Soob

Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

I am in whole hearted agreement with the sentiments expressed by Chirol at Coming Anarchy in his latest post detailing North Korea's second apparent nuclear test. The six party talks have been an abject failure in containing North Korea's nuclear ambitions. Quite the contrary they've been little more than international acquiescence to North Korean extortion. Elam Bend, writing in the commentary of Chirol's post, links a Wall Street Journal article written by John Bolton four days before yesterday's test. I agree with Elam Bend that Bolton is often a bit over the top in his bluster and rhetoric. This article is not, however, one of those occasions. An excerpt:
A second nuclear test is by no means simply a propaganda ploy. Most experts believe that the 2006 test was flawed, producing an explosive yield well below even what the North's scientists had predicted. The scientific and military imperatives for a second test have been strong for over two years, and the potential data, experience and other advantages of further testing would be tremendous.

What the North has lacked thus far is the political opportunity to test without fatally jeopardizing its access to the six-party talks and the legitimacy they provide. Despite the State Department's seemingly unbreakable second-term hold over President Bush, another test after 2006 just might have ended the talks.

So far, the North faces no such threat from the Obama administration. Despite Pyongyang's aggression, Mr. Bosworth has reiterated that the U.S. is "committed to dialogue" and is "obviously interested in returning to a negotiating table as soon as we can." This is precisely what the North wants: America in a conciliatory mode, eager to bargain, just as Mr. Bush was after the 2006 test.

If the next nuclear explosion doesn't derail the six-party talks, Kim will rightly conclude that he faces no real danger of ever having to dismantle his weapons program. North Korea is a mysterious place, but there is no mystery about its foreign-policy tactics: They work. The real mystery is why our administrations -- Republican and Democratic -- haven't learned that their quasi-religious faith in the six-party talks is misplaced.
It's too early to say with certainty what the ultimate response to North Korea's test will be. The response thus far has been united but predictable condemnation:
US:
Such provocations will only serve to deepen North Korea's isolation. It will not find international acceptance unless it abandons its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery
China:
The Chinese side vehemently demands North Korea abides by its denuclearisation promises, stop any actions which may worsen the situation and return to the six-party talks process.
Russia:
North Korea's latest actions cannot be evaluated as anything other than a violation of UN Security Council 1718, which among other things requires Pyongyang not to carry out nuclear tests.
Japan:
As it is a violation of UN Security Council resolutions, [Japan] condemns and protests it strongly. It is a challenge to the whole of the international community and increases tensions. We, as the only atomic-bombed nation, need to take stern action.
South Korea:
We are seriously concerned about North Korea's second test of a nuclear device. It's a direct threat against the peace and stability in the region as well as to the world.
I would however state, with certainty, that this is a pivotal moment for President Obama in which he must decide between continuing or abandoning a process which clearly hasn't worked. The former will be the easier choice but will, I would opine, accomplish little more than enabling the North Korean regime. The latter will be the more difficult choice as it will entail Obama doing the unthinkable; actually pissing somebody off as China will be less than happy with any course that both isolates the North Korean regime and deviates from the six party talks. Given the blatant failure of the six party talks thus far, this choice is the only one feasible "next step" if continued nuclear development by North Korea is to be stopped.