Facing an unexpected foreign policy crisis was not on the agenda for US President George W. Bush just ahead of crucial mid-term elections. Bush has vowed to respect his security commitments in Asia, despite an immediate assessment from the Democrats that the war in Iraq has contributed to a state of denial over North Korea’s activities. That view is endorsed by Willem Van Der Geest from the European Institute of Asian Studies:
“They have played it quite soft after all, and this relates I suppose to the fact that they were very much preoccupied with Iraq and Afghanistan and therefore they did not wish to divert their attention to North Korea. But now it seems that indeed it is such a bad region that they cannot continue putting it on the second priority, they will have to deal with it, and if they can’t get the Chinese to act more toughly they will have to get more involved themselves,” he said.
As with the US hardline approach, the reported test also represents a failure of both China and South Korea’s attempts to engage Pyongyang in diplomacy. Its claimed the test was carried out underground on Monday. The claim has not been verified, but both the US and South Korea recorded earth tremors at the time of detonation.