North Korea’s nuclear test yesterday (its third) is the first challenge for new Secretary of State John Kerry. His response will indicate whether the Obama administration has any new ideas for dealing with North Korea or whether it will go down the same old road of endless and failed negotiations. Presidential counselor Valerie Jarrett’s comments this morning that she was “heartened” by the UN Security Council’s proposed discussion on Korea is a worrying sign that the administration will continue to rely on the UN, which has been singularly ineffective in curbing North Korea. It cannot be expected to suddenly become credible when North Korea regularly flouts all of its resolutions. Global condemnation is equally empty and speaks of a false bravado that the rest of the world has in dealing with North Korea’s provocations and aggression.
As I wrote for the Wall Street Journal last week, it is time to admit that our North Korea policy has failed and to begin thinking of ways to contain it. The next few days, however, will show us if the Obama administration provides any glimmer of hope that the next four years will be different from the past twenty. So far, there is little indication that anything new will emerge. What will be worse, though, is if President Obama’s second term starts with a repeat of George Bush’s, in which numerous concessions were made to Pyongyang to get it back to the negotiating table, resulting in a string of broken promises by the North. That will leave Barack Obama’s successor in a far worse position than even he was left by his.