William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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COMING SOON TO A TV SCREEN NEAR YOU – AT 11:01 A.M. ET:  One of the most discouraging events of the past week was John Kerry's testimony at his confirmation hearing.  His confirmation as secretary of state is assured, coming as it will come from his pals in the Senate, where friendship means a lot more than principle.

Kerry spouted the Obama line, de-emphasizing crisis and emphasizing old bromides about soft power.  Eager ears were listening, and undoubtedly acting on the signal that they didn't have much to fear.  From AP via Fox:

WASHINGTON – North Korea could be almost ready to carry out its threat to conduct a nuclear test, a U.S. research institute said, pointing to recent satellite photos.

The images of the Punggye-ri site where nuclear tests were conducted in 2006 and 2009 reveal that over the past month roads have been kept clear of snow and that North Koreans may have been sealing the tunnel into a mountainside where a nuclear device would be detonated.

But it remains difficult to discern North Korea's true intentions as a test would be conducted underground.

The analysis was provided Friday to The Associated Press by 38 North, the website of U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. The latest image was taken Wednesday.

North Korea's powerful National Defense Commission declared its plans Thursday after the U.N. Security Council tightened sanctions in response to a December long-range rocket launch. It described it as part of a "new phase" of combat with the United States, which retains 28,000 troops in South Korea and which it blames for leading the U.N. bid to punish Pyongyang.

COMMENT:  I don't recall this being discussed with Kerry.  Let's see if, ho hum, they get around to it when master appeaser Chuck Hagel comes up for confirmation as secretary of defense.

Hagel's confirmation, which should have been blocked early, is also now virtually assured because we was given the "okay" stamp by Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, who, by some coincidence, was also master of ceremonies at Obama's inaugural. 

North Korea is a rogue state that thumbs its nose at sanctions, develops nuclear weapons, and experts the most dangerous technology to countries like Iran.  But we're sure Secretary-to-be Kerry has some good dialogue in store for the Koreans.  That'll show 'em.

January 26,  2013