With the (failed) test launch of the Taepodong-2–along with a few other Scud-like missiles)–some uncertainty regarding North Korea’s capabilities has been cleared up–the DPRK lacks the capability to credibily threaten an “annihilating strike” (or any strike for that matter) against the United States. However, by going forward with the test launch, North Korea has put the United States in a position where it must now reveal just how much it really believes what it says about the importance of its reputation.
As Dan notes, the US (along with Japan) has been making all sorts of noise regarding possible punishments if the DPRK launched the multi-stage missile. Well, the ball is now in the US’s court. And given all the rhetoric by the administration about the importance of reputation and resolve, I don’t see how inaction is a possible option. What would happen in future stand-offs with the DPRK? How might inaction affect current negotiations with Iran? With similar rogue states in the future? What might this signal to the insurgents in Iraq and terrorists in general? Etc, etc, etc. We now get to see to what degree rhetoric matches conviction.