Clinton: What NoKo missile tests?

The bad news on foreign policy today — North Korea launched five short-range missiles today in yet another show of pique:

North Korea fired five short-range missiles off its east coast on Monday, news reports said, even as South Korea proposed working-level talks with its communist neighbor.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing an unidentified South Korean government official, said the North test-fired two short-range missiles on Monday morning and three others on Monday afternoon from mobile launch pads.

Yonhap said the missiles were surface-to-surface KN-02 rockets with a range of up to 75 miles (120 kilometers).

The good news?  We’ve given up caring about them:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in Belfast Monday that the American efforts to proceed with talks with North Korea on its nuclear ambitions will proceed despite the new tests.

“Our goal remains the same,” she told reporters after a meeting with Northern Irish business leaders. “Our consultations with our partners and our allies continues unabated. It is unaffected by the behavior of North Korea.”

In fact, Pyongyang has announced a “no sail” zone for the next eight days, which means that we will see more of these tests.  Whether they stick to short-range missiles or start testing something more significant is anyone’s guess.

If they stick with short-range missiles, the diplomatic shrug is probably the right response.  No one doubts that Kim Jong-Il does this for the attention.  The missiles fly when he thinks the world has not focused enough on his regime, and besides, he has sales to make.  Making a diplomatic row out of it, especially over short-range launches, isn’t worth the effort — especially since it will have no effect at all on Kim’s behavior.

However, that may prompt Kim to escalate to longer-range products, and the Obama administration will have a decision on its hands.  Do they go back to a toothless UN and demand more pointless posturing if Kim starts launching Taepodong-2s, or do they focus instead on getting China to quietly retaliate for crossing the line?  The UN approach has not done much to tighten the leash on Kim.