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Kerry Provoked by North Korea's Provocative Provocation

Gabriel Schoenfeld

With the detonation of a North Korean nuclear device on Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry has been grappling with his first crisis.

Here are his comments in a press avail yesterday:

With respect to the DPRK, President Obama made it crystal clear last night and previously in all comments, as have other countries, that North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program are a threat now to the United States of America, because of what they are pursuing specifically, as well as to global security and peace. Following their latest provocation, which we have termed and believe is reckless and provocative, needlessly, I called Foreign Minister Kim of South Korea, I talked to Foreign Minister Kishida of Japan, I talked to Foreign Minister Yang of China, and we have placed a phone call to Foreign Minister Lavrov, and consulted with all of them with respect to the steps that we need to take. The international community now needs to come together with a swift and clear, strong, credible response, as pledged in the UN Security Council Resolution 2087.

And so my message about this is really simple, that this is not only about the DPRK and its continued flaunting of its obligations under three separate UN Security Council resolutions. This is about proliferation. And this is also about Iran, which is why I had Iran on my mind in answer to your question, because they’re linked. You connect the dots. It is important for the world to have credibility with respect to our nonproliferation efforts. And just as it is impermissible for North Korea to pursue this kind of reckless effort, so we have said it is impermissible with respect to Iran. And what our response is with respect to this will have an impact on all other nonproliferation efforts.

This is worrisome on 269 counts. That’s how many empty words are present here. The latest North Korean move, Kerry says, is a “provocation,” which “we have termed and believe” is “provocative.” Is that a tautology or simply redundant?

More alarming than sloppy talk is the chain of hollow threats that our new Secretary of State is directing at Pyongyang.  North Korea has done something “impermissible,” Kerry says, which warrants “a swift and clear, strong, credible response” from the “international community.”

“This is really simple,” he continues. “It is important for the world to have credibility with respect to our non-proliferation efforts.”

Perhaps, but is it more important for the world to have credibility or for the United States to have it? And do we have it, or are we in the process of undermining our credibility through Kerry’s public hand wringing accompanied by promises of deep cuts to the conventional and strategic forces of the U.S. military.

This spectacle cannot but encourage North Korea and whomever else is watching, most notably Iran. “You connect the dots,” says Kerry. That, at least, is an appropriate cliché.  Indeed, let’s connect the dots.

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