In what could be called one of the first major “tests” of the Obama presidency, North Korea performed an underground nuclear trial blast on Monday, May 25, and on May 26 launched two tests of missile delivery systems. These provocative actions come after Obama’s campaign promise to engage dangerous dictators worldwide without preconditions, which apparently has had no sway with North Korea, considered the most brutal state on earth.
Meanwhile, in his first budget as president, Obama cut missile defense spending by $1 billion.
So two prongs of Obama foreign policy – talking to dictators and cutting crucial defenses – do not make a strategy for security, but are a path to weakness and defeat.
The United Nations condemned the North’s actions and promised a new resolution, which is the equivalent of dialogue. It does not deter a murderous regime.
Obama said he would work with other nations including Russia, China, Japan and South Korea to bring diplomatic pressure on the North to stop its aggressive and provocative actions. Those actions have set off alarm bells in democratic South Korea which has lived with the demented communist North as its next-door neighbor since the end of World War II. The United States lost 33,000 soldiers in defending South Korea from a northern invasion in the Korean War of 1950-53.
“North Korea will not find security and respect through threats and illegal weapons,” said Obama.
In response to the tests, South Korea said it would join a U.S.-led initiative to intercept ships suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction. North Korea has warned that that would be tantamount to a declaration of war and has threatened a strike on South Korea if ships are stopped.
Since its founding as a communist state, North Korea has had zero regard for human rights or international opinion, operating as a murderous dictatorship with the fourth largest army in the world, a starving population, no electricity throughout most of the nation, brutal concentration camps for dissenters, and imprisonment, torture and death for any person seeking to escape.
Meanwhile capitalist South Korea has a living standard like the United States, with genuine freedom for its people and open elections. Obama assured Lee Myung-bak, the president of South Korea, about the United States’ commitment to defense of his country. But the North may see American forces stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan and may try to take advantage of the situation.
The North’s provocations, however, may backfire and, over the long run, cause Japan to militarize, a prospect that threatens to ramp up tensions in the Far East and would cause much consternation in China, which has a millennia-old adversarial relationship with Japan. Thus that prospect may induce China to rein in NK, for which it provides fuel and many other goods.
Some analysts believe that North Korea’s 67-year-old dictator Kim Jong Il, who is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008, is using his weapons tests to assure the good graces of his hard-line military and to bolster his power.
The nuclear test was said to have been almost equal to a Hiroshima-scale blast while the missile tests included one surface-to-air and one surface-to-ship missile off its east coast, each with a range of 80 miles. More launches are expected.
While China may block tough UN language against North Korea, it is worried that any further weakening of NK could lead to a river of refugees flowing into China, which shares a border with North Korea.
And while North Korea’s tests are not currently seen as a direct nuclear threat to any nation, they are perceived as a frightening escalation by the radical and war-like regime.
In the 1990s, the Clinton administration was said to have considered military action against North Korea, but certainly was not serious. The Bush administration worked to get China to urge the North Koreans to stand down on its nuclear program, and Obama may do the same. In recent years China has openly criticized NK for its nuke program, although that appears to be much posturing.
The roots of our North Korea problem go back to 1994 when Jimmy Carter traveled there and returned with the announcement that “the crisis is over” with North Korea. It was not, and Carter was being disingenuous in order to inflate himself as a big peacemaker in an attempt to rehabilitate his stained image.
President Clinton then granted North Korea a third round of negotiations in exchange for a promise that it would freeze its nuclear program and would not reprocess nuclear fuel for the duration of US-NK talks.
By 2000, Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was visiting NK and calling dictator Kim Jong Il a “charming” guy after she attended a gala ball and other potemkin festivities. At that time, NK told Albright that it would not pursue nuclear weapons and she believed it. They have. And it is time for America to stop the liberal policy of treating bad people – terrorists, Iran, North Korea, American criminals etc. – like they are trustworthy. Bad people are bad people.
So let’s dispense with the soft approaches to evil like Jimmy Carter’s passive approach to Iran and the Soviet Union; Bill Clinton’s non-surveillance of terrorists, leading to 9/11; and Obama’s plans to talk to nutty dictators while gutting our defenses and exposing our anti-terror tactics. These steps can only weaken us. And worse.
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