William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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THE THREAT – AT 9:53 A.M. ET:  Americans have already forgotten the recent North Korean missile test.  As a nation, we seem not to be taking these things very seriously anymore.  When the Soviets launched Sputnik in 1957, their first satellite, we took it as a potentially grave threat to American scientific supremacy.  Now, a rogue nation launches a potentially deadly missile, and it's a one-day story.  But in fact it's a very serious story:

(Reuters) - This month's rocket launch by reclusive North Korea shows it has likely developed the technology, long suspected in the West, to fire a warhead more than 10,000 km (6,200 miles), South Korean officials said on Sunday, putting the U.S. West Coast in range.

North Korea said the December 12 launch put a weather satellite in orbit but critics say it was aimed at nurturing the kind of technology needed to mount a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile.

North Korea is banned from testing missile or nuclear technology under U.N. sanctions imposed after its 2006 and 2009 nuclear weapons tests and the U.N. Security Council condemned the launch.

Yeah, that ban has really worked.

South Korea retrieved and analyzed parts of the first-stage rocket that dropped in the waters off its west coast

"As a result of analyzing the material of Unha-3 (North Korea's rocket), we judged North Korea had secured a range of more than 10,000 km in case the warhead is 500-600 kg," a South Korean Defense Ministry official told a news briefing.

North Korea's previous missile tests ended in failure.

North Korea, which denounces the United States as the mother of all warmongers on an almost daily basis, has spent decades and scarce resources to try to develop technology capable of striking targets as far away as the United States and it is also working to build a nuclear arsenal.

But experts believe the North is still years away from mastering the technology needed to miniaturize a nuclear bomb to mount on a missile.

COMMENT:  Yeah, right.  How many "years" would that be?  And will we wake up morning to see still one more news report about how a rogue nation has "unexpectedly" launched a nuclear-capable rocket?  Another nice surprise for the "sophisticates" in the foreign-policy establishment?

A nuclear weapon is still the greatest game changer a nation can have.  That nation may not have any plans to use the weapon, but it acts as a powerful persuader.  It also acts as a great equalizer.  All our military power doesn't look all that impressive when an impoverished nation can soon have the capability to take out Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Honolulu and Portland at the same time.  We would act very carefully in our relations with that nation.

Another great success for Obama's "engagement" strategy, which was based on Jimmy Carter's.  Interesting, but both were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. 

December 24, 2012