THE SPINE MAY 29, 2009
"Tout va bien" with North Korea, says secretary of defense Robert Gates who also seems only mildly perturbed by the nuclear ambitions of Iran. According to Elizabeth Bumiller and Choe Sand-Hun in the New York Times, Gates has "detected no unusual military movements in North Korea...after the North threatened its (southern) neighbor with military attack." Phew!The secretary was speaking from a place called Shangri-La, which perhaps explains the goofiness of his observations. The Times dispatch observed that, "The North tested a nuclear device and launched three missiles in defiance of international sanctions on Monday, fired more missiles on Tuesday and threatened military strikes against South Korea on Wednesday."In the meantime, Gates is pinning all his hopes for restraining Pyongyang on China which, I believe, will not do no more than support some vague Security Council resolution having the force of milquetoast. Of course, Ambassador Rice will then claim it as a big triumph of the international system.But don't be surprised if China actually vetoes such a resolution. By the way, whatever Gates said, "By Thursday, the South Korean and American militaries had raised their alert level on North Korea to the second highest, invoked when 'a grave threat' is feared from the North."Gates did admit that "these guys," meaning the North Koreans, "have shown a penchant in the past for selling anything they've been able to develop." To Syria, for example, as the Israeli air force demonstrated. But to other international pirates, as well.