Earlier this week, as the Senate and House Foreign Affairs Committees were wrestling with subtle issues surrounding the Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans, I mentioned that the new leadership and new membership there, and at the Office of the Secretary of State, would be facing real and important Issues in the coming months and years.
Now we are faced with a threat from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un much stronger and more immediate than any rhetoric thus far heard from belligerent Iran.
The North Korea National Defense Commission, headed by the young Jong Un himself, expressed the deeply felt hatred of Pyongyang for the United States. “We do not hide that a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea one after another and a nuclear test of higher level which will be carried out by it in the upcoming all-out action, a new phase of the anti-U.S. struggle that has lasted century after century, will target against the U.S., the sworn enemy of the Korean people.” The Commission pledged to “conduct a nuclear test as part of a ‘new phase’ of combat with the United States…” they boasted that the forthcoming nuclear testing would be part of a new phase of confrontation with the United States. “Settling accounts with the U.S. needs to be done with force, not with words, as it regards jungle law as the rule of its survival.”
Can we call these harsh words rhetoric? Even in the event little or no substantial proof of this ill-intent is forthcoming, can we ignore these threats, formally put forward by the leader of an enemy nation?
United States envoy on North Korea Glyn Davies has urged Pyongyang not to explode a nuclear device. Following a meeting with officials of the North Korean government, he said, “Whether North Korea tests or not, it’s up to North Korea. We hope they don’t do it. We call on them not to do it. It will be a mistake and a missed opportunity if they were to do it.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney addressed the threats: “North Korea’s statement is needlessly provocative and a test would be a significant violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. Further provocation would only increase Pyongyang’s isolation, and its continued focus on its nuclear and missile program is doing nothing to help the North Korean people.”
Scientist/expert Siegfried Hecker reports that North Korea has enough enriched plutonium to build four, possibly eight bombs. Pyongyang is working at breakneck speed to build missiles that can carry nuclear warheads to the United States. Some believe they already have that capacity. In October a spokesman for the National Defense Commission claimed that the United States in North America was within missile range. Photos at a nuclear test site in Punggye-ri indicate ongoing activity according to a Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies website.
United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta chose his words carefully. He holds that there are no outward indications that North Korea is preparing to conduct a nuclear test. He conceded it would be difficult to determine. In a press conference at the Pentagon he said, “We are very concerned with North Korea’s continuing provocative behavior.” He emphasized that the United States is “fully prepared” to deal with any provocation.