11 February 2009

Get the Fireworks Ready Boys, Hillary's Comin' !!!

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is headed to Asia soon, her first international travel with her new State Department business cards. Clinton will visit Japan Feb. 16-17, Indonesia Feb. 18-19, South Korea Feb. 19-20 and China Feb. 20-22. The visit comes as North Korea is ratcheting up its anti-U.S. rhetoric (the “problem is that the U.S. bellicose forces are supporting the puppets by waging saber-rattling against the DPRK from the outset of the new year”), anti-South Korean rhetoric (“The frantic exercises staged by the Lee Myung Bak warlike forces who put the inter-Korean relations in total stalemate and drove the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war through their reckless anti-DPRK confrontational moves will only precipitate their ruin”), and anti-Japanese rhetoric (“Japan is an aggression and war force which the international community should stand guard against, in particular”), and sending signals of impending missile tests. It is likely that, as part of a pattern of rhetoric leading to physical escalation, North Korea will greet Clinton’s visit to South Korea Feb. 19 or 20 with a test of short-range missiles in the West Sea (likely surface to surface anti-ship missiles, though there are reports Pyongyang was playing around with air-launched anti-ship missiles last year). This would be a near exact repeat of North Korea’s missile tests on Feb. 24, 2003, the day then Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived in South Korea for Roh Moo Hyun’s inauguration. What will be interesting to watch is not the short-range missile tests (pretty run of the mill for the DPRK) but the potential for a more dramatic show - a launch of the Taepodong-2 in SLV configuration, either from the Musudan-ri launch site on the east coast or the newer Dongchan-ri site on the west coast. That will stir up not only the South Koreans, but the Japanese and Chinese as well, giving Clinton a real test of her new foreign policy credentials.

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