How About Adding a North Korea Crisis to the Mix?

With much of the rest of the world -- Egypt, Iran, Libya, and others -- in escalating turmoil and with other potential hot spots getting hotter, events on the Korean peninsula may well be getting less coordinated attention from the Obama administration even than they normally do, and even than they got when the still simmering Korean mess erupted late last year.

More recently, the Obama administration found itself wallowing in bad intelligence and conflicting administration statements as to Egypt. That deficiency continues even as to Libya, the current hot spot de jour; the worldwide economic consequences of the situation there may be very great. As noted here:

No direct condemnation of the Qaddafi regime. No expression of support for the demonstrators. No hint of action on our part -- no immediate economic embargo, no threats against any individuals involved in the atrocities, no call for a U.N. Security Council meeting, no sign of possible NATO enforcement of a no-fly zone, no demand that the border be opened for humanitarian aid. Instead, the State Department is trying to "convey a message" to the Libyan government.

This is your State Department at work. Surely there are some in the White House -- I think there are some -- who are cringing at such an absence of moral clarity on the part of the U.S. government and at such a failure of American leadership. Let's hope they persuade the president to step forward very soon to overrule the State Department, and to put the United States, in both speech and deed, strongly and unequivocally on the side of decency and freedom.

The dithering must stop; whether it will is unknown and unknowable.

The situation in Pakistan is now heating up with probable consequences greater than potential embarrassment over recent unofficial confirmations that Raymond Allen Davis -- for whom Pakistan had refused to honor diplomatic immunity demanded by the United States -- "had been working as a CIA security contractor for the U.S. consulate in Lahore." Further protests in Pakistan have resulted and the already shaky United States-Pakistan alliance seems to be fraying perhaps beyond repair.

Venezuela may become another hot spot before very long. When might the situation in Israel explode into an open and declared war? That situation is continuously exacerbated perhaps beyond redemption by the mixed signals the Obama administration continues to give; that is the only consistency it has shown. Is the "administration simply too incompetent to understand the significance of its actions"?

Now is the time actually to pay attention and to anticipate further unrest in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea). The rulers of the DPRK are malign; they are not stupid and seem more adept at seeing out than we are at seeing in. Their slaves don't know much about the world beyond the borders, but the rulers do. As the situation in the DPRK continues to descend into anarchy, its temporary avoidance will likely require dramatically increased military excitement. While the Obama administration's fleeting attention to Asia is further diminished by developments elsewhere, it may become too late. Even the glorious mess in Wisconsin might have to get along without further help from the Obama administration.

While continuing to enhance its already firm relationship with Iran, the DPRK continues to experience increasing difficulties, most self-inflicted. Widespread starvation was and remains bad but now there is also rampant hoof and mouth disease, which will lead to even more starvation. It began in Pyongyang, and "a guard post between Pyongyang and Pyongsong is preventing vehicles from entering the capital. … Pyongyang was the first location where the disease broke out":

As pig farms in Pyongyang run by the party and the Army's Guard Command were among those affected, the regime was reluctant to admit the outbreak, RFA said. It tried to contain the disease only with pesticides and lime, leading to rapid spread to neighboring provinces such as Hwanghae and Gangwon.

"Koksan in Hwanghae Province is home to many military pig farms," a North Korean source said. "If the area has been affected the military must have suffered a great deal of damage." The North in the report said vaccination efforts with a homegrown vaccine made little difference.

However, there are claims that the outbreak is giving North Koreans an opportunity to eat meat. RFA said as soon as a pig was spotted drooling or staggering in Gangwon Province, residents immediately culled it for sale in the market. That caused a drop in pork prices in the province, leading to an influx of buyers from as far afield as South Pyongan Province, it added.

Free North Korea Radio said that on leader Kim Jong-il's birthday last Thursday, meat from infected cattle and pigs was distributed to residents in Daehongdan, Ryanggang Province. A North Korean defector who was a veterinarian said when livestock contract FMD in North Korea, they are not buried but eaten.