With all the focus on the big decisions ahead in Afghanistan, I found myself bracing for a sucker punch and wondering what, say, North Korea might be up to. Doing a quick web search just now before posting something a bit different here about the Pyongyang regime, I got my answer in headline form: "North Korea Fires 5 Short-Range Missiles."
According to the Associated Press, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that the missile tests won't change America's plans to resume nuclear talks with North Korea.
Earlier missile tests have only isolated North Korea further, according to Georgetown Professor Victor D. Cha, who negotiated with Pyongyang for the Bush Administration. His quote from a September interview for the Council on Foreign Relations web site sort of jumps off the page for its bluntness:
"... one of the things that Obama has done very well is that he got everybody to see the problem as being caused by North Korea and not the United States ... by simply saying, ’We're happy to push forward and meet with them at a high level and move forward via the Six-Party Talks.' Then the North did these tests and just like that, everybody said, 'Well, screw these guys,' and that's how we got such a strong UN Security Council resolution."
Secretary Clinton's response to the missile tests seems to come straight out of this same script with America casting itself in the part of the calm, reasonable grownup shrugging off a tantrum: "Our goal remains the same. Our consultations with our partners and our allies continues unabated. It is unaffected by the behavior of North Korea."
(Note: The Security Council resolution mentioned by Professor Cha is detailed here.)