Fish swim; birds sing (it is spring after all); and politicians…posture.
When you can do nothing about what is happening, strike a pose (good for statuary and those singing birds), and declaim.
Thus we are completing a ritualized viewing-with-alarm over the North Korean missile/satellite launch on April 5.
Starting with President Obama's declaration that it was a “provocative act,” continuing with statements such as a South Korean statement that the launch constituted a “serious threat” to peninsular security, and following with immediate Japanese government calls for an “emergency” UN Security Council meeting, international reaction was predictable and feckless.
This litany of lyrics has led to … nothing. Or the next-to-nothing conclusion epitomized by the UN Security Council statement of April 13 ostensibly declaring that Pyongyang’s missile test was illegal, telling them not to do it again, and implying that further economic sanctions will be placed on the North. The United States contended that the statement was binding, equivalent to a Security Council resolution, but other diplomats and officials disagreed. Essentially, neither Russia nor China was willing to accept anything tougher on a client state that while doubtless irritating is not going to be abandoned – a status in which we have found ourselves on more than one occasion.
As for Pyongyang, if North Korean apparatchik communists didn’t snicker, their reaction in stating that they would continue their nuclear program and weren’t interested in reopening currently suspended negotiations was certainly the substantive equivalent.
In the end, the North Koreans have a point. They do have the right to develop a space program with a satellite launch capability. Certainly this has been the right of the United States, Russia, China, the UK, France, etc. – and would also be the right of Chad, Paraguay, Lebanon, and the like. My right to swing my arms ends at the tip of your nose; but as long as your nose is untouched, my arm swinging rights continue. And whether the North Korean launch was a failed satellite attempt (as Pyongyang claimed) or another step in developing a long range missile capability is irrelevant. Pyongyang has that right as well—the launch was notified and nothing landed on Japanese territory.
There is much that could be done, ranging from massive air strikes against the North Korean military/nuclear/industrial establishment to serious and comprehensive economic sanctions and blockade designed to effect "regime change." But what we have accomplished is that diplomatic non-event, a flaccid note of protest.
There are, however, two possible conclusions:
The mistake would be thinking that the UN statement is meaningful in any substantive manner.