. President Barack Obama, in what may be the most significant international crisis since the start of his administration, was quick to condemn the action of what most observers characterize as a rogue regime.

"Now is the time for a strong international response," Obama said in a speech before a huge crowd outside the medieval Prague Castle. "And North Korea must know that the path to security and respect will never come through threats and illegal weapons. All nations must come together to build a stronger global regime. That's why we must stand shoulder to shoulder to pressure the North Koreans to change course."

"With this provocative act, North Korea has ignored its international obligations, rejected unequivocal calls for restraint and further isolated itself from the community of nations," Obama said in a statement after the launch.

"We will immediately consult with our allies in the region, including Japan and (South Korea), and ... bring this matter before the (U.N. Security) Council," Obama said. "I urge North Korea to abide fully by the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council and to refrain from further provocative actions."

I refer you back to a humorous Ghostbusters clip: "Thanks very much, Mr. President, that ought to do it."

Seriously, North Korea has been a rogue regime for decades. They made deals with the Clinton administration to end their nuclear program even while they continued to pursue their nuclear program. They attempted to explode a nuclear device during the 2006 election cycle. There is evidence that North Korea has been working with Syria to build a nuclear plant there . North Korea has ignored international pressure for decades, and has now ignored international pressure to refrain from a rocket launch.

Does anyone really believe that North Korea's intentions are anything but hostile? Does anyone really believe that North Korea, one of the poorest and least technically advanced nations in the world, was trying to put a satellite in orbit? Of course not. Everyone knows this was a missile test. And they successfully lobbed a payload over Japan and into the Pacific ocean. What will their next test achieve?

North Korea has been--and continues to be--on a path of military confrontation. When there was evidence of a nuclear program during the Clinton administration, we hid behind diplomacy and did nothing. When they made their attempt to detonate a nuclear device during the Bush administration, we did nothing. When North Korea expelled U.N. nuclear observers, we did nothing.

And now that North Korea is testing the means to deliver a warhead to Japan or the continental U.S., our president is pressing for "a strong international response." And what is that response?

"The United States believes that this action is best dealt with -- the most appropriate response would be a United Nations Security Council resolution," she [U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice] added.

A U.N. resolution. A nuclear armed country with decades of history of ignoring international pressure and breaking its agreements is testing a long-range missile. And the most appropriate response is a piece of paper? I feel safer already.

U.S. Presidential response to North Korea has been bordering on criminal negligence since at least the Clinton administration. The Bush administration didn't do any better. Every day it seems that North Korea is closer to being able to hit the U.S. with a nuclear weapon. Yet we are told not to worry . But the fact is that when it's "time to worry," it'll be too late.

I'm not advocating war or armed conflict. At least not right now. But it's time the United States and the world starts making hard decisions. North Korea doesn't care about U.N. resolutions. It's laughable to suggest that such a resolution represents a "strong international response." That only tells North Korea how unwilling we are to confront them.

Unless the U.N. Resolution raises the serious threat of military confrontation with the world, this response is a joke.

As difficult as substantively confronting North Korea (and Iran) may be today, it'll be even harder when they're armed with nuclear weapons, and harder still when they can deliver them with missile technology.

Update Later Same Evening: And, after Obama called for a "strong international response" (which he left to the United Nations), here was the result:

An emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council concluded Sunday without an official reaction to North Korea ignoring repeated international warnings and launching a long-range rocket, the council president told reporters.

"Consultations will go on among members to see what is the appropriate position that the council will take," said Claude Heller, the current Security Council president, and Mexico's U.N. ambassador. When the council would reconvene wasn't clear, but Heller said it would be "as soon as possible."

"I think that there is a very strong call for dialogue, to reconvene, and I think there is consensus in saying that the Security Council regretted the government of [North Korea] disregarded the call by [the] international community to suspend the launching," he said.

This was entirely predictable, and it's why I wrote earlier that a U.N. resolution was laughable as "a strong international response." The U.N. is so neutered, so ineffective that an emergency meeting couldn't even agree on a condemnation of this threat to peace. Instead, they convened and basically agreed that they need to convene again as soon as possible.

Is this a joke? Are they intentionally trying to demonstrate to the world just how absurdly useless the U.N. is? This is the organization we're supposed to trust with the problems of the world? The United States is supposed to yield to the U.N. as if the U.N. is going to defend anyone's safety, let alone the safety of the United States?

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