North Korea ups the ante
posted at 9:28 am on May 27, 2009 by Ed Morrissey
After rattling his saber through a nuclear test and several missile launches over the last few days, North Korea’s Kim Jong Il has rescinded the truce that put an end to fighting on the Korean Peninsula almost 56 years ago. Kim also warned that a South Korean pledge to interdict North Korean shipping to inspect for arms proliferation would be considered an act of war:
North Korea announced Wednesday that it is no longer bound by the 1953 armistice that halted the Korean War, the latest and most profound diplomatic aftershock from the country’s latest nuclear test two days earlier.
North Korea also warned that it would respond “with a powerful military strike” should its ships be stopped by international forces trying to stop the export of missiles and weapons of mass destruction.
The twin declarations, delivered by the country’s state news agency, followed South Korea’s announcement Tuesday that it would join the navies that will stop and inspect suspicious ships at sea. North Korea has repeatedly said that such participation would be a “declaration of war.” …
The North fired three more short-range missiles off its east coast on Tuesday, said Yonhap, the South Korean news agency. North Korea had fired two missiles into the same waters on Monday.
Joe Biden warned that Barack Obama would get challenged by despots on the world stage to “test the mettle of this guy.” He also warned that “it’s not gonna be apparent initially, it’s not gonna be apparent that we’re right.” What, he chose the wrong golf course? Perhaps he should have gone bowling instead?
So what should Obama do? The Left keeps harrumphing that the “neocons” either have no solution or want Obama to start Korean War II, but that’s not the only two options available. Going to the UN has proven to be a waste of time, and golfing very obviously did not cow Kim into submission, either. Obama set the wrong tone when he pulled back the missile-defense radar during Kim’s first missile launch. Obama may have thought he was sending Kim a message of friendship by taking Kim at his word that he was launching a satellite with his ICBM that went directly over Japan, but Kim took a much different measure of that message, as well as Obama’s mettle. By acting as though Kim’s increasingly aggressive behavior couldn’t deflect Obama from his golf game, he gave Kim the impression that the US no longer cares what he does, as long as it doesn’t involve the US.
Kim’s now taking that carte blanche to the brink of war with South Korea. Not even Bill Clinton fumbled North Korea this badly (and to be fair, Jimmy Carter cut Clinton at the knees while Clinton was trying to handle it properly). It’s time, as Charles Krauthammer said this week, to play the nuclear trump card with Japan. It’s the one move that will guarantee action from China, which will do almost anything to keep nukes out of Japanese hands. China holds the strings in North Korea, and Kim only gets away with what China allows. Even before that, we can start moving more naval assets into the area and increase interdiction to send a more clear message to Kim.
Would Kim attack South Korea? It’s possible he will, but he’d lose, and his army knows it. It would likely be his last order before the military took matters into its own hands and ended the Kim dynasty before it passes to Kim’s third son. A tougher message from the US and a nuclear Japan would facilitate that, but golfing and ignoring Kim won’t.