President Obama's administration is pressing for diplomatic retaliation, perhaps in the form of more sanctions against North Korea, after Pyonyang launched a rocket into space. There are conflicting reports about the success of the launch. North Korea says the rocket carried a satellite, which is now orbiting the earth. That's according to state-run media in North Korea, which reportedly broadcast patriotic songs and images of Kim Jung Il, praising him for the launch. The US, meanwhile, said the launch failed to reach orbit, landing in the Pacific Ocean. According to The New York Times, "Officials and analysts in Seoul said the North's rocket, identified by American officials as a Taepodong-2, flew at least 2,000 miles, doubling the range of an earlier rocket it tested in 1998 and boosting its potential to fire a long-range missile."
There is disagreement at the Security Council over whether North Korea violated any UN resolutions with the US on one side and Russia, backed by China, on the other. The Obama administration has called the launch a "provocative act." "We think that what was launched is not the issue; the fact that there was a launch using ballistic missile technology is itself a clear violation," said UN ambassador Susan Rice, who is pressing for more sanctions against North Korea at the Security Council. Chinese officials said North Korea, like other nations, had a right to launch satellites. "Every state has the right to the peaceful use of outer space," said Russia's deputy U.N. envoy, Igor N. Shcherbak.
Obama used the launch in his major address in Prague, which has been characterized as an anti-nuclear speech. "Rules must be binding," he said of North Korea's launch. "Violations must be punished. Words must mean something."
Many countries around the world certainly see hypocrisy in the Obama administration's position on North Korea. Israel has repeatedly been condemned by the UN for its occupation of Palestinian lands. Moreover, it has hundreds of nuclear weapons with estimates ranging from 200-400 warheads. What's more, Israel and the US are in league with North Korea in the small club of nations that have refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Other nations include: China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, and Pakistan. In his Prague speech, Obama said his administration "will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification," saying, "After more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to finally be banned."
All of this must be kept in context as the "crisis" with North Korea continues to unfold. US hypocrisy on the nuclear issue takes away credibility the US has in its condemnations of North Korea, or Iran, for that matter. "Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran's neighbors and our allies," Obama said in Prague. Obama used Iran to justify a controverisal central European missile system, saying, "As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward... with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven." Obama did not mention Israel once in his speech and has never acknowledged its nuclear weapons system. Perhaps Obama should ask Arab and Muslim nations in the region what country they see as the biggest nuclear threat.
And this historical fact, which to Obama's credit he acknowledged, should never be forgotten: One nation in the world has used nuclear weapons-the United States.
In a statement, Peace Action, cautiously welcomed some of Obama's positions outlined in Prague, but said, "President Obama's statement that [a nuclear weapons-free] world might not be achieved in his lifetime is very disappointing. Obama can and should announce the initiation of negotiations on the global elimination of nuclear weapons. Similarly, his promotion of nuclear power, missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic and his escalation of troops in Afghanistan are all moves in the wrong direction."