North Korea tests rocket and Obama to international concern

Posted on April 5, 2009


North Korea on Sunday launched what it claimed was a communications satellite but what US and South Korean analysts say was a long-range missile capable of hitting the United States. It is believed that the rocket and its payload ended up in the Pacific Ocean, but the launch has sparked deep concern across Asia and the rest of the world.

Japan has requested an emergency session of the UN Security Council, and President Obama condemned the launch and called for international action. This comes on the same day that Obama made yet another campaign-like speech in Prague calling for a world without nukes, with steps toward that goal including ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and, most surprisingly, unilaterally reducing, if not eliminating, America’s nuclear arsenal. Patterico likens the tactic to John Lennon’s utopianism and notes Iran will also likely be heartened by Obama’s call for dialogue. Obama asserted that he’s “not naive” when it comes to his nuclear ambitions, acknowledging his goal may not be achieved in his lifetime, and also found a way to work his campaign slogan of “Yes, we can” into the speech.

Former UN Ambassador John Bolton argues that Obama’s response sends the absolute wrong signal to North Korea as well as to the like-minded Iran as it shows that talks will still continue and demands will still be made and met regardless of past actions. Mr. Bolton makes the case more eloquently than I ever could, and key in the article are these three paragraphs:

Iran has carefully scrutinized the Obama administration’s every action, and Tehran’s only conclusion can be: It is past time to torque up the pressure on this new crowd in Washington. Not only is Iran’s back now covered by its friends Russia, China and others on the U.N. Security Council, but it sees an American president so ready to bend his knee for public favor in Europe that the mullahs’ wish list for U.S. concessions will grow by the minute.

Israel must also be carefully considering how the U.S. watched North Korea rip through “the international community.” The most important lesson the new government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should draw is: Look out for No. 1. If Israel isn’t prepared to protect itself, including using military force, against Iran’s nuclear weapons program, it certainly shouldn’t be holding its breath for Mr. Obama to do anything.

Russia and China must also be relishing this outcome. They will have faced down Mr. Obama in his first real crisis, having provided Security Council cover for a criminal regime, and emerged unscathed. They will conclude that achieving their large agendas with the new administration can’t be too hard. That conclusion may be unfair to the new American president; but it will surely color how Moscow and Beijing structure their policies and their diplomacy until proven otherwise. That alone is bad news for Washington and its allies.

I also found the argument of commenter Mark on Patterico’s site to be interesting food for thought:

We would have thought this thinking was discredited after the Second Lateran Council outlawed the use of crossbows in 1139, or after the Hague Convention of 1899 banned aerial bombardment, or after the Kellogg-Briand Pact outlawed war. Nope. Mr. Obama has set the ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons, and as one of his first official acts he pledged to “stop the development of new nuclear weapons.”

Against the backdrop of North Korea and Iran, both operating with tacit Russian and Chinese support, and with an Israel increasingly threatened with Iranian rhetoric, Obama’s own nuclear ambitions are in fact dangerously naive. The applause-inducing constant calls for thoughtful dialogue and for an American nuclear stand-down only embolden the likes of North Korea and Iran, as we show ourselves to be more concerned with world opinion than with meaningfully opposing the nuclear aspirations of these two rogue countries. The ineffectual protestations from around the world, without the threat of follow-up action, have proven themselves unable to curb with any degree of effectiveness the advance of weapon technology in North Korea and Iran.

Talk, they say, is cheap, and in the realm of nuclear geopolitics, it can also be dangerously counter-productive.

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