On Memorial Day, North Korea evidently successfully this time
tested a nuclear weapon. President Obama issued a statement describing
this as "a matter of grave concern to all nations," and then went off to
play a round of golf.
"By acting in blatant defiance of the United Nations Security Council,
North Korea is directly and reckless challenging the international
community," the president said.
In an emergency meeting Monday, the UN Security Council called the test
a "clear violation" of a 2006 UNSC resolution forbidding such tests.
The great danger to us from a North Korean bomb is proliferation. The
Norks, always desperate for money and unscrupulous about how to obtain
it, have been assisting Iran and Syria in their pursuit of nuclear
weapons, and would sell to al Qaida if their palms were crossed with
enough silver. For South Korea and Japan, the stakes are higher.
North Korea responded Tuesday to the torrent of words from world leaders
by firing two short range ballistic missiles into international waters.
The continued defiance is, I suspect, because North Korea expects the
torrent of words to be followed by…more words.
Mr. Obama's statement, and that of the UN Security Council, suggest
"The danger posed by North Korea's threatening activity warrants action
by the international community," the president said. What kind of
action? "We have been and will continue working with our allies and
partners in the Six Party talks as well as other members of the Security
Council in the days ahead."
For its part, the Security Council said it was considering passing
another resolution. These are not threats which make dictators quake in
North Korean defiance of the "international community" in general and
the United States in particular is nothing new. The Norks have been a
thorn in the side of every U.S. president from Harry Truman on. What is
new or was was Mr. Obama's naive and egotistical belief he could
change North Korean behavior by reaching out to them.
"The new nuclear test carried out by North Korea demonstates the
complete failure, so far, of U.S. President Barack Obama's softly-softly
diplomacy and willingness to start afresh with old enemies," wrote
Australian journalist Greg Sheridan.
Defiance has worked well for North Korea, because the typical response
to it has been to try to bribe the Norks into better behavior. Bribery
reached its height during the Clinton administration, when President
Clinton offered the Norks free food and fuel oil, and to build two
nuclear electric generating plants if North Korea would shutter its
nuclear weapons plant at Yongbyon.
The North Koreans agreed, but began cheating right away. President Bush
cut off the subsidies when the cheating became too obvious to ignore,
but restored them after North Korea's fizzled bomb test in 2006.
"Pyongyang may well be able to sell its Yongbyon reactor to the
Americans for a third time, only to continue with nuclear activities at
other sites and to re-open Yongbyon when the new agreement inevitably
collapses," Mr. Sheridan wrote. "If events follow that pattern,
Pyongyang's actions will not only have been rational, but also
remarkably effective as state policy."
The Norks have to be encouraged by President Obama's apparent commitment
to continue in the six party talks (Russia, China, Japan, South Korea,
North Korea, the U.S.) despite the test.
In an article in the Wall Street Journal May 20, former UN Ambassador
John Bolton predicted the nuclear test, which appears to have caught the
Obama administration somewhat by surprise.
"If the next nuclear explosion doesn't derail the six party talks,
(North Korean dictator) Kim (Jong Il) will rightly conclude that he
faces no real danger of ever having to dismantle his weapons program,"
Mr. Bolton said. "Negotiations like the six-party talks are a charade
and reflect a continuing collapse of American resolve."