Obama’s Asia team was just chillaxin’ like Pitbull at the Japanese embassy in Washington, celebrating the emperor’s birthday, when the North Koreans lit up their latest firework. Rocket goes up, they have to put their drinks down and run off to do their jobs.
Just minutes before the launch news became known, several officials were overheard remarking how nice it was that North Korea was apparently delaying the launch, giving U.S. North Korea watchers hope that their holiday festivities would not be interrupted.
“Nobody in the U.S. government thought this would happen when it did,” said one top Asia expert who attended the party. “A lot of the guys who do the Korea stuff both on the policy and intelligence side were at this thing. They were saying ‘We bought ourselves some time.’ People were hoping it didn’t happen before Christmas because they wanted to take time off.”
Among the Obama Asia officials at the party when the rocket launched were Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Affairs Jim Zumwalt, National Security Council Director for East Asia Syd Seiler, Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy Northeast Asia Director Chris Johnstone, OSD Senior Advisor for Asia Amy Searight, and others. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs Peter Lavoy was at the Pakistani ambassador’s Christmas Party, as was your humble Cable guy.
Seiler is the former CIA official who several sources close to the administration say traveled to Pyongyang in March with former intelligence official Joe DeTrani to urge North Korea to cancel its previous missile launch, which happened in April.
Japan is one of our two closest allies who are threatened directly by North Korea’s rockets, not to mention their kidnappings and sea attacks and threats to rain fire down on Tokyo. The fact that the president’s Asia team was caught so off guard in front of Japan’s diplomatic contingent in Washington is deeply humiliating to the United States and ought to be personally humiliating to them as well. But, well, smart power! Hand them a big button with the wrong word on it and say “Reset!”