North Korea Has Our Attention. Now What?

North Korea Has Our Attention. Now What?



Well, North Korea has the world’s attention. Exploding a nuclear bomb and launching missile tests will do that. All that’s left now is for the world to respond.

North Korea has long been a foreign policy conundrum, frustrating a long line of U.S. presidents who’ve attempted to stop the so-called hermit nation from threatening its neighbors. North Korea’s leadership has repeatedly placed raw pride over any other consideration, content to let their people suffer rather than enter normal relations with the world. To complicate matters more, both Russia and China have, at various times, backed North Korea, finding such alliances a convenient way to irritate the United States and our allies or, in China’s case, the easiest way to prevent massive numbers of refugees from streaming over their border.

Has this latest outburst from North Korea changed anything? Early indications are that, if nothing else, the world is generally united against Pyongyang.

Russia, which called the test a “serious blow” to the effort to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, suspended a Russia-North Korean intergovernmental trade and economic commission, apparently in response to the nuclear test. The slap on the wrist was a telling indication that Moscow, once a key backer of North Korea, was unhappy with Pyongyang.

And China, which has been the closest thing North Korea has to a friend, is reacting by holding high-level meetings with South Korea to discuss ways to respond.

At this point, I doubt China will want to do anything which might create the feared refugee crisis. And outside of military action – which really isn’t on the table for a large number of reasons – nothing will change in North Korea without Chinese intervention. That leaves President Obama in an unenviable position. He has to take a tough stand but knows he’s no more likely to directly affect North Korea than were his predecessors. As such, his best bet is to work behind the scenes with Chinese and Russian officials (because it’s always prudent to include the Russians in these matters) to develop a coordinated and meaningful response.

Unfortunately, that’s not the kind of resolute response presidents (and the American people) prefer. But I’m not exactly sure what other options we have.

  • wj

    Sadly, it appears that our only option is to use the occasion to move China along towards some kind of action against North Korea. Unfortunately, I have the distinct impression that they have no more good ideas for effective action than we do.

    But I suppose there is at least a chance that the Chinese have some contacts in North Korea (in the military, perhaps?) that could be used to generate a less bad regime. If not now, perhaps in time.

  • kranky kritter

    Since 9/11, the topic of the potential spread of nuclear weapons has been seen in a light of more urgency.

    But nuke acquisition has always been a “when” question, not an “if” question. Obviously, it has been worth our while to try and prevent the nuke club from growing when and where we can. We do what we can to retard progress in that domain. But ultimately, I don’t see any reliable (never mind foolproof) tools in ours or anyone else’s toolbox. A patient and determined nation is going to figure it out and make it happen. That’s how 1 becomes 2, 3 becomes 5, and so on.

    What is the “world’s response” supposed to be? More bluster? More threats? A pointless embargo of some sort? Sooner or later, there is only one response, which is this:

    Welcome to the club.

    Membership has its privileges. Now we all have to get used to it.

  • ExiledIndependent

    It’s clear that NK’s only intention is to extort resources from the rest of the world through the prospect of nuclear conflict. So no more deals, no more support, no more concessions, no more talks. Let China know that we are willing to support them in efforts towards a non-nuclear North Korea, then walk away from the table.

  • Tully

    China is fully capable of “solving” the NK issue anytime they so desire, and has been for decades. They do not choose to. Why they have not is all your own mileage.

  • http://sidewaysmencken.blogspot michael reynolds

    I agree with both above: China wants to be the regional power? Fine.

    We should make clear that any use of a nuclear weapon coming directly or through a third party from NK will spell the end of the NK regime. Any attempt to sell a nuclear weapon to a terrorist organization, likewise.

    And then we should let the Chinese deal with it.

  • kranky kritter

    Right, as long as they don’t mind Mr Rone-Ree lobbing one their way. Which they may not.

  • Reaganite Republican Resistance

    Somehow all the talk of how Kim is a crackpot eccentric, while Obama is portrayed as fatherly, all-knowing, and wise doesn’t quite square with reality when the “crackpot” is running circles around our flawless messiah.

    This is the same Obama that was apparently busy with his puppy-vetting process or playing basketball while the Russians where nabbing our Afghan supply air-base in Kyrgizstan.

    Obama is endangering our national security, a failure of his most primary duty as president… maybe we should draw a line here?

    Living in a celebrity-driven/liberal/MSM fantasy world is not a right of Obama supporters to cling-to indefinitely, as it’s both the voters and the press’ duty to make informed, good-faith decisions… not waste power making a hollow fashion statement instead.

    It’s rapidly getting to the point where this kind of willfully-ignorant “thinking” is not just irresponsible, but dangerous. Obamania’s sheeple are deeply delusional, and as Obama’s enablers, these fools are going to get us killed.

  • kranky kritter

    I was wondering how many posts it would take for someone to twist this event into the topic of how it reflects on Obama’s competence, or lack of same.

    Apparently it takes 4 more licks than it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop. Which is promising, I guess. Personally, I am at a loss in attempting to imagine how Obama, during his 4 months in office, should have prevented this.

    But one thing I am sure of is that it would not have happend if McCain had won.

  • http://sidewaysmencken.blogspot michael reynolds


    Yes, things would be so much better if Bush was still in charge. Back in his day the North Koreans wouldn’t have dared to test a nuclear weapon or develop long-range missiles.

    Oh, wait: that’s exactly what happened.

    Is it that you’re one of those people whose memories don’t work? Or do you just think we have no memory?

    As for the sainted Ronald Reagan: ran with his tail between his legs after 241 Marines were killed in Lebanon. Then sent a bible, a cake and some spare missile parts to Iran. Then made a deal with Gorbachev.

    See? My long-term memory works, too.

  • Mike A


    All power in heaven and earth centers in the person of Reagan. Everything that man needs in this world and in the world to come is found in Him. Without Him no man can hope to succeed, but with Him failure is impossible. No human mind has ever been able to comprehend the height, the depth, the length, and the breadth of the eternal realities that reside in Reagan, for He contains all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.

    You speak of celebrity to Obama? At least it’s not a cult.

  • http://sidewaysmencken.blogspot michael reynolds

    Mike A:

    Shhhh! Reagan is listening! Do you want to be struck with a lightning bolt?

  • ExiledIndependent

    Ha! I love how every criticism of Obama elicits a “BUT AT LEAST HE’S NOT BUSH!” chorus from the Obamapologists. Guys, be careful here–it’s going to get old, and then it’s going to sound like you’re making excuses for your dude. Obama has to stand on his own merits, independently; the “At least he’s better than Bush” line has both limited mileage and limited veracity.

    At any rate, it seems like the only other option here–the option that history hasn’t proved impotent–is to forcibly eliminate NK’s nuclear capabilities. And Obama would never in a million years do that, barring a direct attack from the Beloved Leader (Kim, not Barack).

  • the Word

    Just curious-
    Not fond of Iran or North Korea but could someone explain how we have a right to tell them what they can do and how based on our invasion of Iraq any Republican, Red Stater or Cheney would not emphatically argue the reverse if they were from those countries?

    To have moral leadership to get people to do things arguably not in their best interest requires some moral suasion and the last guy blew that wad all to hell. Sorry to bring up Bush Exiled but the facts are the facts.

  • http://- Logan

    This is a bit off subject, but what exactly would the consequences be if the U.S. decided to say f*ck it, and simply decided to ignore the problem while telling the U.N. to figure it out without us. There’s a ton of anti-american sentiment going around these days, many of our “allies” not withstanding. I just wonder if the world would be a better or worse place without the U.S. policing it.

  • Gregory Perrone

    Kranky Kritter, I finally agree with something you said!

    We should;

    Ask South Korea, our ally, if they would like our help.

    If they say no: deploy an airborn laser to Japan or Austrailia

    if they say yes, place our “Unproven” missle defense systems in strategic locations around thier country.

    At first notice of a launch, knock it down, and bomb the crap out of the launch site, rinse and repeat if necessary. And don’t use those smart bombs, maybe we could get rid of some of the old stuff we have laying around. Solve a few of our problems at the same time!

    Once the defense systems are proven reliable we will have no trouble with North Korea, or Iran for that matter.

    We are the lone superpower, and we have a responsibility to the world to stay that way!