North Korea’s annnouncement that it has conducted a nuclear test drew worldwide condemnation today, with China and Russia expressing anger in unusually strong terms and the United States warning Pyongynang that it was defying the will of the international community.
The White House called for immediate United Nations action and the Security Council was preparing to meet to discuss a response.
China had mounted one of its most extensive diplomatic efforts in years to find a negotiated solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis and to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula.
In the face of a major failure, the Chinese expressed their anger bluntly, saying the test was “flagrant and brazen.”
Much to chew on. Like most I hope that this doesn’t drive Japan and South Korea to nuke up as well, but absent any credible support from the US (of late with little to no deployable troops) that seems practically inevitable. Such a move could wreck decades of East Asian stability, which has come as much as any other single reason from a demilitarized Japan, whose neighbors have a long memory when it comes to wartime depredations. Bear in mind that unlike Japan Germany apologized for its role in WWII and has done a fairly thorough job of cleaning its spiritual house. Japan’s neighbors at least do not feel that it has done anything of the sort.
At this point, taking into account that the options we would like to have do not exist, I would suggest that our best option would be to find out what North Korea wants in return for inspectors going in, finding and disarming its nuclear stockpile. If that means some form of diplomatic recognition, well, isolation clearly has not done much good. If we can share a bed with Uzbekistan, despotic state ruled by a crazy torturing dictator, then the principled case for shunning Kim Jong Il strikes me as fairly weak.
For now I won’t get into what this means for domestic politics, at least until the major players have had a chance to react. But less than a month from a crucial election it seems like a foregone conclusion that North Korea’s test will become a massive radioactive football. Sad and probably counterproductive to world security, but certain as water flows downhill.
For a preview of the shape that the political discussion will take, see this post by Josh Marshall. By disparaging the finger-pointing I hardly mean to imply that Marshall’s point is in any way wrong, and god knows the other folks will work feverishly to lay all this on the lap of Clinton so Marshall is hardly the first, worst or only offender. In fact he is probably right on the money.
Oh what the hell. Elections are a month away and government is essentially shut down anyway. Should I stand in the storm and curse the rain? I suppose not. Go to town.