The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Hermit Kingdom Launches Long-Range Rocket

It’s official. Like the Clinton and Bush administrations before it, the Obama administration has no clue how to deal with North Korea. The DPRK just launched a long-range rocket into space that may or may not have put a satellite in orbit:

The US described the act as a “highly provocative act that threatens regional security”. South Korea said the launch was a “clear violation” of UN resolutions, while Japan called for emergency talks at the UN over the “intolerable” action. China also demanded that North Korea comply with the UN resolutions. [ . . . ]

“This is the third slap in the face for the Obama administration. I would be surprised if they have any interest in diplomacy right now,” said Mr Cha [a former Bush administration official].

Of course, nobody anywhere in the world knows how to deal with North Korea. The Chinese would like it to be more prosperous and less provocative. As it is, China’s only truly close ally in the world is a costly and bothersome one. Each North Korean missile launch pushes Japan and South Korea towards tougher policies, and China ends up paying a diplomatic price for the actions of a country it heavily supports with economic aid.

With its neighbors already clinging to each other and to the United States in response to its own foreign policy, China doesn’t stand to gain much from the recalcitrance of its loony ally. But North Korea isn’t about to allow the U.S. “pivot” to happen without making some real and potentially dangerous noise. Count this as another nagging headache for the Obama administration in its second term.

Published on December 12, 2012 9:00 am