The latest news regarding North Korea is that they do NOT have a long-range missile test scheduled for July 4 as previously reported by myself and several dozen other news media. Bloomberg.com reported (see http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601089&sid=ayH8X5fJeVGA ), the preparations for a long-range test do not seem to be occurring. North Korea launched at least four short to medium-ranged missiles yesterday that landed in the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan.
An article by Margaret Talev and Steven Thomma of McClatchy Newspapers reports the Obama administration made it clear, however, that if a Hawaii-directed July 4 launch takes place, there is a "measured response" in the works that has been coordinated with Russia, China, Japan and South Korea, see http://news.yahoo.com/s/mcclatchy/20090702/wl_mcclatchy/3264922_1 .
Now that the immediate crisis seems to have dematerialized, it is time for the Obama administration to ramp up the diplomacy so that the US and the rest of the western pacific don't find themselves again in the position of having to rely on scientists estimates of whether the DPRK is capable of placing a nuclear warhead on one of its long range missiles. It may be time for direct talks between the US and North Korea. It is something the North Koreans have wanted for a long time and I see no reason not to do that. I don't think that the six party talks have produced any long-term meaningful results.
The North Koreans, in the meantime, have to change their attitude. It's one thing to play the crazy tin pot dictator, throwing out threats and the like, if you do not have nuclear weapons. Once you have nuclear weapons, you have less freedom to behave recklessly, particularly with other nuclear powers. The recent increased willingness by China and Russia to work with the US on North Korean issues is evidence that those fellow nuclear powers share the concern over reckless North Korean threats involving the use of nuclear weapons. There is no word to use other than madness to describe one nuclear power lobbing a ballistic missile in the direction of another regardless of virtually any other circumstances and the proposed target of any such launch is perfectly within its prerogatives to act militarily to prevent said launch. Let's be glad it seems we are not there right now, or should I say, yet.
An unfortunate side effect of the North Korean crisis is new comparisons in the press, blogosphere and most unfortunately from the Obama administration, between the DPRK and Iran. Iran does not have nuclear weapons, they allow the IAEA complete access to inspect all of their nuclear energy facilities and the Iranian situation in general should not be lumped together with North Korea's. In the above-mentioned McClatchy article it is reported that White House National Security Advisor James L. Jones said "What we do in North Korea is going to be watched very carefully by Iran and they'll draw conclusions there...So there's some metrics here that are really pretty global." The first point of Mr. Jones' is wrong and unfortunate, the second, however, is correct.
More disturbing regarding Iran is an article in the Washington Post by former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton,
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/01/AR2009070103020.html?hpid%3Dopinionsbox1&sub=AR , which suggests, "Israel's decision of whether to use military force against Tehran's nuclear weapons program is more urgent than ever." Conspicuously absent from Mr. Bolton's missive against Iran is any mention of the IAEA, which has such complete access to Iran's nuclear facilities that Iran allows them to sample materials coming from its centrifuges at will. It would be interesting to see how an "Iranian nuclear threat" could materialize without the Iranians having any weapons grade uranium or plutonium. One would think that former Bush administration officials would have learned to be wary of their assumptions regarding other countries' WMD programs (or suspected programs) if those assumptions were not shared by the UN weapons inspection agencies.
A tale of two Republican Governors