The gathering storm, part 525

North Korea’s long-range missile launch has provoked stern words from President Obama. “North Korea broke the rules once more by testing a rocket that could be used for a long-range missile,” Obama said. “This provocation underscores the need for action — not just this afternoon at the U.N. Security Council, but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons.” I

I believe the kind of “action” that Obama has in mind is the Security Council issuance of words as stern as Obama’s, though the New York Times reports that the United States has “vowed to penalize the North.” What shape might such a “penalty” take? Further down in the story, the Times notes:

At Japan’s request, the U.N. Security Council approved an emergency session Sunday. But China, North Korea’s only remaining major ally, and Russia are likely to veto or water down any new sanctions against the North. Pyongyang has said new sanctions would compel it to quit international talks on ending its nuclear weapons program.

A more likely option for Washington is to push for a stricter enforcement of an earlier Security Council resolution, analysts said. The document, adopted following the North’s first nuclear test in 2006, bans the North from seeking nuclear and ballistic missile technology and calls for the international community to stop trading weapons and luxury goods with Pyongyang.

Ouch!

Given North Korea’s existing nuclear weapons, the launch presents a threat to the the United States. Working in tandem with Iran, North Korea helped Syria install the nuclear reactor that Israel bombed last year. Iran’s nuclear program is itself on the verge of producing a nuclear weapon. With the Obama administration now working feverishly to conciliate Iran, one senses that we are sleepwalking toward the precipice.

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