Is President Obama tracking the threat of nuclear proliferation? He denounced “North Korea’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons,” which strikes one as a little odd since Pyongyang is well beyond the development stage and has moved on to testing. Our concern now should be estimating when they will deploy an operational nuclear force. It is unclear whether the United States can do anything to prevent deployment – the new nuclear test again demonstrates the failure of the Six Party Talk diplomatic framework, as if that needs more demonstration. North Korea does what it wants, when it wants. We issue statements and wait for their next move.
The North Korean test should also increase the urgency with which we face the Iranian nuclear threat. Iranian technicians reportedly were present at the 2006 North Korean nuclear test, and odds are they were involved with this one as well. North Korea and Iran have long cooperated on nuclear and missile programs, and North Korean specialists were videotaped at the Syrian reactor that Israel destroyed in September 2007. The reactor was reportedly underwritten by Iran as a means of carrying out their nuclear weapons program outside the country. It is reasonable to assume that Iran could use North Korea as another weapons-development basing area, leaving only the sticky problem of getting a completed weapon back to Iran. For all we know the test today was on Iran’s behalf. President Obama would do well to focus seriously on the emerging challenge in Iran, before Tehran settles the issue. As for North Korea, maybe we can talk about it some more.
– James S. Robbins is a senior editorial writer at the Washington Times.