Those of you who linked to my com­men­tary on North Korea last week — whether to enjoy a bit of Bush-​​bashing, or pos­si­bly to revel in some Bush-​​bashing — might have noticed my adden­dum to the arti­cle, writ­ten as an after­thought per­haps an hour after the orig­i­nal post (and one rea­son I decided to add asides to TI, so I wouldn’t have to do that so much any more):

Watch China. We can’t do shit there. That will leave it up to Japan, South Korea and China to han­dle this. I’m will­ing to bet that the Chinese response will be well-​​received, and improve that nation’s sta­tus in the eyes of most of the rest of the world. Except, of course, in the US. By being unable to react, Bush has left the door open to the pos­si­bil­ity of a sino-​​nipponese alliance; the entire pol­i­tics of deal­ing with Asia will be utterly dif­fer­ent by 2010.

Okay, well, I can’t crow too loudly, because this is one of those times when being right is not all it’s cracked up to be. For starters the WA Post is report­ing that China is being asked by the UN to help wran­gle Mr. Kim.

One day after pas­sage of a U.N. Security Council res­o­lu­tion pun­ish­ing North Korea for its appar­ent test of a nuclear weapon, senior U.S. diplo­mats said yes­ter­day that China must help enforce it and use eco­nomic lever­age to com­pel Pyongyang to return to dis­ar­ma­ment talks.

China is reluc­tant to play ball. The Chinese gov­ern­ment doesn’t want to enforce ship­ping sanc­tions because they don’t want to annoy Kim any fur­ther, which I sup­pose makes some sense, but not very much — until you remem­ber that China and NKor are, more or less, allied nations.

For how much longer is anyone’s guess; if Kim starts get­ting too crazy, if he begins seri­ously threat­en­ing China, he will not last.

But what’s cer­tain to exac­er­bate things is Il Duce’s cadre of damned fools, most notably Rice and Bolton. (Remember Bolton? The loud­mouth bully?) Rhetorical stron­garm attempts such as these from Bolton

This test by the North Koreans had to have been humil­i­at­ing to China.

are not going to to win us any friends.* Next I sup­pose we’ll have Bush Himself declaim­ing “You’re either with us, or you’re with North Korea.”

Condi’s some­what cooler head was evi­dent in her own comment.

You’re going to find China car­ry­ing out its respon­si­bil­i­ties, undoubt­edly car­ry­ing it out in a way that it believes will not enhance con­flict. None of us want to enhance con­flict with these mea­sures. We just want to keep North Korea from trad­ing in dan­ger­ous materials.

This doesn’t make her less of an ass­hat than Bolton or Bush; it just makes her more sub­tle about her asshattery.

And sub­tle ass­hat­tery is the best we can hope for from this administration.

But it gets worse. Japan’s rethink­ing its no-​​nuke policy.

TOKYO, Oct. 15 — Japan needs to dis­cuss whether it should pos­sess nuclear weapons in response to North Korea’s claimed nuclear test, the rul­ing party’s pol­icy chief said Sunday.

Now don’t get me wrong here. I don’t have cold shiv­ers at the idea of “yella divils” get­ting their hands on nukes and blow­ing us all to hell or any­thing. World War II was more than two gen­er­a­tions ago, and any­one who imag­ines Japan is now as it was then is an anachro­nism unwor­thy of being given notice.

The sig­nif­i­cance of Japan’s shift in stance is sub­tler. This is the only nation in the world that ever had nukes used on it, and the scar left in the Nipponese psy­che is pro­found, prob­a­bly much more ter­ri­ble and enmeshed than we in the US can pos­si­bly comprehend.

At this point it’s still just talk:

There is argu­ment that nuclear weapons are one such option. I want to make clear that I am not the one say­ing this, and Japan will stick to its non­nu­clear prin­ci­ples, but we need to have active dis­cus­sions,” [Shoichi Nakagawa] said.

But … that their sense of national secu­rity — and iso­la­tion from any pos­si­ble assis­tance — has pushed them into even dis­cussing arm­ing up to nukes says more about how dis­mal, how desta­bi­lized things have become. For the Japanese to con­sider using nukes is like a Jewish per­son argu­ing in favor of con­cen­tra­tion camps, or an American advo­cat­ing sui­cide bomb­ing of civil­ian tar­gets as a legit­i­mate course of warfare.

I can’t imag­ine the kind of strain this sug­gests; it’s got to be bad, though.

Let’s not for­get that it was Bush who asked, in 2000, why he should worry about North Korea. Wonder if he under­stands now.

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* And this clown was a Nobel Prize nom­i­nee!

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