True to form, the government of the Democratic People's Republic has tooted on its trumpet in an attempt to sully the inauguration of the Obama Administration in Washington. Through the offices of Selig Harrison they have delivered the entirely plausible but empty threat of having "weaponized" their stash of plutonium. As usual, the adolescents in charge of the Wall Street Journal 's editorial page have delivered one of their urgent pleas for extremism in the defense of liberty -- because nothing cries, "Success!" like the recent efforts of Nakayama Kyoko.
Oh, go to hell, all of you.
To unreality there is only one response: silence.
No meetings, no declarations, no trade, no oil shipments, no track two contacts, no third party interventions, no more Selig Harrison in Pyongyang. Nothing.
Just a simple reiteration of the obvious.
Unites States of America: "Any chemical, biological or nuclear weapon attack upon an ally of the United States will be considered an attack upon the United States. Our response will be visited upon on any attacker using such weapons and any supplier, equally and without mercy. In the event of imperfect information, we will attack upon those possibly responsible, without rational limit."
The Republic of Korea: "What the big kahuna said."
Japan: "What the big kahuna said and gosh-golly, is this the point at which we must now have nuclear weapons? Sigh..."
When, in a few months' time agents of North Korea, in secret or through their Chinese allies, slink up to representatives of the United States, the R.O.K. or Japan, saying, "Actually, we did not weaponize. It was the Propaganda Section – they always are trying to milk the cow on more time…" the response should be, "You are dealing with the Chinese now. Give them your plutonium for safe keeping, then contact us."
Will the DPRK then try something incredibly reckless and stupid in order to try to force the U.S. back to the negotiating table, like launch a missile sans warhead impacting on the main island of Japan?
Of course it will.
The key will be to build in an automatic but graduated Chinese response to such provocations. It is the Chinese government, and no one else, who has its hand upon the DPRK regime's jugular. China has heretofore permitted its unruly stepchild to heighten tensions in the regions. Given the interdependence of the economies and governments of East Asia, this behavior is no longer acceptable. When the DPRK lashes out on a level below the nuclear response threshold set by the United States, it is the Chinese who must retaliate.
The Chinese Communist Party Central Committee most probably understands this point. The hard part, the "putting the bell on the cat" moment, comes in getting the People's Liberation Army to understand this concept. Still wrapped up in its own runaway messianic 20th century anti-colonialist project – the invasion Taiwan and the forcible reintegration of the island into China -- the PLA is purblind to its primary goal: the defense of the motherland and the protection of the citizens. The greatest threats to the stability and security of the region are the policies of the DPRK, yet the PLA chooses to emphasize the role Chinese Army "volunteers" played in the salvation of the DPRK and what has become the Kim Dynasty.
The task for Japanese, ROK and U.S policy makers is to get the PLA to comprehend the existential threat posed by the DPRK nuclear program. This task has been made significantly easier by the DPRK's claim of a nuclear weapons capability.
Pyongyang has made a terrible tactical and strategic error. It has crossed the PLA's redline. The immediate and urgent task is to get the PLA to acknowledge this.