Another American president, another North Korean nuclear test. Today’s North Korean underground blast — for which North Korea itself is making swaggering claims — was apparently bigger and better than the October, 2006 first try. For an added frill North Korea test-launched a missile that can carry a nuclear warhead.
So, what is the world’s superpower doing about this? President Obama is calling for … “action.” And not just any old “action,” but “action by the international community.”
If what he means, as urged by the UN, and in fact pursued by the second-term Bush administration, is yet more “engagement,” “talks,” and aid and bribes for North Korea, mixed with leaky and negotiable “sanctions,” then we’ve already had quite enough “action.”
A couple of observations, but first, a question or two:
How can we be sure that this latest North Korean blast was strictly a Pyongyang domestic project — as opposed to a rent-a-test of Iran’s bomb program?
One reason I ask is that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was so swift to deny any connection — hustling out at a news conference today a response which clearly includes a lie – the question being how broad a lie. From Tehran, Reuters reports that Ahmadinejad denies any cooperation with North Korea on missiles or nuclear weapons: “We don’t have any cooperaton [with North Korea] in this field.”
On missiles, that’s flagrantly false. Iran and North Korea have been cooperating for years, with experts going back and forth. Reuters notes that Iran’s Shahab-3 missile, which could reach Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf, is based on North Korea’s Nodong missile.
On nuclear weapons, far less is publicly known; but both countries have been part of the nuclear proliferation web spun by Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan. And North Korea already has a rap sheet for nuclear proliferation, with North Koreans spotted helping Syria in its secret construction of a copy of North Korea’s Yongbyon reactor — a would-have-been plutonium factory that was nearing completion on the Euphrates, and might now be active, had the Israelis not destroyed it with an air strike in September, 2007. This past March, a Swiss newspaper, the Neue Zuercher Zeitung, reported allegations by a high-ranking Iranian defector, Ali Reza Asghari, formerly a deputy defense minister in Tehran, that Iran helped support the building — with North Korean help — of that Syrian reactor.
So, just how chummy (or not?) are Kim Jong Il and Iran’s mullahs on things like nuclear bomb tests? Would it be too much to ask for a straight answer from the U.S. “intelligence” community? — which delivered a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate worded so as to defuse alarm over Iran’s nuclear projects, and thus derailed any action that might have by now defused the threat itself.
Now — a couple of observations.