North Korea this week defied international sanctions and conducted its second-ever test of a nuclear weapon, declaring it “on a higher level in terms of its explosive power and technology.” Analysts said the bomb did appear to be more powerful than the one North Korea tested in October 2006, which was judged a partial dud. But contrary to Pyongyang’s claims, the new underground explosion was not deemed as powerful as the 15-kiloton atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. North Korea also tested at least three short-range missiles.
President Obama denounced the tests as a “blatant violation of international law” and said the international community “must take action.” The U.N. Security Council unanimously condemned Pyongang and began crafting a resolution in response. China and Russia were more critical of North Korea than usual, but appeared reluctant to agree to tough new sanctions proposed by the U.S. and its allies.
This isn’t just some random tantrum by the volatile Kim Jong Il, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. It’s a calculated test of our new president. After hearing Obama rhapsodize about the importance of “dialogue” and “engagement,” Kim “can be forgiven for concluding that his multiple violations will sooner be rewarded than punished.” Obama insists that his “kinder, gentler” diplomacy can better “rally the world against bad actors.” Now would be a good time to prove it.
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Obama needs to be careful not to give Kim what he’s really after, said The Washington Post—“economic and political favors” in exchange for a suspension of his nuclear activities. Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush both went down that road, only be to double-crossed. So until Kim changes his behavior, there should be “no further political recognition, no grand visits by the secretary of state.” Let Kim stew in his own pathetic isolation.
In truth, the U.S. has few options, said Dan Blumenthal and Robert Kagan in The Washington Post. Military action isn’t feasible. “Isolation and more punitive sanctions would make sense if China and Russia would go along. But they haven’t and won’t.” The on-again, off-again six-party talks are useless because one party is China, which wants “a puppet state” in Asia as a bulwark against Western influence. “Given these realities, the U.S. probably has little choice but to wait out Kim” and hope that his successor wants to join the community of nations—and is sane.
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