In what was billed by some media outlets as Obama getting that 4 a.m. call, Obama, during a prearranged speech on nuclear disarmament in Prague, responded to the North Korean missile launch with a statement that sounded more like an attempt to buy time to figure out a response than a response itself.
Obama, as is his style, forcefully told everyone who had gathered in Prague what they already knew about North Korea as if it was news.
In a statement that sounded more like a note to Kim's mother from the school principal about Kim Jong-Il's bad behavior, Obama said,"With this provocative act, North Korea has ignored its international obligations, rejected unequivocal calls for restraint and further isolated itself from the community of nations."
To paraphrase a former campaign slogan, yes they did. And what else is new? Kim Jong-Il has been doing that for years, is already isolated, and if he cared at all would not have launched in the first place.
Obama went on to say,"North Korea must know that the path to security and respect will never come through threats and illegal weapons. All nations must come together to build a stronger global regime." Or Kim will be kept after school?
Aside from Obama's line regarding the building of a "global regime" which some might find unsettling, according to most analysts, Kim launched this missile for one reason: to say to his own people, "yes we can".
Many analysts agree it was a move more designed to strengthen his hand with his own people while at the same time doing what Kim likes to do from time to time -- rattle the international community. It was also a way for Kim to stick his thumb in Obama's eye, launching the missile when he knew Obama would be in Europe making a speech, but beyond that it doesn't seem to have the significance that some are attaching.
Some have suggested that it was a "trade show" launch designed to show other countries that North Korea can provide missile technology. The two countries mentioned most as possible buyers were Syria and Iran but both suggestions are preposterous. Syria has been having secret talks with Israel related to peace and security and buying missile technology from North Korea would be the last thing they would do now. And Iran doesn't need it.
Obama went on to say in a tone that continued to sound like a note from the school principal, that Kim had "broken the rules" and that, "we will immediately consult with our allies in the region, including Japan and [South Korea] and ... bring this matter before the [Security] Council. I urge North Korea to abide fully by the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council and to refrain from further provocative actions."
Needless to say, Obama "urging" Kim to do anything is not likely to produce a similar "urge" in Kim. If Obama is waiting for Kim to say "my bad", he has a long wait. North Korea has been a thorny problem for years and its going to take more than anything Obama said in Prague to deal with it.
Obama, during the presidential campaign, alluded to the idea that he personally would sit down with Kim ( and other potential US enemies) to talk face to face, a foreign policy position that those who know about such things have said would be a disaster. But there was no indication in Obama's speech that he had any intention of doing that. Instead, Obama said he would bring the matter to the UN.
The matter was in fact brought before an emergency session of the UN on Sunday but ended with no further notes to Kim's mother. Only an "F" for Kim in Works and Plays Well With Others.
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