In recent days, a certain reality has crept into the Obama Administration's outlook on North Korea. To be sure, diplomacy remains the favored technique for dealing with Pyongyang; as of this writing, the U.S. is said to be working on a regional summit to discuss the DPRK and the threat it poses. Realistically speaking, there's not much of a chance the gathering will produce any sort of breakthrough, but the striped-pants crowd is determined to press ahead.
Meanwhile, other elements of the administration have (apparently) realized that diplomatic notes and appeals for talks don't have much impact with Pyongyang. And, with another TD-2 being prepped on the launch pad, the Defense Department--presumably with the blessings of the commander-in-chief--has ordered a series of missile defense deployments in Hawaii, a potential target for the North Korean missile.
The transformation is rather remarkable. Less than three months ago, in the run-up to the most recent TD-2 test, various government officials told us not to worry. "It's a space launch vehicle," stated Admiral Dennis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence. Defense Secretary Robert Gates downplayed the threat, noting North Korea's history of technical problems with the TD-2.
This time around, the tone from defense leaders is decidedly different. While some still doubt that the DPRK missile can reach U.S. territory, Mr. Gates is taking no chances. Ground-based missile interceptors in Alaska and California are on alert; a THAAD missile defense battery has been deployed to Hawaii and a giant, sea-based early-warning radar has been positioned near the islands.
Our latest column for Examiner.com looks at reasons behind this change in posture. The good news is the administration appears ready to deal with Pyongyang in a more forceful manner. The bad news? We're still not sure how far President Obama is willing to go in defending our interests in northeast Asia.