By John R. Bolton | Washington Times
Obama takes little notice of menacing developments in Pyongyang and Tehran.
You wouldn’t know it from the Obama administration, but North Korea’s global threat continues to metastasize. South Korea recently concluded that extensive cyber-attacks against civilian and military targets in the South emanated from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Following China’s lead in information warfare, the North is creating yet another asymmetric military capability it can deploy against its adversaries and also peddle for hard currency to other rogue states and terrorist.
The North’s development of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear payloads is also advancing apace, as Russian missile designer Yuri Solomonov highlighted last month in a Kommersant interview. This is hardly surprisingly given Iran’s increasing long-range capabilities, the extensive Tehran-Pyongyang collaboration, and their programs’ common base in Soviet-era Scud missile technology.
He long ago admitted supplying North Korea and Iran with critical nuclear technology. Pyongyang’s unveiling in November of impressive new uranium-enrichment facilities at Yongbyon and recent construction there show the continuing fruits of Mr. Khan’s entrepreneurship. His documents – and the many others he undoubtedly has in a shoebox somewhere – are worth verifying and actually might help Islamabad and Washington work together to repair their fractured relationship and prevent China from exploiting their current differences.
Public silence is not necessarily inappropriate, although the failure to comment on a wide range of global threats posed by U.S. adversaries is par for the course under President Obama. Based on presidential attention levels, one would think Iran’s nuclear-weapons program was withering away, Russia’s active military penetration of the Arctic was of merely scientific interest, and China’s aggressive territorial claims in East Asia were mere legal technicalities to be resolved by low-level functionaries.
Through the “strategic patience” policy, the president has at least not been scurrying to revive the failed Six-Party Talks or willfully denying the North’s weapons-related progress, as many did in the George W. Bush administration’s final years. But however politically self-satisfying “not Bush” might be, strategic patience is a thoroughly inadequate response to North Korea and has been from its inception.
A real strategy, which we need much sooner than later, would require understanding that the DPRK and Iranian threats, including cyberwarfare, are two sides of the same coin, not unrelated outbreaks of nuclear contagion. The United States must take both seriously, reversing our present course of ignoring both.
At a minimum, therefore, we must press China and Russia far harder to quarantine North Korea’s trafficking in nuclear and missile technologies and materials. Unfortunately, the administration’s startling passivity means missing opportunities, which we will all regret very soon.