North Korea launched a rocket on Sunday, but failed to put a satellite into orbit as hoped.
Worldfocus editorial consultant Peter Eisner, the former deputy foreign editor of the Washington Post, discusses the implications of the launch and the changing face of the U.S. approach to North Korea.
It’s pretty early for the U.S. government to be raising the missile shields after the latest rocket launch by the saber rattlers in North Korea.
Viewed from one perspective, the North Korean government achieved nothing more than reminding President Obama that attention must be paid. That’s especially true since the weekend launch apparently failed — pity the poor engineers who weren’t able to launch the rocket’s payload into orbit.
The North Koreans are often transparent in their petulant style of demanding that they be placed front and center among all the other potboilers to be dealt with.
Predictably, calls from the right demanded new sanctions against North Korea for firing the missile over the Pacific. But even the Bush administration, unaccustomed as it was to choosing diplomacy over threats and war, learned that engaging the Pyongyang government in talks was the most fruitful means of reaching peaceful objectives.
The Bush administration scored one of its only successes in international relations when Ambassador John Bolton was shoved aside in 2005 in favor of Christopher R. Hill as chief representative to the six-party international talks aimed at resolving the North Korean nuclear problem.
Bolton dealt with North Korea by stringing together insults against Kim Jong Il (he called the dear leader “a tyrannical rogue” and said life in North Korea was “a hellish nightmare.” North Korea was happy to respond by calling him “human scum” and a “bloodsucker.”) It may be fun to engage in name-calling, but Hill met with more success on decreasing tensions when he visited Pyongyang and spoke respectfully with North Korean officials.
Hill has now taken the post of U.S. ambassador to Iraq. North Korea is serious business and it is in everyone’s interest for the new representative to the talks, Ambassador Stephen W. Bosworth, to dig in and follow through on the six-party talks. North Korea’s salvo is a strident reminder to the new president that it wants priority on his list of action items.
– Peter Eisner