Obama's North Korean -- and Iranian -- Nuclear Test
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.
Whether Iran was directly involved in North Korea's nuclear test, or not, the North Korean blast has plenty to do with Iran. If President Obama does not find a way to stop North Korea cold, then the message to Iran is another big green light to race ahead with the amassing of its own nuclear arsenal. And not just a message to Iran -- a message to anyone who might want the bomb.
If this is left to today's "international community," we are headed for a world of mushroom clouds. "Action," as conducted by the "international community," consists of such stuff as yet another emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council (scheduled for Monday afternoon, chaired by Russia). These are the folks who could not even bring themselves to issue a resolution condemning North Korea's sanctions-busting ballistic missile test last month.
As for Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, as of this writing he has no statement available on the UN web site about today's North Korean blast. Perhaps he's been too busy conferring in Copenhagen about climate-change cash-scams in which the UN can collect its share of the swag? To infer his likely response, one must go to an old statement in which he "regrets" North Korea's sanctions-busting long-range missile test in April, describing it as "not conducive to efforts to promote dialogue, regional peace and stability." (On the UN web site, that statement is right now dated "May 4, 2009" -- it was actually delivered April 5th; the UN has its dates mixed up, but given the failure of the UN to do anything effective in any case, hey, who cares?).
As for "action" by the U.S. ... well, following North Korea's first nuclear test, in 2006, the Bush administration took "action" of a sort. Bush responded by handing envoy Chris Hill a blank check to conduct two years of Six-Party talks in which America delivered to Kim Jong Il a jackpot of concessions and cash -- removing North Korea from the U.S. watchlist of terror-sponsoring states, and enlisting the U.S. Federal Reserve and Treasury to help transfer to Kim Jong Il, per North Korea's demand, $25 million in allegedly tainted cash that had been frozen at Banco Delta Asia in Macau. Bush sent Kim a gusher of aid, in the form of free fuel plus massive relief shipped in via UN programs; the Bush administration paid at least $2.5 million for the Potemkin demolition of a cooling tower at North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear complex, catered to North Korean diplomats at meetings in New York, Vienna and beyond, and politely covered up for many months the evidence that Syria had been building a secret nuclear reactor -- with North Korean complicity, and while Bush envoy Chris Hill (now Obama's ambassador to Iraq) was assuring the American public of the success of his Feb. 15, 2007 nuclear disarmament deal with North Korea.
The result of all that "action" is now upon us, with North Korea's claim, and the seismic signs, of a second nuclear test blast. Perhaps it is too benign, actually, to describe this as merely a "test" of Obama as well. It is a direct challenge, an in-your-face extortionist threat, a lethal dare by North Korea, and it has direct implications --whether there is any explicit connection or not -- for inspiring lots more of the same from Iran, and beyond. Forget "action," as currently defined by the UN and Washington. It's way past time to actually do something that stops this.