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North Korea: Tough Talk But Little Else

While at a conference in Singapore with Asian defense leaders, Sec. Gates did a little podium thumping about North Korea’s recent nuclear test:

“We will not stand idly by as North Korea builds the capability to wreak destruction on any target in Asia — or on us,” Mr. Gates told a major defense conference here that has been dominated by North Korea’s test this week of a nuclear device and the firing of at least six short-range missiles, all in defiance of international sanctions.

It took a foreign journalist to point out to Sec. Gates that while the US may not recognize North Korea as a nuclear weapons state, it was, in fact, already a “defacto nuclear weapons state.”

And, of course, it was important that Gates do a little apologizing to the assembled group as well, since this seems to now be an integral part of any foreign visit:

Mr. Gates concluded that the United States, “in our efforts to protect our own freedom, and that of others” had “from time to time made mistakes, including at times being arrogant in dealing with others.” Mr. Gates did not name names, but then said, “We always correct course.”

Other nations in the region weighed in on the North Korea nuclear test as well:

In Moscow, the Kremlin issued a statement saying President Dmitri A. Medvedev and Prime Minister Taro Aso of Japan had agreed on the need for a serious response to the nuclear test, Reuters reported.

As is usually the case in these sorts of situations, no one has any idea of what might constitute a “serious response” . In essence, the most “serious response” discussed thus far at the conference has been tightening sanctions.  And we know how well sanctions have worked in NoKo and Iran.

Unofficially, about all that’s gone on is this:

“There’s no prescription yet on what to do,” said a senior American defense official who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. The official said that one “prudent option” was “what should we be thinking about in the event that we need to start enhancing our posture, our defenses?” But the official said that it was premature to talk of building up American forces in the region — an echo of comments from Mr. Gates on Friday that the United States had no plans to reinforce some 28,000 American troops based in South Korea.

Well there you go. China also had a few words to say as well:

“We are resolutely opposed to nuclear proliferation,” General Ma said, adding that “we hope that all parties concerned will remain cool-headed and take measured measures to address the problem.”

China is resolutely opposed to nuclear proliferation only after NoKo. That means it wants no nukes in Japan. And its admonishment to all to remain “cool-headed” and take “measured measures” means it is in no hurry to do much of anything about the present problem. Of course, China holds the key(s) to dealing with NoKo and everyone knows it.

So? So as usual, North Korea does what it chooses to do and nothing of significance is being done to “punish” it for doing so. I’m sure, as is the MO of the Obama administration, that the blame for all of this will be laid at the previous administration’s feet, but a quick perusal of history going back later than 8 years will show than no US administration has actually dealt effectively with North Korea and the present one isn’t going to be any different – despite its apology.


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11 Responses to North Korea: Tough Talk But Little Else

  • All of the conservative blogs I frequent love to mock Obama for not doing anything in response to provocative acts by North Korea, Iran, etc.  I agree it is pointless to issue statements condemning the acts, but there is something very lacking in posts such as these, and articles such as Steyn’s at NRO currently: what do you propose we do about it?

    Are you prepared to start a ground war with North Korea or Iran?  If so, write an article explaining how such a war would progress and justifying the cost in money and lives.  Sure we could just lob some missiles of our own at their nuclear facilities, but chances are they are smart enough to place sensitive operations far underground. 

    Face facts:  The US is flat broke.  We cannot afford to police the world.  We literally do not have enough money to do so.  We are already on the verge of a currency crisis due to our profligate ways.  New wars are the last thing we need.

    • All of that is fine, but has little to do with the point of my article – there’s nothing any country or group of countries or international organization can do to stop this unless they’re willing to take military action. And, as is obvious (and no different than previous administrations, as I note in my article), none are willing to do that.

      So we are, on a seemingly repetitive cycle of podium thumping, harsh rhetoric and no action. Why it’s even covered remains a mystery to me, it’s certainly not news (or new).

      • Yeah, agreed, Obama should just accept that he can’t do sh*t and shut up

        • That’s why the rest of world helped to get him elected.  He’s only acts like an emperor on the domestic issues.

  • North Korea is really not a state, but turf owned by a mafia.   It’s more organized crime than government, dealing in weapons, missiles, and the like.  It’s maintains its ability to act by having protection from China and acting insane enough to get the rest of the world to fear an all out Korean war (the North Koreans want us to see them as dangerous and erratic).   The real solution (which I wrote about in my blog a couple days ago) is to strip them of statehood and all the protections and covers sovereignty gives.  The UN could do that, but of course, China would oppose it.  But if we could have a real option between “war for regime change” and “tough talk and doing nothing,” that would help.  Being able to strip sovereignty and statehood away from a government, at least de jure (which would have a real impact on how they do business) would be one way to go.  Sovereignty really has only worked over part of the globe, it was a European imposition on the countries the Europeans conquered.  I don’t expect this to be done any time soon, but it would be nice to start talking about the possibility.  The idea that anyone who can control a recognized piece of territory deserves to be treated like a sovereign state with all the rights and privileges thereof makes no sense.

  • The thing about North Korea is in fact the same dilemma we had with Iraq. Give me a moment here to lay out this case:

    For years, we played a game with Iraq – we looked away while the UN sanctions were pretty much ignored. But the intel told us that by 2002 Saddam Hussein was rebuilding his weapons arsenal again. He hadn’t – as we later discovered – but one point has always been missed: Saddam was going to do it, one way or another. By 2002, the French were pushing for an end to the sanctions. How long does anyone believe he would waited, once those sanctions ended, before he started a nuclear or conventional weapons program? Especially when he saw Iran doing it and no one stopping them, either.

    So, the argument can be made that we would have dealt with Saddam eventually. War was going to be the only way to remove the threat that he posed.

    It is the same with North Korea. We will have to deal with them one way or another. Perhaps that 1953 armistice was putting off the inevitable. Clinton’s deal with them in 1994 allowed them to secretly build the nukes they probably have now. But now, worse yet, North Korea has missiles that can hit South Korea and Japan, and may even be able to hit Hawaii or Alaska. Can we all say hundreds of thousands of American dead?

    We can put off dealing with North Korea now with another empty agreement. But, in the end, just like Saddam Hussein, time is on their side, not ours. We have to have a better strategy than cat and mouse. The cat may continue to f*ck with the mouse, and may even injure him, but the cat will get tired and eventually let the mouse do what he wants. If you want, we have to kill the mouse now before the cat gets too tired of this game. What to do is anyone’s guess, but if you think war is a bad option, wait 5-10 years and see what happens when North Korea can hit California with a Hiroshima-grade nuclear weapon. Then the sh!t will hit the fan.

  • yeah but this admin. loves to sh*t all over the previous one about how terrible they were, and how they’re so much better.

    So yeah, this is Baracky’s fault. He talks a good game, time for him to do something.

  • Yeah, Capn’ its funny how the opposition is allowed to bitch and moan about problems while those in power are expected to do something about it. Its as if they got elected after 8 years of bitching and moaning that they could do things better and smarter, especially diplomacy.

    There are several things we can do about it.

    1. Stop all humanitarian aid. Yes, it would be horrible to have people starve in North Korea, but maybe starving people would push the regime from power. You could also do this gradually to remind the Norks that their actions have consequences and may not reap rewards but punishments instead.

    2. Blockade. Act of war, yes, but not an invasion.

    3. Kill list – make clear that any state or non-state actor usinga  nuclear weapon that can be traced back to a supplying country, would mean the supplying country would also be on the kill list.

    Personally I’d start with #1, though I think the South Koreans would end up simply supplying their brothers instead of us.

  • I hate to say it, but maybe we should pull all our troops out of the Korean Peninsula and tell the Chinese to lean on that little troll or we hold them economically and politically responsible for anything bad that he does. (of course you would have to mean it, even if it meant taking measures like charging an import “premium” on all Chinese goods to pay for international problems caused by N Korea.)

    The silliness of this entire situation is that China absolutely controls N Korea nearly 100% and can make them do whatever they want them to do.

  • “We will not stand idly by as North Korea builds the capability to wreak destruction on any target in Asia — or on us,” Mr. Gates told…

    If  a strongly worded statement can be considered to be “action”, then certainly, we won’t be standing by idly.