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North Korea's non-existent missile threat

July 14, 2006 | Page 3

NORTH KOREA'S test firing of missiles in early July was met by a barrage of hypocritical denunciations and racist invective from U.S. officials and the media.

Media commentators and grandstanding Democrats were quick to point out the contrast between the Bush administration's relatively mild response to the test firing and its zero-tolerance rhetoric about Iraq before the 2003 invasion.

Backtracking from his previous attitude of open hostility to North Korea, George Bush pledged to "make sure we work with our friends and allies." At a news conference, he referred continually to the importance of "diplomacy"--exactly what White House officials scornfully rejected in the case of Iraq.

There is a double standard here--owing primarily to the immediate importance of Iraq to the Bush administration, both because of its oil reserves and its strategic location in a region the U.S. is intent on dominating without rivals.

But the pundits and politicians who criticized Bush's "moderate" response on North Korea are wrong in their claim that the White House is ignoring a greater danger. According to the far-from-radical national security analyst Anthony Cordesman, "the main risk seems to be that North Korea is beginning early testing of a missile that could throw the equivalent of a rock at Alaska."

As in previous attempts, the North Korean rocket test failed two minutes less than two minutes after launch.

The country's economy is in a permanent state of crisis, crushed under the weight of U.S. sanctions and cut off from foreign loans and international aid. Thus, the government is economically incapable of creating a successful offensive weapons program--experts estimate that each test eats up as much as 10 percent of the country's scarce foreign exchange reserves at a pop.

In reality, its weapons program is aimed at deterring an attack--most likely from the U.S. Anyone who thinks the North Korean military represents a threat to the U.S. is deluded. But to politicians from both parties, it remains a convenient bogeyman.

The rhetoric about North Korean militarism only serves to highlight the gaping hypocrisy of the Washington establishment.

Ironically, on the same day as the North Korean test, the U.S. launched its own giant rocket--carrying a manned spacecraft called the Discovery. But in spite of the Pentagon's sponsorship of the space shuttle program and the administration's open talk of putting weapons into space--last year, the U.S. became the first country ever to oppose an annual nonbinding United Nations in favor of preventing an arms race in outer space--there was no media uproar about this "threat to peace."

Meanwhile, the Bush administration was pressuring Congress to approve a new initiative to share nuclear technology with the Indian government--which conducted its own rocket test in July, launching a new missile designed to carry nuclear warheads across much of Asia and the Middle East.

Opponents of U.S. wars and occupations need to expose U.S. hypocrisy over North Korea and focus attention on the real madmen--the ones in the White House.

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