North Korea tests Obama

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

While Pres­i­dent Obama pushes soft power, the North Korean dic­ta­tor plays hard­ball. North Korea’s un­der­ground nu­clear test and mis­sile tri­als show that the regime is prob­ing Mr. Obama’s re­solve. Py­ongyang ap­par­ently has con­cluded that the pres­i­dent’s rhetoric of con­cil­i­a­tion and un­der­stand­ing be­trays se­ri­ous weak­ness as a global leader. Like all tyrants, Kim Jong-il sees an open hand as a weak one.

North Korea is de­ter­mined to be a nu­clear power. Py­ongyang has vowed to con­tinue mis­sile tests and ura­nium en­rich­ment. The Korean Cen­tral News Agency, the com­mu­nist regime’s mouth­piece, de­clared the regime’s goal: to “fur­ther [in­crease] the power of nu­clear weapons and steadily [de­velop] nu­clear tech­nol­ogy.”

This comes in the face of a string of good­will ges­tures by the United States and its al­lies. Amer­ica re­moved North Korea from the list of states that sup­port ter­ror­ism in Oc­to­ber and point­edly has over­looked the North’s ship­ment of il­le­gal drugs, coun­ter­feit­ing, money laun­der­ing and ab­duc­tion of Ja­panese na­tion­als.

How did North Korea re­spond to th­ese open-handed, friendly ges­tures? Py­ongyang thanked us by con­duct­ing a bal­lis­tic mis­sile test (un­der the cover of a satel­lite launch), restart­ing a plu­to­nium-pro­duc­ing re­ac­tor at Yong­byon, tak­ing two Amer­i­can women hostage and now test­ing what it calls its “self-de­fen­sive nu­clear de­ter­rent.” This proves that no good deed goes un­pun­ished.

U.S. Am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions Su­san E. Rice said the nu­clear test was “a grave vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional law” and pledged that the United States would pur­sue a “strong [Se­cu­rity Coun­cil] res­o­lu­tion with strong mea­sures.” Th­ese are words cross-dress­ing as deeds.

Amer­i­can pol­i­cy­mak­ers would be wise to re­mem­ber U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 1718, passed a week af­ter the 2006 nu­clear test. The res­o­lu­tion strongly con­demned the North Korean nu­clear test and im­posed ex­traor­di­nary fi­nan­cial sanc­tions. It called on North Korea to aban­don its nu­clear pro­grams pre­fer­ring diplo­macy over action. This has only served as a means for North Korea to pur­sue its nu­clear am­bi­tions while the West mouths empty words.

This is­sue is not lim­ited to the Korean penin­sula. North Korea has emerged as the world’s lead­ing nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tor state. The “axis of evil” is alive and well de­spite the loss of Iraq as one of its char­ter mem­bers. North Korea and Iran have had a long-stand­ing co­op­er­a­tive re­la­tion­ship in nu­clear and mis­sile tech­nol­ogy. sile ex­perts were in North Korea help­ing pre­pare for the April 2009 mis­sile launch, and ac­cord­ing to Ja­pan’s Sankei Shim­bun news­pa­per, they brought a let­ter for Kim Jong-il from Iran’s Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad as­sert­ing the im­por­tance of mu­tual co­op­er­a­tion on mis­sile pro­grams, eu­phemisti­cally re­ferred to as “space tech­nol­ogy.”

Iran seems to be us­ing North Korea as a plat­form for nu­clear-weapons re­search and de­vel­op­ment, keep­ing away from pry­ing eyes of the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency and Is­rael’s reach. Re­cent re­ports of nu­clear co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Iran and Venezuela raise the specter of the evil axis ex­tend­ing into the West­ern Hemi­sphere.

North Korea has demon­strated a dogged im­mu­nity to sanc­tions. It al­ready is one of the poor­est coun­tries in the world, and there are few re­main­ing eco­nomic levers at the world’s dis­posal. The com­mu­nist lead­er­ship is will­ing to pay any price, bear any bur­den to be­come a nu­clear power, re­gard­less of the cost to its econ­omy or the suf­fer­ing of its peo­ple.

If the six-party talks are to mean any­thing, China must be­come more ac­tive by re­strict­ing fuel and elec­tric­ity ex­ports to North Korea and end­ing eco­nomic sup­port.

Pres­i­dent Obama should or­der the U.S. Navy, act­ing un­der U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 1718, to in­spect all ship­ping in and out of North Korea. Mea­sures also should be taken to in­spect all air­craft and ground trans­port. If more res­o­lute action is not taken, North Korea will hold a knife to the throat of the world — for­ever blus­ter­ing de­mands into its fright­ened ear.

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