Posts Tagged ‘North Korea’


Sorry? For What?

August 13, 2009

IBD      6 Aug 09

Foreign Policy: We’re glad former President Bill Clinton returned from North Korea with two American journalists who had been wrongly imprisoned there. But apologizing sets a very bad diplomatic precedent.

Who wouldn’t be happy seeing the tearful, smiling faces of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, the journalists who were nabbed by Kim Jong Il’s security forces while on a reporting mission on the China border?

The secretive state nabbed them five months ago, and a government tribunal sentenced them to 12 years of hard labor. In North Korea, hard labor means hard labor. Had the sentences been carried out, one or both might have died in custody.

Even as we rejoice at their release, supposedly brokered by Clinton, we wonder what it means for the future. We have just rewarded North Korea — once again — for behaving badly. It’s not that country’s fault if we offer only carrots and never any sticks.

Yes, we’re glad for Ling and Lee. But make no mistake: They weren’t prisoners; they were hostages. This weakens the U.S. in any future talks with North Korea over its nuclear weapons.

Even by picking Clinton for this “private, humanitarian mission,” as the Washington Post called it, the U.S. seemed to be sending a not-so-subtle signal to Kim that the U.S. is ready to appease him.

For in addition to being a former commander in chief, Clinton is the husband of the current secretary of state. And his own secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, was the first to visit North Korea.

Far from private, this has White House fingerprints all over it. As the AP noted: “State media said Clinton apologized on behalf of the women and relayed President Barack Obama’s gratitude.”

Groveling, anyone? Kim now knows the current U.S. leader can be blackmailed — if he didn’t know it before. That’s what made President Clinton so appropriate for this mission. It was from Clinton that Kim first learned this lesson.

In 1994, recall, Clinton sent former President Carter — see a pattern? — to North Korea to negotiate that country’s denuclearization. Carter returned with a deal similar in its sycophancy and cynicism to the one Neville Chamberlain brought back from Munich.

In exchange for billions of dollars in food aid and even help for its “peaceful” nuclear power effort, North Korea vowed to behave and decommission its nuclear weapons program.

No sooner had the ink dried than North Korea began cheating. During the Clinton years, the U.S. and the U.N. signed three agreements with North Korea. North Korea broke its word each time.

Commander in chief? Clinton acted like appeaser in chief. We never learned. The deal making continued into the 2000s — culminating in the Six-Party Talks, which concluded in 2007.

Again, Pyongyang broke its word and bought more time with its outrageous behavior. Today it has a burgeoning missile program and nuclear weapons, plus has sold that technology to other rogue states, including Iran. Rather than being conciliatory, the U.S. should have been righteously angry. Instead, U.S. weakness with North Korea is tempting others.

In Iran, just this week, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s security forces arrested three young American journalists for an alleged border violation. Coincidence? Probably not. It follows the arrest earlier this year of U.S. journalist Roxana Saberi, who was released in May — just before Iran’s elections.

Clearly, Iran has learned the same valuable lesson as Kim — threaten captured Americans with harsh punishment, use them as pawns, then watch us grovel for the favor of their release.

Unfortunately, this weakness will diminish any leverage we might have in nuclear talks with North Korea or Iran.

That, in turn, ultimately places the U.S., our friend Israel and our European allies in danger. Some deal.


North Korea Ratchets Up Its Threats

June 29, 2009


25 June 09

Nuclear Terror: North Korea’s threats have escalated to new levels in recent days. Ordinarily, this might not be a big concern. But it’s an unstable regime with nuclear weapons, so we have to be ready to act — and fast.

President Obama doesn’t seemed too concerned about the North Korean threat, saying the U.S. has “dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s” on a potential response to the country’s increasingly hysteric provocations. On Wednesday, for example, it threatened to “wipe out” the U.S. “once and for all.”

It sounds laughable, since North Korea’s military doesn’t match up too well with ours. And yes, it could just be routine saber-rattling as we near the 59th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, which ended in a truce.

Still, there are signs of growing desperation in North Korea as family members and the military jockey to succeed the country’s ailing totalitarian despot, Kim Jong-Il. This raises the risks for us.

In April, North Korea tested a new long-range Taepodong-2 missile capable of hitting Hawaii and parts of the continental U.S. In late May, it conducted an underground test of an atomic bomb. After both the U.S. and U.N. condemned its moves, the North Koreans stalked out of nuclear disarmament talks and — what else? — again threatened the U.S.

Earlier this month, North Korea suspended its truce with the U.S. — in effect, saying the Korean War has restarted.

Just a week ago, the U.S. detected a ship leaving the North Korean port of Nampo. The Kang Nam is thought to be carrying illicit nuclear material and is being shadowed by the USS John S. McCain, a U.S. naval destroyer.

What’s it all mean? North Korea is emerging as a serious threat, even hinting that it might soon launch missiles at Hawaii.

Right now, of course, it’s doubtful they could seriously deliver a nuclear bomb to our shores. They’re still ascending the nuclear learning curve. But as their missile and nuclear technology improves, they’ll have know-how that will make them truly dangerous — like a mini-China during the reign of Mao.

This is already happening. In 2006, when North Korea’s test of a nuclear bomb yielded less than 1 kiloton of explosive power, many people shrugged it off. Last month’s test yielded as much as 20 kilotons. What will the next one bring?

We wouldn’t be in this spot if we had nipped it in the bud. Going back to the bogus disarmament deal signed in 1994 by the Clinton administration and its envoy, former President Jimmy Carter, the U.S. has had chances to stop North Korea’s nuclear program.

Unfortunately, the Clinton White House was in denial. In 1998, its military adviser even claimed the North Koreans didn’t have a nuclear weapons program. He was spectacularly wrong.

During this time, we were told repeatedly not to “provoke” the North Koreans. If we didn’t, they wouldn’t build nuclear weapons. Well, we spent the better part of two decades not provoking them. In fact, we gave them aid, provided them with millions of barrels of fuel oil and even helped them build a light-water nuclear facility.

All the while, North Korea’s government played us for patsies, starving millions of its own people, threatening neighboring South Korea and Japan with military attack and building up its nuclear threat to the point where, now, it’s quite serious.

You’d think such a threat to us would be met with resolute force. Instead, we’re cutting our missile defense budget — the best way to defend against rogue nuclear attacks — by 15%, or $1.4 billion.

There’s a lesson in this for us, if we’ll only pay attention. We’re going down the very same wrong-headed road today with Iran as we did in the 1990s with North Korea.

We appease, we bribe, we provide more carrots and remove sticks, and still the threats come. North Korea is now nuclear. If we had been smart, we would have bombed that country’s nuclear facilities into rubble a decade ago. We wouldn’t have this problem today.

Unfortunately, we didn’t. Nor are we likely to do anything about Iran’s nuclear weapons, either. But that too is a growing threat. As IBD noted last month, Iran has already tested a solid-fuel Sajjil-2 missile that can travel 1,200 miles — enough to hit Europe or Israel.

Why develop such a weapon unless you plan to load something truly devastating on it — like a nuclear warhead? Soon, Iran will be another rogue nation with nuclear weapons — just as President Bush repeatedly warned. The whole world will be less safe.

The bottom line is the U.S. needs at the very least to have the best missile defense in the world — one that works so well that none would dare challenge us. Better still would be a plan of zero tolerance for those developing nuclear weapons outside international law — enforced, if necessary, by America’s military.


Hawaii Uh-Oh

June 23, 2009

Hawaii Uh-Oh


Defense: As we prepare to celebrate our independence, North Korea wants to remind us of Pearl Harbor. Fortunately, we can make use of assets dreamed of by Reagan and deployed by Bush to defend our 50th state.

Read More: Military & Defense

Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper reported Thursday that North Korea would launch a long-range Taepodong-2 missile at Hawaii on or about July 4. This would be the anniversary of the first Taepodong-2 test on July 4, 2006. It would also mark the 15th anniversary of North Korean President Kim Il Sung’s death.

Those who know have stopped laughing at North Korea’s increasingly credible nuclear and global missile threat. Taking it seriously was Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who on Thursday said he had ordered the deployment of defense equipment to Hawaii.

A holdover from the Bush administration, Gates must be grateful and appreciative of the irony of having this equipment his new boss, President Obama, has derided as “unproven.”

“I’ve directed the deployment again of THAAD missiles to Hawaii,” Gates said at a Pentagon press conference. “And the SBX radar has deployed, away from Hawaii, to provide support. . . . The ground-based interceptors are clearly in a position to take action. So without telegraphing what we will do, I would just say . . . we are in a good position, should it become necessary, to protect American territory.”

Missile defense took a $1.4 billion, or 15%, hit in the Gates-Obama proposed 2010 budget. Several promising programs such as the airborne laser were put on the shelf. The number of those ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely in Alaska and at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California that Gates touted was capped at 30, down from an intended 44.

Still, what Ronald Reagan’s dream and George W. Bush’s determination left us is quite formidable.

The SBX is the world’s largest phased-array X-band radar carried aboard a mobile, oceangoing, semisubmersible oil platform. It’s 28 stories high, weighs 50,000 tons and is said to be so powerful that if anchored in New York Harbor it could track a San Francisco Giants home run landing in McCovey Cove a continent away.

Looking like a giant golf ball, the SBX radar has already proved itself. It was used in February 2008 to successfully track a decaying spy satellite and guide warships equipped with the Aegis missile defense system to destroy it. Aegis-equipped destroyers and cruisers will be part of the forces assigned to defend Hawaii.

In February 2008, the SBX radar helped the Aegis missile cruiser Lake Erie using a Standard Missile 3 shoot down the National Reconnaissance Office’s 2.5-ton NROL-21 Radarsat before it could strike the earth with its deadly hydrazine fuel tank nearly full.

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system is designed to knock out missiles in their final moments of flight but at higher altitudes, letting it defend a larger area. THAAD systems entered operation at Fort Bliss, Texas, in May 2008.

The people of Hawaii know the folly of depending on assurances about enemy capabilities and intentions. They found that out on Dec. 7, 1941. Thanks to the foresight of Reagan and Bush, who learned from history, they won’t have to repeat it.


Target Alaska: Gov. Palin Pushes SDI

June 2, 2009

From IBD

2 June 09

Security: As Defense Secretary Gates tours our missile defense site at Fort Greely, Alaska, Gov. Sarah Palin calls for restoration of the missile defense cuts. Meanwhile, North Korea points another missile at the U.S.

Robert Gates’ visit to our missile defense facility at Fort Greely on Monday was a pointed reminder to the North Koreans that while we have been talking softly, we still have a few big sticks in the ground ready to turn the North Korean missile program into so much scrap metal.

That is somewhat reassuring as Pyongyang moves another ICBM to the launchpad, this time at a new facility on its west coast. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the missile had been sent by train to the newly completed missile facility of Dongchang-ni, about 40 miles from the Chinese border.

The weapon being prepared for launch is believed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of up to 4,000 miles, the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported, citing an unnamed South Korean official. That would put Alaska within striking range.

Gates spoke a little less softly in Singapore on Saturday, with encouraging words regarding any attempt by Pyongyang to export its technology of mass destruction.

“The transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to state or non-state entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States and its allies,” he said at the annual security conference. “And we would hold North Korea fully accountable for the consequences of such action.”

We hope so, for Pyongyang has already been there, done that. In 2007, Israel took out a North Korean-built, Iranian-financed nuclear plant at Damascus’ al-Kibar complex in eastern Syria.

The Washington Post noted that the timing of the raid was related to the arrival three days earlier of a ship carrying North Korean materials labeled as cement but suspected of concealing nuclear equipment.

In 2002, the U.S. tracked the So Sang, a vessel of unknown registry. Spanish commandos, operating in conjunction with American authorities, intercepted and boarded the vessel. It was found to be carrying 15 Scud-B missiles hidden under sacks of concrete.

Gates believes the 30 interceptors developed, tested and deployed by his former boss, President George W. Bush, at Fort Greely and at Vandenberg AFB in California are adequate for the threat. While Gates’ words are tough and the visual aids stunning, Gov. Palin, who hosted Gates’ visit and whose state is on the wrong end of a Taepodong trajectory, thinks more is needed — such as the other 14 ground-based interceptors that were planned for but cut.

A statement from her office last Friday, after North Korea launched its sixth missile in less than a week, said: “Missile Defense Agency funding must be fully restored in the federal budget to guarantee our protective measures remain the best in the world.” We think so too.

“The United Nations sanctions have failed to stop North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons,” the statement quotes Palin as saying, “and the Obama administration cannot afford to be playing catch-up to an irrational dictator like Kim Jong Il.”

One response that might get North Korea’s attention would be to enforce the Proliferation Security Initiative created by President Bush in 2003 after the So Sang incident. The PSI allows its 95 signatory states to inspect ships and planes for illicit weapons and materials and to seize their cargos.

South Korea, at great risk of provoking Pyongyang, announced last week that it was joining the PSI.

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, who was instrumental in creating the PSI, says the Obama administration as of recently doesn’t think much of the option: “I don’t think they even knew what it was.”

As in the war on terror, most of our successes remain secret. But according to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the OSI was used in October 2003 to intercept nuclear-fuel centrifuge components being shipped to Libya on a German-owned vessel.

That’s how you stop proliferation.


Cartoon: US Missile Defense Cuts

May 28, 2009

Perhaps we should reconsider the missile defense cuts.

North Korea Nukes White House


North Korea Tees Up A Test For SDI

March 16, 2009

North Korea Tees Up A Test For SDI

By INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Friday, March 13, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Missile Defense: Japan says it may shoot down North Korea’s upcoming “satellite” launch if it gets too close, and a key U.S. commander says he’s prepared to do the same should President Obama give the order. Will he?

Read More: East Asia & Pacific | Military & Defense

It has become the mantra of this administration that a good crisis is a terrible thing to waste. It was first spoken by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and echoed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. North Korea’s imminent launch of a “satellite” may be just such a crisis.

We put “satellite” in quotes because we sincerely doubt Pyongyang is interested in the peaceful exploration of space. Why does a nation that starves millions of its citizens need a communications satellite in a land without cell phones?

A map provided by North Korea and showing "danger areas" for rocket launches was displayed Friday at the Foreign Ministry office in Seoul.

A map provided by North Korea and showing “danger areas” for rocket launches was displayed Friday at the Foreign Ministry office in Seoul.

Yes, it could be a symbol of prestige. But more importantly, as with Iran’s first indigenous satellite, Omid (Hope), it’s a sign of the ability to deliver a nuclear warhead anywhere on this planet. North Korea is a nuclear power. Iran soon will be.

Japan has been keenly aware of the North Korean missile threat at least since North Korea test-fired a Taepodong ICBM, which flew over the Japanese home islands in 1998. Without any warning. In July 2006, North Korea launched a volley of seven North Korean Scuds and Nodongs into the Sea of Japan.

Japan has since been an active partner in our development of missile defenses and has a number of Aegis destroyers equipped with the U.S.-designed Standard Missile-3 antimissile system like the one that recently — and successfully — shot down a dying spy satellite as it fell to earth.

Japan jointly produces the Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) antimissile missiles and has deployed them at bases around Tokyo. One of our early-warning phased array radar sites is located at a Japanese Self Defense Force base in the northern Japanese city of Tsugaru to warn of North Korean missile launches.

On Friday, Japan announced that it reserved the right to destroy any threatening missile in midflight, including the North Korean launch scheduled between April 4 and April 8. The missile boosters are expected to fall an uncomfortable 75 miles from Japan’s northwest coast.

“Under our law, we can intercept any object if it is falling towards Japan, including any attacks on Japan, for our security,” Takeo Kawamura, the chief cabinet secretary, told reporters.

Thanks to the vision of President Reagan, who launched the Strategic Defense Initiative in 1983, and the follow-through of President George W. Bush, who withdrew us from the nonsensical ABM treaty, President Obama has the option to shoot down any such launch.

Gen. Trey Obering III, former Missile Defense Agency chief, has said that after dozens of successful missile intercepts, “Our testing has shown not only can we hit a bullet with a bullet, we can hit a spot on a bullet with a bullet.”

“If a missile leaves the launch pad, we’ll be prepared to respond upon the direction of the president,” Adm. Timothy Keating, head of the U.S. Pacific Commands, told ABC News on Feb. 26. “It’s a fairly stern test early of President Obama and his administration,” he also noted.

President Obama has said he would not invest more money in “unproven” missile defense. He has also expressed a willingness to trade away missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic aimed at Iranian Shahab and Safir missiles.

This would be a perfect time to put our missile defenses to the ultimate test and at the same time send a message to nuclear-armed thugs that if they shoot, we’ll shoot back. After all, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.