Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Flouting the Rules

Once again North Korea has flouted international rules.  This time it has conducted nuclear tests and launched short-range missiles. (See Fox News http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,521821,00.html?test=latestnews).  As it has done before, North Korea is testing Washington and thumbing its nose at the world.  So far, the current administration, alongside the international community, has done little to stem North Korea’s unacceptable behaviors.

As has been discussed in this blog and elsewhere, North Korea’s rogue actions are unacceptable.  The Obama administration pays lip service to this. However, it has thus far failed to send a convincing message to the North Koreans.  Instead, North Korea receives a pleasant message that Washington will only talk and will not act decisively against belligerent actions.  Kim Jong-Il and his cronies are responding to Obama’s rampant pacifism by testing how far they can go.  These missile launches and nuclear tests are a gauge of America’s willingness to impede North Korean actions.  So far the message is clear – North Korea can do what it wants.

The administration does much to weaken its position, by packaging condemnations of belligerent actions with the stated policy of appeasement and discussion only.  This weak position is seen clearly in the President’s statement following the nuclear test (See the White House website http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/STATEMENT-FROM-THE-PRESIDENT-REGARDING-NORTH-KOREA/).  Obama condemns the actions, but then reverts to the policy prescriptions of discussions.  The press release outlines everything that is wrong with the tests, but only offers a response of more talk about and less international acceptance of North Korea.

The United States has to offer a decisive and firm response to these latest tests.  It must be unequivocal that these behaviors are unacceptable.  Kim Jong-Il must understand that North Korea will suffer severe punishments if it continues to test the world.  This can be accomplished through open discussion of possible military action against the rogue state.  As of now, it is imprudent to launch an attack against the country; however, laying the option on the table could go a long way towards emphasizing the gravity of failing to abide by international standards.

North Korea must see the folly of their ways.  Strong language and threats of severe action must be made to deter further provocations.  If strong statements from the UN are stymied by Chinese hesitation, the United States must stand up to North Korea alone (or with any willing participants).  While a military attack is certainly a response that should be discussed, other less severe actions should be laid out- and acted upon immediately.  Otherwise, Kim Jong-Il will know that he has freedom to do whatever he desires, with only the risk of a mild tongue lashing in response.

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