Don't kowtow to North Korea


POSTED: Saturday, July 04, 2009

The chances are miniscule that one of the rockets to be seen tonight in Hawaii's skies was launched in North Korea. If such a missile is seen even coming in this direction from Korea's eastern coast, the United States should not hesitate in shooting it down.

A Japanese newspaper reported two weeks ago that Pyong-yang was planning to project a long-range missile in the direction of Hawaii sometime between the Fourth of July and next Wednesday, the 15th anniversary of founder Kim Il Sung's death. Defense Secretary Robert Gates deployed antimissile interceptors and a sea-based tracking radar that had been positioned on Oahu as a precaution.

The possibility of such a threat being successful has been considered remote at the outset, since North Korea's last attempt to target Hawaii with a missile ended after 42 seconds, when it crashed into the sea. Every attempt by the North to test its long-range missiles has failed. It fired four short-range missiles off its eastern coast on Thursday, and the U.S. and Japan called the move “;provocative.”;

However, Peter Hughes, Britain's ambassador to Pyongyang, told Agence France-Presse that he had “;seen no evidence as yet to state that there will be a launch in the next couple of days of an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile).”; Several days of preparation are needed before a long-range launch, and no such activities have been observed, according to news reports in Seoul.

President Barack Obama said last month that the U.S. military “;is fully prepared for any contingencies.”; His administration should continue to press China to bring North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il under control.

Philip Goldberg, a U.S. envoy who is coordinating efforts against the North, met Thursday with Chinese officials in Beijing to seek China's support in carrying out the new sanctions outlined by a United Nations resolution passed after nuclear tests in May. The sanctions demand that the North stop testing ballistic missiles and allow nations to force a North Korean ships suspected of carrying weapons into port for inspection.

The North's pugnacious behavior appears to be an attempt to attract the attention of the U.S. to strengthen its position before returning to six-party negotiations. China and Russia have called for a resumption of those talks.

The administration of George W. Bush rewarded North Korea with food and fuel for such behavior. Obama said he would “;break that pattern”; and he should stick to that promise.