News that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — also known as North Korea — has tested its third nuclear weapon has given Republicans a new angle to trot out old attacks on the Obama administration’s security priorities.
The attacks come from a multitude of directions, but all share the common thread of being firmly opposed to some part of the Obama administration agenda:
“North Korea just responded to POTUS principle of ‘national security by kumbaya.’”
The Weekly Standard and former Rep. Allen West (R-FL) chose to focus on the U.S. response to the test, highlighting their disdain for international cooperation and what they unfairly deem Obama’s weakness in the face of international challenges:
North Korea just responded to POTUS principle of "national security by kumbaya."
— Allen West (@AllenWest) February 12, 2013
Such right-wing attacks on Obama fail to include what they propose as a proper policy towards North Korea. Scoffing at the U.N. Security Council is easy, as proved by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), but cooperation from China — a key member of the Council — will be necessary for any solution on the Korean peninsula. The North Korean government has likewise proved unresponsive to the combination of carrots and sticks by the Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama administrations alike.
“U.S. security cannot…afford even more cuts to U.S. defense capabilities”
Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Buck McKeon used the North Korean test as an opportunity to reissue his fears about the pending cuts to the military budget, saying in a statement, “U.S. security cannot, in the face of the president’s sequester and $500 billion in reductions to the DoD budget so far, afford even more cuts to U.S. defense capabilities, such as our nuclear deterrent.”
Nuclear deterrent is based around the idea that other countries know that any attack on the United States would be met with a nuclear counter-strike. Sequestration’s cuts to the military budget — while clearly better if targeted rather across the board — would still leave the U.S. with the largest military budget in the world, as well as the largest nuclear stockpile.
“Will POTUS propose US nuclear weapon cuts the day after North Korea conducts another nuke test?”
President Obama is expected to use tonight’s State of the Union address to restart discussion of reducing the U.S. nuclear stockpile in his second term. With that in mind, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the Senate Majority Whip and a long-time opponent of nuclear disarmament, took to Twitter:
Will POTUS propose US nuclear weapon cuts the day after North Korea conducts another nuke test? http://t.co/372z24Vt
— JohnCornyn (@JohnCornyn) February 12, 2013
The United States in 2010 possessed approximately 5,113 nuclear warheads, with only Russia close to matching that number. In contrast, North Korea currently possesses enough plutonium for between two to four more bombs at the most and is under sanction preventing import of new nuclear material. While today’s test shows some improvement over previous tests’ yields, it is unlikely that Korean nuclear technology has been miniaturized enough to fit atop a ballistic missile. Any cuts to the nuclear weapons in the U.S. would do little to upset so large an imbalance.